Cleaning vs Disinfection - The Lowdown

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Did you know?

So far, evidence suggests that textiles are not seen as a major carrier of the virus, as it does not survive as well on soft surfaces, such as fabrics, as it does it on frequently touched hard surfaces such as plastics, laminates, metal and glass. On textiles, viruses can get trapped and therefore have reduced likelihood of spreading.

Textiles might not be the biggest risk factor but you can reduce the risk even further through cleaning and disinfection protocols. 

Looking for more detail around how to clean and disinfect effectively? We've compiled a comprehensive guide to cleaning and disinfecting our contract fabric and vinyls.


Cleaning vs Disinfection

When panic spreads during a pandemic, the difference between cleaning and disinfecting can seem hard to define. So, we've made it our mission to make this easier to understand...

What's the difference?

  • Cleaning is the process of removing dust, dirt and staining from the surface of a fabric or vinyl to maintain its appearance and prolong its life.

  • Disinfection is intended to kill germs – micro-organisms such as bacteria, viruses and fungi – which can cause infection and spread disease.

  • Some methods, notably using soap and water, bleach or steam – are effective at both cleaning and disinfecting, but certain methods can only be carried out on specific fiber types.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Looking for specific guidelines for cleaning and maintaining your fabric or vinyl?
We've created a cleaning matrix for specific recommendations by fibre and material type. As a general rule of thumb, regular cleaning has always been recommended as a way to keep fabrics looking good for longer, with a few straightforward guidelines...

Vacuum Cleaning
Vacuuming fabrics regularly will prevent build up of dust and dirt on the fabric which can act as an abradant and lead to fabrics wearing out before their time.
Get to stains quickly, mopping up any excess liquid, before they have time to soak in or dry out. If need be, use upholstery shampoo or liquid soap and warm water. Be careful not to over wet fabrics, especially wool, so always make sure a clean cloth soaked in soapy water is well squeezed out.
Deep Cleaning
For deeper cleaning, wool, polyester and Trevira CS can be dry cleaned or steam cleaned. Polyester and Trevira CS can also be machine washed if upholstery is removable. Polypropylene should not be machine washed, dry cleaned or steam cleaned (but is bleach cleanable, likewise polyester).

Disinfecting Fabrics and Vinyls

In response to the pandemic, we've extended our long-standing cleaning advice to include a wider range of disinfection methods across different fiber and material types. Some, like with deep cleaning, are applicable to certain material types only so please do refer to our disinfection matrix for further advice. Fabrics should be cleaned first and then disinfected by using an appropriate method, such as:
Soap and water
Just as soap and water is believed to be the best way to clean your hands to stop the spread of the virus, it is also an effective method which can be used to clean upholstery fabric and vinyl.
Alcohol and ethanol based disinfectants are rapidly effective against bacteria, viruses and fungi. We've carried out tests using both spray and wipes, using 75% alcohol solution but always follow manufacturer's instructions.
Bleach is typically made from a solution of sodium hypochlorite. When it comes into contact with certain viruses, bacteria, mould or fungi, it oxidizes molecules in the cells of the germs and kills them. 
Steam cleaning and disinfection is chemical free, using a combination of temperature and pressure to remove dirt and stains, and to kill microorganisms.
Anti-bacterial spray / wipes
Anti-bacterial sprays and wipes are typically based on Benzalkonium chloride solutions (0.4oz per 100oz) and are fast acting biocidal agents effective against bacteria, some viruses and fungi. 
Our fabrics and vinyls have all been developed to withstand regular cleaning maintenance and as outlined above, this now extends to disinfection where reasonable regime protocols are adopted. For further detail regarding our recommended cleaning and disinfection methods, make sure to download our Guide to cleaning and disinfecting fabrics and vinyls.
We always recommend following manufacturer instructions on cleaning and disinfection agents, and we recommend spot testing on an inconspicuous part of the material first. All of the information above and advice within our guide is provided based on technical research and testing which we have undertaken ourselves or by using third party certified technical laboratories.