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Going Viral: Anti-microbial Tech in 2021

Woman waiting in a long line for a flight wearing a N95 face mask during a global pandemic

Even prior to the COVID era, travel goods companies and consumers worried about staying healthy and protecting luggage and everyday bags from bacteria, viruses, mold, and fungus. Now that we’ve suffered through a year of global pandemic, that concern is here to stay – and innovative travel goods manufacturers are uniquely positioned to keep us safe in 2021.

Because COVID-19 can remain infectious on objects for days – especially damp surfaces like cloth masks – surface contamination is a real problem for travelers and commuters. Recognizing that constant cleaning is impractical, travel goods manufacturers are designing products that repel viruses, using built-in technology that makes gear non-stick for pathogens, blocks droplets, or neutralizes viruses on contact.

Treatments fall into two categories: “old-school” materials like silver, zinc and carbon, and topical fabrics and treatments using proprietary technology. One commonality: all anti-microbial treatments are required to pass stringent FDA requirements before they can assert anti-microbial product protection.

Zinc Pyrithione: from Dandruff Shampoo to COVID-fighter

Zinc pyrithione is a zinc compound that was first discovered in the 1930s. Considered extremely safe, zinc pyrithione is the most common active ingredient in dandruff shampoos (such as Head & Shoulders) and has been widely used to treat a variety of hair and skincare problems for the past 60 years. In the last two decades, scientists have discovered that zinc pyrithione can also impair the replication of viruses in the SARS-coronavirus family. While most 2020 research focused on zinc as an oral treatment for coronavirus (zinc pyrithione is a coordination complex of zinc), zinc pyrithione remains an excellent treatment to kill coronavirus on surfaces.

In December 2020, HEX launched the HEX Anti-Microbial Technical Collection. The HEX Technical Backpack (MSRP: $149.95), Technical Messenger (MSRP: $149.95), and Daily Duffel Bag (MSRP: $149.95) all have zinc pyrithione impressed in their textile fibers. “Our anti-microbial technology targets harmful microbes by altering their ability to convert nutrients into energy, inhibiting microbial survival and reproduction,” said Kirsten Regehr, Sales Manager for HEX. “We use a zinc pyrithione process delivered in a liquid dispersion form that incorporates the solution directly within the textile fibers. Our treatment is registered with the EPA and FDA as well as EU BPR, and is bluesign® and Okeo-Tex certified.” Contact info: Dan Maravilla,  dan.maravilla@hexbrand.com.

The HEX Technical Backpack, Messenger Bag, and Daily Duffel actively repel microbes by altering their ability to convert nutrients into energy, inhibiting microbial survival and reproduction. Bags are packed with smart features like a wireless charging pocket, hidden rain cover, and a suspended, padded interior laptop sleeve. 

Silver: Effective Against Werewolves and COVID-19

The use of silver as an antibacterial agent has been known for centuries, so long that it makes it easy to dismiss it as folk wisdom or an old wives’ tale.

We’re here to tell you – it’s the real deal.

Scientific research on uses of silver has intensified in the last decade, as researchers discovered that silver is also a potent anti-viral. Silver is active against HIV, hepatitis B virus, herpes simplex virus, respiratory syncytial virus, and monkey pox virus – and more recently the human coronavirus (including COVID-19). Silver is particularly attractive in medical settings because scientists believe there is a lower chance of developing resistance to silver (as opposed to conventional antivirals) precisely because it is able to attack a broad range of targets within a given virus. A 2020 study specifically looked at silver nanoparticle treatments on masks, and found up to 100% effectiveness in killing COVID-19 and preventing COVID-19 from colonizing a face mask.

Sprayco is incorporating silver into their manufacturing process, beginning with the TravelGuard by Sprayco Anti-Microbial Travel Line. “We treat our new plastic products with silver Microban®, which is naturally anti-microbial,” said Sprayco Product Developer Nicole Coxford. “The silver is mixed with the colored plastic polymers and melted together. The item is then molded into the finished good. This process ensures that the Microban protection remains present on the product and will not wash or wear away for the life of that product.” The Sprayco Anti-Microbial Travel Line includes a Standing Toothbrush Holder, Soap Dish, 2 Pack Toothbrush Covers, Collapsible Travel Cup With Pill Case, Travel Toothbrush, 2 Compartment Pill Case, Nail Brush, and Razor Case.

TravelGuard by Sprayco
Photo courtesy of Sprayco

Sprayco is incorporating silver into their manufacturing process, beginning with the TravelGuard by Sprayco Anti-Microbial Travel Line. The collection includes a Standing Toothbrush Holder, Soap Dish, 2 Pack Toothbrush Covers, Collapsible Travel Cup With Pill Case, Travel Toothbrush, 2 Compartment Pill Case, Nail Brush, and Razor Case.

MSRP: $1.99 – $3.99
Contact info: Matt Gurthet, Director of Sales mgurthet@sprayco.com

ThePureBag® was launched in 2018 by Lori Gildea after she became severely ill from a bug carried home on her gym bag. Her anti-microbial bags and accessories also use silver ion technology in the form of anti-microbial thread woven into the fabric of her products. “I personally use my Pure Cinch bag for my wet swimsuit after I go to the Bozeman Hot Springs, and then I carry that inside our backpack,” said Jessica Gildea, marketing director of ThePureBag. “Makes me feel extra safe, especially in the locker room floors/benches/counters.”

In response to COVID-19, ThePureBag has expanded beyond their signature backpacks, yoga bags and totes to introduce the Pure Mask™. The Pure Mask features 3-layer silver ion technology and comfortable head/neck straps, rather than the usual ear loops. The Pure Mask is available in two sizes and can be bundled with The Mini Cinch Bag, an anti-microbial bag that helps protect masks, sunglasses or smartphones from microbes.

ThePureBag
Photos courtesy of ThePureBag

ThePureBag has expanded beyond their signature backpacks, yoga bags and totes to introduce the Pure Mask™. The Pure Mask features 3-layer silver ion technology and comfortable head/neck straps, rather than the usual ear loops. The Pure Mask is available in two sizes and can be bundled with The Mini Cinch Bag, an anti-microbial bag that helps protect masks, sunglasses or smartphones from microbes.

MSRP: Pure Mask $15.00, bags $10.00-$168.00
Contact info: Jessica Gildea, jessica@thepurebag.com

Travelon® also chose silver ion anti-microbial technology for their new CLEAN Collection with SILVADUR™ by DuPont®. “The antimicrobial textile product market in 2019 was $10.48 billion. It is expected to surpass $20.5 billion by 2026,” notes Travelon Sr. Marketing Manager Caroline Marchionna. SILVADUR inhibits the spread of microorganisms on fabric by disrupting microbial DNA, inhibiting respiration and metabolic function. The new SAFE collection includes three packable bags: a backpack, tote and water bottle tote; as well as a waist pack, organizer, pouches and shoe covers.

Travelon New Clean Collection
Photo courtesy of Travelon

The new CLEAN Collection by Travelon® features SILVADUR™ silver ion anti-microbial technology from DuPont®. SILVADUR inhibits the spread of microorganisms on fabric by disrupting microbial DNA, inhibiting respiration and metabolic function. The new CLEAN Collection includes seven anti-microbial travel products: a Packable Backpack, Packable Tote and Packable Water Bottle Tote, as well as a 6 Pocket Waist Pack, Multi-Purpose Organizer, Set of Three Pouches, and Shoe Covers.

MSRP: $13.50-$30.00
Contact info: David Lipsitz, davidl@travelonbags.com

Another smart application of anti-microbial silver technology comes from Talus. The Smooth Trip Neat ‘n Fresh™ Laundry Bags are treated with Agion anti-microbial odor barrier to keep luggage smelling fresh. Developed by Sciessent, Agion Anti-microbial utilizes silver, copper (another common anti-microbial), and zeolite (a mineral created from volcanic activity) to fight microbes by preventing respiration, inhibiting cell division, and disrupting cell metabolism.

Smooth Trip Neat 'n Fresh™ Laundry Bags by Talus
Photo courtesy of Talus

Smooth Trip Neat ‘n Fresh™ Laundry Bags by Talus are treated with Agion® anti-microbial odor barrier to keep luggage smelling fresh. The bags come in a 2-pack, with one large 16” x 24″ and one small 11.5” x 15″ laundry bag, both in a bright neon color that makes them easy to find – and hard to leave behind.

MSRP: $9.99
Contact info: Kim Filippone, kim@talusproducts.com

Silver Nanotechnology

Combining silver with the emerging field of nanotechnology increases silver’s effectiveness as an anti-microbial. Nanoparticles are defined as particles with dimensions under 100 nanometers (a nanometer, or nm, is a very small unit of measure). While a sheet of paper is about 100,000 nm thick, the diameter of a COVID-19 virus particle ranges from only 60 nm to 140 nm.

The principle reason that nanoparticles are more effective than larger particles of the same material is because they have a dramatically higher surface area for a given volume of material. Higher surface area means more surface reactions, whether that is killing a COVID-19 viral particle, enveloping  the outer lipid layer of a COVID-19 particle with a charge-based interaction, or otherwise impeding the virus’ entry into host cells. The result is an inverse relationship between the size of a particle and the effectiveness of material: the smaller the particle, the more effective it is as a COVID killer.

Olympia International has embraced silver ion nanotechnology with its new Dr. Green Antimicrobial Fashion Face Masks. Patented ATB-UV (antibacterial-ultraviolet) silver-ion nanotechnology fabric actually kills the microbes that land on the mask fabric. The washable 3-layer mask also offers UV protection, and is available in 18 fashion colors.

Olympia International has embraced silver ion nanotechnology with its new Dr. Green Antimicrobial Fashion Face Masks. Patented ATB-UV (antibacterial-ultraviolet) silver-ion nanotechnology fabric kills microbes that land on the mask fabric. The washable 3-layer masks also offer UV protection and are available in 18 fashion colors.

MSRP: $29.99
Contact info: John Yu, johnyu@olympiausa.com

Carbon Filters Halt COVID-carrying Droplets

Carbon filters introduce another tiny unit of measure to our discussion: the micron. A micron (also called a micometer) is equal to 1,000 nanometers. The diameter of a human hair is about 90 microns. While tiny nanoparticles are effective at inactivating COVID-19 on surfaces, the larger carbon particles found in a standard PM2.5 Activated Carbon Filter effectively block COVID-19 from penetrating a face mask. We don’t inhale COVID-19 virus particles by themselves. We inhale them in a mixture of droplets and aerosols, coughed or exhaled by the people around us. Droplets average around 110 microns in diameter, while aerosols average around 3 microns in diameter. M2.5 filters are designed to protect you against fine particulate matter down to 2.5 microns in diameter. Droplets are believed to be more of an issue than aerosols, because the majority of the liquid that leaves our mouth during a cough does so in the form of droplets, and the average droplet carries thousands of times more viruses than an aerosol. However, a PM2.5 filter will stop both.

GruvGear has designed their new KarbonZero mask around PM2.5 activated carbon filters. The multi-layer KarbonZero mask offers excellent protection without the optional PM2.5 filters (and may be purchased without them). But given the effectiveness of PM2.5 technology, the mask plus filter combination is a smart choice. Additional 10-packs of filters can be purchased from GruvGear for $9.99, with each filter lasting 1-2 weeks.

GruvGear KarbonZero Mask
Photo courtesy of GruvGear

Fans of GruvGear will appreciate the black-on-black styling of the KarbonZero mask, which visually mirrors GruvGear’s other Stealth Gear products. GruvGear has designed their mask around PM2.5 activated carbon filters. The multi-layer KarbonZero mask offers excellent protection without the optional PM2.5 filters (and may be purchased without them). But given the effectiveness of PM2.5 technology, we recommend using the mask plus filter combination.

MSRP: $29.99
Contact info: Jay Baldemor, jayb@gruvgear.com

Proprietary Topical Treatments

While the use of “old school” elements like silver date back at least to the Egyptians in 3000 BC, other proprietary compounds are brand new discoveries and carefully guarded industrial secrets. Before receiving FDA approval, the safety and efficacy of new anti-microbial treatments have to be verified by rigorous third-party testing. But to consumers, proprietary treatments are generally a black box. Disappointing the science nerds among us, we usually don’t know what’s in proprietary treatments or how exactly they disable microbes.

Travel goods manufacturers like baggallini are equipping their products with proprietary anti-microbial treatments, both in their travel-friendly Rolling Bag Collection as well as everyday carry bags in their Manhattan, City Lights, and Classic Collections.

baggallini
Photo courtesy of baggallini

All baggallini bags are either washable, protected by proprietary anti-microbial treatments, or both. Testing at 95% effective in preventing the growth of viruses and bacteria, baggallini’s water-resistant treatments are featured on all bags in the travel-friendly Rolling Bag Collection, as well as everyday carry bags in the Manhattan, City Lights, and Classic Collections.

MSRP: $5.99-$199.95
Contact info: Audrey Vazquez, avazquez@baggallini.com

Similarly, the Pacsafe ViralOff face mask is treated with Polygiene® ViralOff®, which functions like a sanitizing gel for your mask. Polygiene ViralOff is a biocide, a chemical substance that slows or kills a harmful organism. It was developed by Swedish treatment technology company Polygiene, which specializes in fabric treatments for outdoor clothing and footwear. ViralOff has been tested against COVID-19, as well as multiple strains of influenza. Fabric treated with ViralOff will hold 99% fewer viruses after two hours than one without anti-viral treatment. Unlike other proprietary treatments, we do know that the active ingredient in ViralOff is a reaction mass of titanium dioxide and silver chloride. It is considered so safe next to the skin that it is also used to control the growth of bacteria in cosmetics. In researching other applications of titanium dioxide and silver chloride, this inorganic biocide appears to work through the controlled release of silver ions, making it a more chemically complicated version of the silver ion technology mentioned earlier. Unlike many facemasks, the comfortable, stretchy Pacsafe ViralOff face mask is available in three sizes, so children, small and larger adults can all enjoy a snug fit.

Pacsafe ViralOff
Photo courtesy of Pacsafe

The Pacsafe ViralOff face mask is treated with Polygiene® ViralOff®, which functions like a sanitizing gel for your mask. The knitted polyester mask is available in three sizes, and will hold 99% fewer viruses in 2 hours than one without anti-viral treatment.

MSRP: $12.95
Contact info: North America – Jeff Nielander, jnielander@pacsafe.com; Europe – Tom Ryll, tryll@pacsafe.com; APAC – Andy Chang, andychang@pacsafe.com; UK – Brad Hockridge, brad@dohltd.com

2 Responses

  1. Hi Sara,

    Great article. Very informative. We really appreciate being included, and being a part of the TGA.

    Best regards.

    Caroline Marchionna

    1. Thanks Caroline! I really appreciated your insight, your perspective and information was a big helping in putting together the article.

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