Five winning sustainable textile innovations in 2023
The textile industry has been known for its environmental impact, but in recent years, sustainability has become a top priority for many companies. Innovation in sustainability draws on five emerging trends across textile applications:
Recycled fibers: Instead of using new materials, recycled fibers are made from post-consumer waste like plastic bottles, fishing nets, and other discarded textiles. These materials are collected, cleaned and processed to create new fibers that can be used in clothing, shoes, and accessories.
Circular fashion: Brands are rethinking the way they produce and design clothes, using materials that can be easily disassembled and recycled at the end of their life. This approach helps reduce waste and conserve resources, making the industry more sustainable.
Biodegradable fashion: The textile industry is also experimenting with biodegradable fabrics, which break down naturally when discarded. These fabrics are made from natural materials like bamboo, hemp, and cotton, and are designed to decompose quickly when exposed to the elements. Brands like H&M and Zara have already started using biodegradable fabrics in their products.
Recycling and upcycling: One of the most significant trends in textile innovation is recycling and upcycling as incoming legalization in the EU works to improve circularity. Recycling involves turning waste materials into new textiles, while upcycling involves transforming existing textiles into new-higher-quality products.
Integrating innovative technologies: Consumer demands for cleaner, fresher, longer-lasting textiles have led to more manufacturers and brands integrating antimicrobial fabric treatment and odor-control technologies into their products.
How do antimicrobial technologies work for textiles?
Antimicrobial technologies can be added to textiles during the manufacturing process or applied as a topical or finishing treatment. The antimicrobial agents penetrate the fabric and bond with the fibers, creating a protective layer on the surface of the textile against degrading microbes.
Once treated, the technology becomes a durable product feature, delivering added protection wash after wash.
Eliminating Odors: The vital role of odor-control in textiles
As consumers, we all want our clothes and textiles to look and feel fresh, but unpleasant odors can quickly run the experience. This is where antimicrobial and odor-control technologies come into play. From sweat-wicking workout gear to everyday apparel, textiles with effective odor-control have become increasingly popular in recent years.
Antimicrobial additives stop odor before it is created by inhibiting the growth of microbes such as bacteria, mold, and mildew. With non-biocidal odor-capture technologies, odors are captured and absorbed before they generate unpleasant malodorous effects.
What industries benefit from antimicrobial textiles?
Antimicrobial textiles can be used in a wide range of industries, but they are particularly well-suited for applications where product hygiene is critical. Here are a few examples of industries where sustainable textile innovations work best.
The antimicrobial medical textiles market is large with common materials - such as bedding, privacy curtains, medical apparel, and linens - are susceptible to microbial proliferation. According to a study, healthcare uniforms can retain a significant amount of microbes after a typical work shift. Whilst regular laundering can help eliminate microbes from product surfaces, it is not enough in isolation to address re-contamination.
New innovations in the textile industry are designed to deliver added product protection against microbial growth between product cleans. These innovative materials support cleaner, fresher healthcare environments and deliver added peace of mind for patients, staff and their families.
Bed sheets, towels, carpets, restaurant napkins, and tablecloths are just a few of the items customers expect to see in pristine condition within the hospitality sector. According to research, 93% of Americans would perceive a company negatively if the carpet was dirty. By using antimicrobial textiles, hotels and other hospitality businesses can create a cleaner, more hygienic environment for their guests.
Additionally, antimicrobial textiles can help prolong the life of textiles by preventing the growth of bacteria and mold that can cause discoloration, odor, and deterioration. This can save hospitality establishments in the long run by reducing the need to replace products as frequently.
The smell of kitchen fumes embedded in fibers can be as unpleasant as stains from food residues and spillages. However, incorporating antimicrobial textiles into aprons, chef uniforms, and kitchen cloths can help reduce odors and stains by inhibiting the growth of microbes on the fabric.
In doing so, food establishments can demonstrate their commitment to cleanliness and hygiene, which can improve their reputation among patrons and help attract new business.
The importance of antimicrobial fabrics for manufacturers
Increased durability. Treated fabrics are protected against harmful bacteria, which can break down the fabric’s fibers over time and lead to visible staining, fading and discoloration. Products made from antimicrobial fabrics will last longer and require less frequent replacement, reducing overall waste.
Long-lasting clean. Products stay cleaner and more hygienic in-between cleaning, complementing existing cleaning practices.
Seamless integration. Microban technologies can be incorporated into a range of textiles at the stage of manufacture, without compromising on the ‘look and feel’ of the material.
Low risk investment. Microban technologies have a long history of safe use by manufacturers worldwide and deliver added product benefits without the hefty price tag.
How can manufacturers make textiles more sustainable?
By focusing on durability and quality, manufacturers can make textiles more sustainable.
The production of textiles requires significant amounts of natural resources, including water, energy, and raw materials. Increasing the life of textile products reduces the need for new products, thus conserving energy. Secondly, the disposal of textile waste has significant environmental impacts. Textile waste in landfills can take years to decompose, releasing greenhouse gasses and contributing to climate change. In addition, textile production and disposal can cause water pollution and soil contamination.
Overall, longer lasting textiles help conserve energy resources and reduce textile waste, contributing to a greener planet.
Antimicrobial textiles enhanced with Microban spells opportunity
Ultimately, tackling the growth of invisible nasties helps textile products stay cleaner and fresher for longer, resulting in a longer lifespan and less laundering. Brands and manufacturers can further engage consumers on durability by including information, such as the benefits of antimicrobial technology or use of the Microban trustmark logo, on product tags or labels.
As the industry leader of antimicrobial solutions, Microban offers a range of metal-free technologies to help brands and manufacturers accelerate their sustainability efforts.
Refresh is a metal-free odor capture technology. The proven formulation helps capture and neutralizes odor in textiles by up to 93% - even after 30 home launderings.
Duratech by Microban is effective in inhibiting up to 99.99% bacteria growth on cotton fabrics and reduces odor up to 99% - even after 75 home launderings.