Degradation of the fiber and textile has become very common issue which happens due to microbial attack on the surface of the textiles. The microbes eat up the cellulosic part and make the textile weak and also few microbes leave stain on the textile. Antimicrobial finish helps to overcome this problem and act as a protective layer for the textile substrate.  As consumers are slowly getting more concerned about health and hygiene factors, they should also be aware about what are the possible products available in the market. This review article will briefly cover, review of the Antimicrobial finish for the textile material, with introduction to the finish, agents used for the finish, mechanism of the finish, process, testing methods used, health and environmental issues and uses of antimicrobial finish.

Introduction to finish:

Textile are an integral part of the human’s life. Immediately after birth till the death, from waking up to going back to bed at night, humans make use of textiles. Textiles are used for both aesthetics as well as for functional purpose. Many recent developments have been done in the field of functional textiles which includes many specialty finishes – Antimicrobial finish being one of it. Personal hygiene and cleanliness have also become a vital part today and slowly the awareness is increasing.

Textiles when placed in a damp environment are susceptible to Microbial growth. Textiles are a good media for the micro-organism’s growth and are also a good carrier of microbes. Microbes deteriorate the fabric by eating up the cellulosic component of the fabric and make it weak which in turn hinders the overall performance of the fabric. Microbes also cause stains on the fabric and they not only destroy the fabric but also affect human skin and body to a great extent.  Inner garments, socks or even area near armpit, where there are higher chances for growth of microorganism can lead to staining of the fabric, degradation of the textile, microbial growth, infection and spread of disease.

Development of antimicrobial finish for textiles have addressed this issue.  Growth of microbes on textiles is prevented by application of the anti-microbial finish. Although there are many records in history, where there is use of natural antimicrobial agents for preservation of textiles. Recent development in the technical textiles and antimicrobial finish have proven beneficial which are also commercially viable.

Antimicrobial finish


Agents used in finishing:

There have been many developments in the finishing process and the agents used. Basically, a finishing agent aids to impart properties, which a textile lacks for. Finishing agents differs as per the type of fiber, end use and other chemical substrates.

Antimicrobial agents used include some organic agents like silicon based quaternary agent and quaternary ammonium compounds (QACs), N-Halamines; inorganic salts, triclosan, polyhexamethylenebiguanide (PHMB), iodophors, Halogenated phenols, thiophenols, heterocyclic, nitro compound, urea, amines and derivatives of formaldehyde. Inorganic agents include silver and gold, metal oxides, copper and zinc, titanium, magnesium. (Nadeem Afraz, 2019)

Polybiguanides remain chemically bonded to the fiber surface and do not leach out, they act as barrier against microbes which come in contact with the textile.  While the Halogenated phenols form a weak bond with the fiber and there by the halogenated phenols leaches out. (Naveed, 2018)

Mechanism of the finish

Finishing mechanisms are used based on the antimicrobial function performed by the particular finish on the textile:

  1. Control release: The antimicrobial finish is applied to the textile and is released during specific time in controlled manner when in use. Whenever the textiles are washed off the antimicrobial substance are removed and this is effective when there are microbes around the textile surface.
  2. Regeneration: Here the application of the finish produces active germ-killing substance which are regenerated during washing by addition of bleaching substances. The regeneration occurs when the fibers chemically modified covalent bonds are broken.
  3. Barrier block: In barrier block a layer of coating is applied which restrict the passage of microorganism into the fabric. (Akca, 2020)


Process of finishing

The antimicrobial finish can be applied to the textile material by following methods –

  1. Exhaust
  2. Pad-dry-cure
  3. Coating
  4. Spray and foam
  5. During fiber spinning

Testing methods

Textiles are in close touch to human body and thereby must undergo standard testing procedure. Standard antimicrobial test includes:

  1. AATCC 100-2004 Assessment of Antibacterial Finishes on Textile Materials
  2. AATCC-100-1998 (USA) -Testing of antimicrobial efficacy of fabrics, Quantitative broth dilution test.
  3. AATCC- 147-1998 (USA): Qualitative- Agar diffusion test. (Krishnaveni, 2013)

Health and environmental issues

Due to increasing health concerns with chemical antimicrobial finishes, there are few studies associated with natural antimicrobial finishes on textile with certain modification of the natural substance.  Chitosan and activated charcoal are among the natural antimicrobial substance.

Among antimicrobials few works on the leaching mechanism, when applied on the textile surface they tend to move and thereby they can get transferred on the skin and can lead to skin rashes and irritation. (Uddin, 2014)

Uses-End user based

Antimicrobial finished textiles have multiple end use, it is used on textiles to control spread of any harmful disease, to reduce odor due to perspiration and stain, to protect textiles from being attacked by microbes. It is also applied on uniforms, tents, defense textiles, geotextiles. Lately the finish is applied on home textiles, such as towels, curtains, bed linen, bath mats, outdoor, healthcare textile products, sports and leisure wear- sports bra, sports socks, gloves, caps, clothing and footwear industry – socks, undergarments.  The finish is also applied on non- woven that are used in medical sector – masks, sanitary materials, baby diapers, wipes, dressing materials, surgical threads, special materials for food and pharmaceuticals, automotive industry.  (Aswini, 2007)


Antimicrobial finish inhibits the growth of microorganism on the textile surface and its application on the textile surface is very beneficial as it improves the overall performance of the textile. With selection of appropriate mechanism, process and end use of the textile the finish will have significant results.



(n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.fibre2fashion.com/industry-article/61/antimicrobial-finishing-methodologies

Akca, C. (2020, March). Intechopen. Retrieved from https://www.intechopen.com/online-first/the-waste-problem-of-antimicrobial-finishing

Aswini, D. &. (2007, January). Retrieved from Fiber2fashion: https://www.fibre2fashion.com/industry-article/1240/antimicrobial-finishes

Krishnaveni, V. (2013). Combined antimicrobial and coolant finishing treatment for cotton using yashtimadhu root extract. Indian Journal of Natural Products and Resources, 245-249.

Nadeem Afraz, F. U. (2019, February). https://juniperpublishers.com/ctftte/pdf/CTFTTE.MS.ID.555646.pdf. Retrieved from https://juniperpublishers.com/ctftte/pdf/CTFTTE.MS.ID.555646.pdf

Naveed, M. (2018). Performance on Antibacterial Finishes for Textile Applications. Trends in Textile Engineering & Fashion Technology, 226-233.

Uddin, F. (2014). Environmental concerns in Antimicrobial Finishing of textiles. Internantional journal of textile science, 15-20.



Article Written by-

Rutu Kanade

M.Sc. Home Science, College of Home Science Nirmala Niketan

Intern at TVC