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Fabric cleaning and disinfecting 101

Posted by Guilford of Maine on July 13, 2020

As a global community, we’ve met the challenges of these last few months with innovation, flexibility and heart. These extraordinary circumstances have forced us to question our pre pandemic lives and consider how we’ll move forward. For many of us, that means completely rethinking the meaning of clean spaces and health. Although fabrics are not a major contributor to the spread of this virus or other germs, we all want to do whatever we can to minimize risks. Fortunately, we already have an extensive selection of products that are easy to clean and disinfect, including many bleach cleanable fabrics. But before you start scrubbing away, you need to know the difference between cleaning and disinfection, and particularly which methods are suitable for which textiles. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

Cleaning is meant to improve the appearance and durability of your fabric over time. Removing dust, dirt and stains will keep fabrics looking and feeling like new, but won't necessarily kill germs. A range of cleaning methods exist—vacuuming, dry cleaning, steaming, machine washing, soap and water, upholstery shampoo, antibacterial spray or wipes, and bleach—though they aren't all suitable for every material, and only some of them also disinfect.

Generally speaking, regular vacuuming and cleaning with soap and water are excellent ways to keep most fabrics looking great for years, and will help limit the spread of germs. Bleach or steam, for instance, will simultaneously clean and disinfect, but cannot be used on every fabric. The following basic cleaning regimen is a safe bet for virtually any fabric.

Step 1 – Remove surface dirt: Regularly vacuum the entire surface to remove dust, dirt and lint buildup.
Step 2 – Spot clean and deep clean: As much as possible, quickly soak up spills without rubbing the fabric, and immediately remove spots and stains. Whether spot-cleaning or doing regular cleaning of the entire surface, soak a clean cloth or sponge in a mixture of liquid soap and warm water, wring it out, and use it to wipe the fabric without over-wetting.
Step 3 – Remove residue: Put the cloth or sponge in clean cold water, wring it out, and wipe down the fabric surface to remove any excess residue.
Step 4: – Dry: Blot with a dry, absorbent cloth and then air dry.

To get rid of those things that aren't visible to the naked eye—the bacteria, viruses and fungi that can cause infections or spread disease—you have to disinfect. Disinfecting is using a product such as a bleach solution to deep clean and remove micro-organisms. Disinfecting doesn't necessarily remove surface stains or dirt, but as with the cleaning methods, some methods are only suitable for certain fabrics, and not all textiles can be disinfected. It is important to refer to the Cleaning Code for details about which cleaning and disinfecting methods you can use for your textiles.

The great news is that we offer a selection of bleach cleanable textiles in a huge array of colors that make it easy to clean and disinfect in one step. Simply soak a clean, light-colored cloth in a solution of one part household bleach to 10 parts water, wring out the excess liquid and then gently wipe the fabric. Afterward, rinse the surface well with a clean, damp cloth or sponge. Just be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions, and pretest a small, inconspicuous area first.
 

Now, more than ever, innovative textiles like our bleach cleanable products may be the optimal solution, with everyone acutely aware of the need for surfaces that are sanitized as well as spotless. These fabrics give you the peace of mind of knowing you can easily clean and disinfect in a single step. As we contend with a whole new outlook on health, that means greater safety with less effort. So in the larger context of face masks, Plexiglass screens, hand sanitizer, physical distancing measures and other changes to how we live and work, having simple ways of creating and maintaining safe spaces will make all the difference. For that, you can count on us.