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Read below for our tips and advice on specifying contract fabrics in care homes
When selecting contract fabrics for care home applications, there are a multitude of performance and design factors that must be considered to ensure the long term success and suitability of the installation. Whilst fire retardancy will be a priority, the last two years have also highlighted the importance for anti-microbial fabrics that successfully mitigate against the spread of viruses and bacteria. However, whilst it’s crucial the fabrics deliver the technical performance and durability required for such a challenging environment, the comfort and overall aesthetic of the fabric also plays a pivotal role in creating a relaxing and calming environment for residents, particularly those with additional health needs.
The importance of effective infection control
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a significant increase in demand for contract fabrics that provide proactive infection control. By choosing upholstery and drapery that feature proven inherent anti-microbial properties, care home professionals can achieve the highest standards of hygiene across all pieces of furniture and drapery, particularly those located in communal areas. When considering contract fabrics, professionals should choose products that feature fast-acting antimicrobial technologies such as Shieldplus from Panaz that have been applied during the manufacturing process via a method that creates a covalent bond with the fabric, namely an unbreakable bond. This durable and safe to use technology provides protection that fights against a broad spectrum of bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites including Coronavirus, MRSA, C-diff Spore and Norovirus.Because the fabric inherently contains the anti-microbial properties, there is no change in the colour or texture of the finished fabric, which can potentially be caused by some topical after-market technologies. Unlike other types of treatments, the technology also instantly kills on contact by piercing the cell wall of bacteria and viruses and because it is non-migrating, it doesn’t leech into the environment, meaning it is active for the lifetime of the fabric and does not deplete in potency, even in high traffic areas.Whilst some traditional antimicrobials tend to contain heavy metals such as silver and copper, latest advancements are utilising water-based technologies that are safe for both the environment, care home residents, their visitors and staff. Many of our products include Shieldplus as standard with no added cost, these can be viewed here
Stain and water resistance
In order to ensure the chosen fabric is fit for purpose, professionals should also consider its stain resistance to ensure the original look and feel of the textile is maintained, whilst simultaneously reducing cleaning and maintenance routines. To achieve this, some contract fabrics contain C6 fluorocarbon technologies that combine the effectiveness of stain prevention with environmental considerations. In addition, professionals should ensure the fabric features an impervious waterproof layer that is capable of resisting over 1 metre of liquid to prevent spills from permanently setting into the fabric. For the highest possible standards of performance, some fabrics are capable of repelling 2.5metres of liquid, when tested to BS3424 hydrostatic head test.Panaz offer products with 5 layers of protection, including a polyurethane coating for durability and stain resistance and Acrylton providing improved resistance to tough cleaning regimes, Aston and Brookland are perfect and popular examples. AcryltronTM is a unique protective coating that creates a resilient and durable finish for vinyl and faux leather fabrics. The process mitigates the susceptibility of PU coatings against cleaning products, protecting the fabrics from damage against alkalis and alcohols found in common cleaning products. The end result is high quality vinyl fabric that contains layers of protective technology to provide ultimate standards of performance and longevity for care home applications, whilst still withstanding in excess of 750,000 Martindale rubs.
Resistance to abrasion
To ensure the highest standards of longevity, care home professionals should also consider the fabric’s abrasion resistance, which ensures the resilience of the fabric against everyday wear and tear. This is particularly important for high traffic communal areas and items of furniture in personal spaces, such as arm chairs, that experience high levels of usage. Here professionals should ensure the fabric has been independently abrasion tested to contract standards by Martindale Rubs and specify fabrics that have been tested up to 100,000 rubs.
Safety and FR fabrics
The fire retardancy of the fabric is another leading consideration for care home applications. The level of FR testing required changes depending on the end use and environment, with different tests for curtains (BS6867 Type B & C) and bedding (BS7175 for Bedcovers and upholstery). Upholstered fabric in a contract environment should be tested to Performance Standard BS7176: 2007 & A1: 2011, which includes three hazard levels – generally the prevailing is Medium Hazard or Crib 5. It is always recommended that a Contract Fabric specialist is consulted to ensure the fabric is fit for purpose. Whilst some professionals may choose a retail fabric and have a FR treatment added, this may alter the texture and appearance and is not guaranteed to make it FR depending on the type of yarns involved. For example, acrylic, viscose and other yarns are difficult to make FR in high percentages. Retail fabrics are also not designed with contract specifications in mind, so often lack the durability required for a commercial environment. Professionals should therefore choose fabrics that have been designed for contract purposes and conform to the specified standards for their end use, or they run the risk of having to make last minute re-selections later down the line.
Care home professionals should consider vinyls that are phthalate and latex free, both of which are bad for the environment, and have a colour fastness to chlorinated water between Grades 4-5. By choosing a range of complementary vinyls that are available in an extensive range of colourways, care home professionals can ensure the highest standards of technical performance, without impacting the overall chosen design scheme. See Aston and Cadet
Sight and Sounds
From a drapery perspective, effective sound and light absorption is essential to ensuring a resident’s overall comfort. Dim-out drapery fabrics that feature yarn-dense, multi-layered construction allow for sound and light to be absorbed rapidly, without the requirement for bulky interlining. When choosing fabrics for drapery purposes, professionals should choose fabrics that provide Class B sound absorption properties. Velvets and plain woven fabrics that are Class C will also provide a balanced level of acoustic properties, whilst simultaneously delivering increased aesthetic appeal, with velvets achieving an αw of 0.1 point higher than plain woven fabrics.Blackout curtains that are 100% light blocking and reflect sound will help prevent noise from being transmitted into rooms from the outdoors. To achieve the highest rating, professionals should choose drapery fabrics for curtains that are Class A rated, this includes both interliner and linings, to create a multi-layer curtain that will dampen the noise from a room if there is extremely high noise levels inside or outside. It is recommended that a Contract Fabric specialist is consulted to ensure maximum benefit.Over recent years, there has been growing awareness of the importance of colour, light and contrast to create comfortable, usable and stimulating environments for people living in care homes.
Light Reflective Values
For those with visual impairment one of the key factors when designing an effective, practical and attractive scheme is to consider residents’ perception of the world and how this is affected by their impairment. The RNIB (Fact Sheet 25) advises that 96% of people registered blind and partially sighted have some degree of residual vision and that, in order to make the most of this residual vision, visual contrast should be employed. The degree of contrast between adjacent surfaces is an important indicator to the visually impaired when navigating their environment and this in turn reaps benefits for their independence, comfort and confidence. This is of particular concern for those living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias who perhaps are unable to devise coping mechanisms of their own. It is important for design to compensate for this deterioration, as this, coupled with a potential lack of understanding of this loss, affects a person’s perception of the world around them and creates confusion and distress. The light reflective value (LRV) describes the amount of light a surface reflects, such as the lightness or darkness of a surface, on a scale of 0 – 99. The higher the number, the lighter the surface. The level of contrast between surfaces such as walls and ceilings, walls and doors, furniture and floors, is invaluable in giving clues to the visually impaired as to the size, shape and potential for navigation of a room. In terms of measuring visual contrast, the current guidelines in the Regulations and in the relevant Codes of Practice, BS8300:2009, recommends that adequate visual contrast is provided if the LRV of the contrasting areas exceeds 30 points. As part of its commitment to assisting care home professionals in creating beautiful, usable, comfortable and stimulating environments for residents, Panaz has commissioned a series of LRV tests using the latest integrating sphere spectrophotometer to measure the total quantity of light reflected from the surface of its fabrics. LRV values can be found on individual product pages.
The importance of considered design
As the elderly gradually lose the ability to discriminate between colours, and this is exaggerated for people living with dementia, the use of contrasting colours is vital. The addition of texture and semi-plains will create interest, whilst fabrics for bedding and seating that clearly contrast with carpets and other flooring will optimise visibility, with the addition of contrasting piping on the edge of seating, bedspreads, or on the drawn back edge of the curtains, assist in making life easier. Focusing on lighting, it is paramount to optimise the consideration given to LRVs. Natural daylight diffuses easily, to mitigate this, care home professionals should ensure that windows are designed to allow curtains to be drawn back fully to avoid overlapping the window, to allow as much light as possible to enter the room. For rooms such as bedrooms that require additional privacy, the addition of sheers can create an almost acoustically transparent curtain that allows natural light to diffuse into the room, whilst still giving the level of privacy required. Upholstery and drapery that feature calming designs and textures that facilitate feelings of relaxation and comfort can also be utilised to complete wider interior design schemes that look to create an inviting home environment. This is particularly important for residents with complex health conditions, such as dementia. By choosing subtle designs in soothing yet contrasting colourways, professionals can help to minimise confusion or vision reduction, which affects how individuals with dementia identify colour and patterns. This includes upholstery and drapery that features simple geometric shapes such as tartans and checks, in addition to familiar floral and coastal designs, which are available across a wide range of basecloth options suitable for upholstery, curtains, bedding, cushions and accessories, to help create a cohesive look and feel. By working in partnership with a specialist contract fabric manufacturer and their technical team from the initial design stages, care home professionals can achieve a collaborative approach that ensures successful specification by ensuring the most appropriate and compliant fabrics are chosen to meet the specific requirements of the installation.
We’re incredibly proud to supply Panaz healthcare fabrics to a host of clients within the industry, including many NHS Trusts, as well as care home experts such as Teal Living and Shackletons.
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