Antiviral Clothing: What Is It and Does It Work?

It was only a matter of time before manufacturers started cashing in on the coronavirus pandemic. The latest industry to make a go of it is retail clothing, with a small number of manufacturers now claiming that their new products can help prevent the spread of the virus. Are such claims accurate? The jury is still out.

What is now being called ‘antiviral clothing’ is starting to show up on store shelves and online marketplaces. Much of this clothing hails from Sweden, where some of Europe’s best-known denim brands are selling products said to be treated with a proprietary chemical known as HeiQ Viroblock NPJ03.

Pakistani manufacturer Artistic Denim Mills has teamed up with Switzerland’s HeiQ to release an antiviral line. Whether or not the clothing makes any difference in the fight against coronavirus remains to be seen. For now, there is plenty of skepticism to go around.

Meanwhile, the Indian Premier League is working with a uniform manufacturer to create antiviral uniforms for cricket players in advance of the upcoming season. And in Hong Kong, researchers claim to have developed a new antiviral coating they have dubbed MAP-1. They claim it offers up to 90 days of protection against pathogens.

A Different Pathogen Strategy

So how does antiviral clothing differ from the personal protective equipment (PPE) worn by healthcare workers? According to the folks at Alsco, antiviral clothing is based on an entirely different pathogen strategy. It is not even in the same league with PPE.

For example, the Alsco’s isolation gowns are not intended to neutralize or kill pathogens. They are intended to act as a barrier. The gowns prevent bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens from making contact with the skin. After each use, the gowns are laundered to make them hygienically clean.

Antiviral clothing is treated with chemical substances that are allegedly resistant to pathogens. In addition, these chemicals do not promote bacterial growth. But chemicals like HeiQ Viroblock NPJ03 have not been adequately tested in the US. Thus, brands that utilize it are not allowed to advertise antiviral protection in this country.

The Transmission Question

Undermining the entire concept of antiviral clothing is the persistent question of how easily coronavirus is transmitted by way of surfaces. The CDC, WHO, and numerous other health organizations have long maintained that person-to-person transmission is most likely to occur by way of droplets in human respiration.

This is why we are constantly told to wash our hands and to handle facemasks only by their ear loops or strings. Researchers still cannot agree about whether or not the virus can be transmitted on clothing. They are unsure about transmission via hard surfaces either.

To Wear or Not to Wear

With that in mind, some people are proponents of a ‘better safe than sorry’ strategy. As the thinking goes, we are better off wearing antiviral clothing because, if it does work, it could make a big difference. Likewise, we lose nothing if it doesn’t work.

The other side of that coin is public perception. Critics of antiviral clothing say that it could give people a false sense of security that could ultimately draw attention away from things like hand washing and physical distancing. They see plenty of reasons to not promote antiviral clothing.

Now you know what antiviral clothing is. As for whether or not it works, the science is not there yet. You have to decide for yourself whether or not you want to replace your wardrobe with antiviral garments. Another option is to dress in an isolation gown whenever you leave the house.

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