Hygiene and Cleanliness
Protective, Safe and Clean
Safety’s the Name of the Game
Polymer binders make the nonwoven fabrics in protective clothing comfortable and hard-wearing. Thanks to their antiviral properties, cyclodextrins provide additional safety.
Improving living standards in emerging economies had spurred growth in the global cosmetics and personal-care market for years. Then, in 2020, a new, powerful growth driver appeared on the global stage: consumers’ need to protect themselves and their families from an invisible danger – the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). Not only have sales of disinfectants skyrocketed – demand for cleaning wipes and protective clothing is also on the rise. Not to mention toilet paper.
The sales figures on Russell Thorpe’s laptop are a good measure of how our lives have been turned inside out by the coronavirus pandemic. According to Thorpe, marketing manager for the Nonwovens and Technical Textile markets in WACKER’S POLYMERS division, the pandemic has impacted certain end-use product segments more than others. Demand for products used in the restaurant industry, such as paper napkins and paper tablecloths, was negatively impacted, while global demand for paper towels, wet wipes and moist toilet tissues was higher than normal. “Cleanliness has become the issue of the day,” he says.
The fabric used for medical protective suits is subject to stringent requirements. WACKER binders help meet them.
Dispersions Combine Fibers into Nonwovens
The trend is front and center in supermarkets and drug stores – browse the shelves on any aisle and you’ll find the new buzzwords: protective, safe, clean. Emblazoned in all caps on shampoos, boxes of laundry detergent and even socks: hygienic.
It’s a trend that benefits WACKER’S polymer business. VINNAPAS® binders generate a bond between short fibers of wood pulp or viscose to create huge rolls of nonwoven fabric. These are then made into an extraordinarily wide range of products, from absorbent hygiene products to moist toilet tissues. As Thorpe notes, “In 2020, some of our customers who produce wet wipes and industrial cleaning cloths experienced such a sharp increase in demand that they were running at capacity just to keep pace with what the market needs.”
Dry wipes are normally used in workshops, stores and filling stations. In the coronavirus era, however, they can be combined with a disinfectant spray to provide clean, virus-free surfaces. They can replace less hygienic fabric hand towels when you dry your hands.
The nonwoven fabric retains its tear resistance even when wet.
VINNAPAS® dispersions ensure controlled absorbency.
Absorbent, Tear-Resistant, Yet Flexible
Production of disposable medical gowns and the demand for polymer binders for this application have soared as well. “Manufacturers who would normally sell their nonwoven fabrics for agricultural or automotive applications have adapted their production within a matter of days,” recalls Zoltan Sattler, who manages sales of binders for consumer products and industrial applications in Western Europe for WACKER. WACKER’S VINNAPAS® binders contribute to good fluid absorption and combine strong binding power with good flexibility. They make protective clothing pleasantly soft yet tear-resistant, and thus more comfortable to wear for paramedics, hospital personnel and caregivers for the elderly. “By using renewable raw materials, we can further support our customers in their sustainability initiatives. Under the VINNECO® trade name, our binders are available in identical format. A biomass balance approach is used to illustrate the contribution to the overall reduction in carbon dioxide emissions,” Sattler explains.
Cyclodextrins Afford Additional Protection
What’s more, cyclodextrins from WACKER are destined to make surfaces and protective clothing even safer. According to early scientific studies, these ring-shaped sugar molecules made from corn starch perfectly capture the fatty lipids on the surface of viruses, disrupting functioning of the viral membrane and inactivating the virus. “The goal is to destroy viruses,” says Dr. Mark Harrison, who is responsible for industrial applications of cyclodextrins at WACKER. Unlike highly concentrated alcohol or bleach, research has shown that cyclodextrins do not irritate the skin or mucous membranes. After all, these utterly harmless jacks-of-all-trades have been used in foods and cosmetics for years.
A Strong Bond
Our dispersions combine fibers to form nonwoven fabrics that are used to make disposable wipes: tear-resistant, absorbent and versatile.