Healthcare PPE: what are the best fabrics available

With insights from garment maker Alsico

Millions of metres of fabrics are distributed worldwide by Carrington Textiles every year, and a huge amount goes to uniforms for healthcare workers in many countries. And with the demand to keep healthcare staff protected during the coronavirus pandemic increasing dramatically, it’s important to understand the best products available for the sector.

Fabric composition is key when selecting a product and a 65% polyester and 35% cotton is the preferred blend by garment makers producing PPE for surgeons, nurses, and everyone in between. Reasons include durability, shrinkage, launderability, comfort and the colour range available.

In terms of durability, a poly cotton blend offers greater strength and abrasion resistance with a lower shrinkage rate than cotton rich fabrics, ideal for garments that need to be industrially laundered. It also provides a softer handle and the possibility of adding cooling and wicking properties to it. Regarding colour, it’s possible to get a wider range of colours on these blends.

Examples include Carrington Textiles’ lightweight Alba 2 which at only 145gsm offers the perfect mix of comfort, durability and a very fitting colour range for healthcare. Heavier alternatives are the popular Teredo at 195gsm, Delta at 210gsm and Tomboy at 245gsm, all offering exceptional performance for the wearer and crease resist finish as a standard for better appearance.

Some really exciting innovations include, Xtraflex SL 37.5 a fabric that not only offers extra comfort due to its stretch properties, but also provides thermoregulation to keep the body’s core temperature at its optimum of 37.5 degrees.

Regarding colours, the most popular shades are hospital blue, hospital grey, sailor navy and aquamarine.

What about protection?

A fabric with antimicrobial properties, such as those seen in Sanitized® Silver, will reduce the risk of a  healthcare worker becoming infected by secondary diseases.

Sanitized® technology allows the globally-recognised antibacterial effects of silver to be applied to fabrics through various methods, including being embedded into yarns or coated over a fabric’s surface.

Both methods inhibit bacteria growth and contribute towards enhanced protection from potentially harmful viruses.

What do expert garment makers say?

We asked Alsico, one of the biggest uniform providers for the NHS in the UK for their views on this topic.

Sales & Marketing Manager Anthony Watson says: “Our two most popular fabrics are Carrington Textiles’s Teredo 195gsm and Alba 145gsm which we have used to produce healthcare uniforms for many years as we know they will perform wash after wash and are rated highly by those we dress.

Thousands of front line medical and care service workers rely on our clothing in their professional lives and deserve uniforms that not only protect them, but that are durable and comfortable to wear when working long shifts and dealing with the demands of the day job, compounded by the current intensity of COVID-19. Working closely with Carrington Textiles, we remain committed, agile and determined to do everything we possibly can to play our part in this national effort.”

Alsico is the UK’s largest manufacturer and distributor of clothing for people at work, supplying over 3.5 million garments a year to the UK market. The company prides itself on producing innovative supply solutions and premium quality high performance workwear to customers.

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