How much bacteria is hiding in your home textiles?
Soft towels, plush pillows and snug blankets - the simple pleasures in life that make us feel human and bring us comfort, especially after a long week at the (home) office. These everyday luxuries are not only practical for the lives we lead, but also give needed character and warmth to our most personal spaces.
But how confident are you in the cleanliness of these items? Unfortunately, bacteria, mold and mildew like to make themselves at home in some of our favorite and most used home textiles.
While it is advised to wash your sheets every 7 days, the average person goes 24 days between washes. Items like blankets, pillows and mattress pads are washed even less often due to their bulky size. Some people are even more hesitant to wash certain pillows and blankets for fear of the washing machine taking away the original plush texture of the material, or causing pilling.
Then there are items that don’t get washed at all, like mattresses, rugs and upholstery.
Whatever the excuse, bacteria take advantage of our cleaning lapses to settle in and get comfortable in our home textiles, leading to stains, odors and product damage.
Not to burst your bubble, but the spaces that should bring us the most relaxation - kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms - create the perfect environment for invisible enemies: warm temperatures, moisture and humidity. Let’s get into the nitty-gritty.
Kitchen: Sponges, mats and dish towels
Our kitchens are the perfect hosts for high microbial growth, as surfaces are regularly contaminated through human contact, food residues and moisture. Items like sponges and towels are in constant contact with water and sometimes never have the opportunity to fully dry out.
While these items can appear to be visibly clean, they’re more susceptible to greater levels of bacteria than we realize. In a 2014 study, 82 kitchen hand towels had an average of 3.16 x 108 CFU/towel  - that’s more bacteria than what’s on the surface of a fast food restaurant restroom floor. Yikes.
Kitchen sponge treated with built-in Microban® antimicrobial technology displays inhibited fungal growth.
Kitchen sponge untreated with built-in Microban® antimicrobial technology experiencing fungal growth.
Bathroom: towels, bath mats and shower liners
It’s no secret when your bathroom is due for a cleaning thanks to the kind visual cues of fungal growth on shower mats, liners and towels. Between humidity from our showers and the dreaded but very real ‘toilet plume,’ our bathrooms make the top of the list for most inviting homes for microbial growth.
A random sample of shower curtains revealed bacteria levels 69 times greater than toilet seats. Worse, the hand and bath towels we touch every day are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Absorbent, often damp and hanging in dark bathrooms, towels collect skin cells, moisture and other foes that can become trapped within the fibers and lead to musty odors.
Bedroom: sheets, comforters, mattresses and pillows
If you’re getting a good night’s sleep, you’re in contact with your bed for an average of 6-8 hours each night. However, it might keep you up at night to learn just how many microbes are cozy in bed with you.
Our sheets and mattresses are subject to daily contamination by sweat, skin cells and environmental baggage that make the perfect food source for bacteria. Coupled with our body temperature as we sleep, these factors create an optimal set of conditions for rampant growth.
While 2-week-old bedsheets can harbor 280 times more bacteria than the average pet toy, underneath the sheets is a whole other host of problems. Our own bioburdens permeate through the sheets night after night and settle into the foam of our mattresses and pillows where bacteria and fungi can thrive, leading to odor, staining and product degradation.
Foam for mattresses and pillows treated with built-in Microban® antimicrobial technology is inherently cleaner.
Untreated foam for displays bacterial and fungal growth, leading to faster product degradation.
Microban antimicrobial technology for textiles
Microban offers an array of antimicrobial technologies specifically designed for textiles that keep materials fresher for longer and protect products against unwanted bacterial and fungal growth. Home textiles manufactured with built-in Microban® antimicrobial technology are inherently fresher and more durable, bringing peace of mind back to our most relaxing spaces.
Key benefits of built-in antimicrobial and odor control solutions for home textiles:
- Doesn't change look or feel. Home textiles are compatible with other auxiliaries and do not affect the hand of the fabric. Antimicrobial technology is easily applied in the finishing step of the manufacturing process and durably bonded to the fibers, resulting in protected premium fabrics and products without affecting their desired aesthetics.
- OEKO-TEX® certified. OEKO-TEX® enables consumers and companies to make responsible decisions that protect our planet for future generations. The testing and certification process on which their standards are based guarantees maximum consumer safety and full integration into sustainable textile manufacturing processes.
- Long-lasting clean. Items that are rarely washed (if ever) like comforters, pillows and mattresses stay fresher for longer, and have an extended usable lifetime.
- Compatible with finishing agents. Unlike other solutions, Microban has designed antimicrobial and odor-control formulas with performance unaffected by other cleaning solutions and washes.
- Reduce the growth of bacteria, stains and odors. Protected textiles stay 99% cleaner and fresher as Microban® works 24/7 to ward off stain and odor-causing bacteria that might prematurely degrade the product.
Sinomax: Antimicrobial Foam Mattress Topper
Sinomax memory foam products provide ‘comfort for the world,’ and feature built-in Microban® antimicrobial technology to keep beds fresher for longer. While foam can be a prime spot for bacterial and fungal growth, mattress toppers from Sinomax are protected from unwanted microbial growth 24/7 for the useful lifetime of the product.
SlipX: Antimicrobial Bath Accessories
For the bath essentials that make life better, SlipX solutions offer a range of Microban® protected shower liners and bathmats to tackle microbial growth in unavoidable places. Built-in Microban antimicrobial technology is infused into these everyday items to provide cleanliness in between cleanings, as well as ward off product-degrading bacteria and fungi.
Manchester Mills: Antimicrobial Textiles for Healthcare and Hospitality
Manchester Mills is instilling guest confidence with their line of antimicrobial textiles, Protect 360°. Sold directly and exclusively to the healthcare and hospitality industries, Protect 360° mattress encasements and pillow protectors provide a cleaner sleep experience by helping to keep products 99% fresher.
Meet consumer desires with antimicrobial and odor control solutions for textile products
Built-in antimicrobial technology is a value addition across brand image, corporate social responsibility and consumer demand. Prime purchase drivers across the home textile industry are quality and durability, both of which are improved by a reduced presence of bacteria by offering built-in antimicrobial product protection. Across home textiles, odor resistance and antimicrobial additives are the top desired features, with 85% of consumers willing to pay more for products that offer these solutions.
People are actively seeking cleaner and fresher textile solutions that offer not only comfort but confidence in their spaces. Microban is currently partnering with textile manufacturers to actively answer this demand, and there are still many opportunities to enhance textile products.
Contact a member of the Microban team today to learn more about partnership options.
 Gerba, C.P., Tamimi, A. H., Maxwell, S., Sifuentes, L.Y., Hoffman, D.R., Koenig. 2014. Bacterial Occurrence in Kitchen Hand Towels. 2014. Food Protection Trends.
Due to regulatory differences, the performance claims related to Microban® technologies that are referenced in this article may not be valid for use in all countries or regions. In some cases, legal regulations may restrict or prohibit the selection of available Microban® technologies, the field of application for which they are approved, and/or the permissible claims for finished goods containing Microban® technologies. For more information, view our official regulatory statement or contact us.
Microban® technologies are not designed to protect users or others from disease-causing microorganisms or viruses and are not a substitute for normal cleaning practices.
*Subject to the performance properties of the antimicrobial agent manufactured into your product. Treated product efficacy claims against specific microbes are dependent on the results of laboratory testing.