Antiviral clothing is on the rise: Can it protect you from COVID-19?

By JACQUELINE LAUREAN YATES, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — The coronavirus pandemic has affected every aspect of life — including fashion.

To cater to new economic realities and the COVID-19 concerns of their clientele, several apparel companies have developed antivirus protection in their clothing. But if antiviral clothing doesn’t make a difference in actual viral transmission — shoppers should question, “is it even worth it?”

“COVID-19 has reset the world,” Faisal Ahmed, CEO of Artistic Denim Mills, which produces popular denim brands such as DL1961 and Warp + Weft, said in a statement. “This means we have to change how we live our lives. How our clothes protect us will be a key decision in what we buy and wear, and we are happy to introduce various products treated with HeiQ Viroblock NPJ03.”

The Pakistan-based leading denim and apparel manufacturer was an early adopter of adding antiviral technology to its products. In June, the company partnered with Swiss textile firm HeiQ to release antiviral denim and face mask collections.

HeiQ claims that its Viroblock NPJ03 technology, which “makes treated textiles resistant against the degradation by microorganisms and inhibits the growth of bacterial odors,” has been tested effective 99.99% in 30 minutes against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. However, the active health care claims of Viroblock NPJ03 as “antiviral” are not yet permitted in the U.S. and require pesticidal device registration. In Germany, the antiviral claims are now permitted, according to the company.

In July, denim brand Diesel announced it would implement virus-fighting technology into its upcoming styles through a partnership with Swedish firm Polygiene, maker of ViralOff which claims to have the capacity to disable over 99% of viral activity within two hours of contact between pathogens and fabric. It interacts with key proteins to hinder the virus from attaching to textile fibers. The technology is intended to protect treated products, not intended to prevent the wearer against disease, according to Viraloff.

Viraloff will be applied across a selection of Diesel’s spring/summer 2021 denim styles with an aim at a greater range of products in the future.

Other activewear brands, Under Armour and Live!, have followed suit by putting antiviral technology into their lines as many consumers are looking for an additional layer of protection while working out. The Under Armour mask features an “anti-microbial treatment on the inside layer to help keep masks fresh.”

Can antiviral clothing help stop the spread of COVID-19?

COVID-19 is mainly spread from person-to-person contact and respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes or talks. Face coverings are the best method of external protection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Transmission through items such as clothes is still unknown, according to medical experts. Although the virus can live on clothes and surfaces, it isn’t yet known if or how that translates to actual infection.

“I don’t think [antiviral clothing] will make a difference in preventing COVID-19,” said Boston-based infectious disease specialist Dr. Simone Wildes. “Those of us who work in the hospital just wear gowns with all the protective gear which seems to work just fine, and we don’t have antiviral clothing.”

Wildes adds that the keys to preventing COVID-19 are still to wear protective face masks, practice good hand hygiene, social distancing, wash clothing frequently and clean high touch surfaces regularly.

While the efficacy of these products is still unknown, market shares for antimicrobial clothing are currently $10.48 billion and expected to rise to $20.50 billion, nearly doubling by 2026, Global Market Insights reports.

Even if antivirus clothing isn’t a top solution against helping to stop the spread of COVID-19, many companies are leaning into the technology as a way to produce more items that marry fashion and function amid the pandemic.

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