Antimicrobial coatings and heat transfer film

There’s a new problem cropping up for garment decorators; failed applications on league jerseys. Research and consultation with our heat transfer film manufacturers has lead to a better understanding, and a partial solution to the problem.  These adhesive failures are caused by coatings added by  performance apparel manufacturers designed to fight body odor.  As you gear up for next spring’s league sports season, do a little homework and find out what kind of apparel your customers are buying. It might make the difference between success or failure. Here’s what we know so far.

What Are Antimicrobial Coatings?

Dow Chemical invented a substance called Silvadur™.  According to DOW, Silvadur™.   “…provides long lasting freshness and reliable protection against unwanted bacteria in clothing, uniforms, home textiles, industrial fabrics and more. The Silvadur™  antimicrobial technology ensures that unpleasant odors, decay, and discoloration can’t occur in textile fabrics because bacteria won’t form or grow in the first place”. Obviously, a fabric that resists odor by repelling smelly microbes is a great boon to modern man, right? Wrong.

 

Why is this a problem?

This label offers rare clarity. The BCG garment has an antimicrobial coating.

This label offers rare clarity. The BCG garment has an antimicrobial coating.

Silvadur™  and similar antimicrobial fabric treatments present problems for garment decorators for three reasons.

1) Adhesive Failure: Some antimicrobial coatings repel the adhesives used in heat transfer films, causing them to fall off immediately or shortly after application. In some cases, this dramatic failure has occurred while the garment is being worn. On the field. Needless to say, such a sudden and ill-timed failure can be very embarrassing for you and your customer.

2) Marketing: The second problem is a lack of consistency and transparency in how these coatings are sold. Since Silvadur™ is sold to the apparel industry and not to the general public, the companies who buy and use it refer to it by a variety of trade names and benefit statements. The end result is a confusing mix of terminology that makes it difficult to tell which garments have been coated with it. Many performance apparel products on the market avoid the use of the term ‘antimicrobial’ and simply tout the benefit of odor resistance. Under Armor, for instance, refers to something called “anti-odor technology”. Is this Silvadur™ or some other antimicrobial coating? Hard to say.

3) Inconsistent Performance. The third problem may be the most vexing. One would think that all we need to do is find a brand with an antimicrobial coating that works well with industry heat transfer films. Then recommend that brand to your customers. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Based on consultation with our manufacturers, some treated shirts work and others don’t. Two different examples of the same shirts from the same brand may differ in how well they accept heat transfer film. Perhaps the process for adding the antimicrobial coating is not as consistent as it should be. That means there’s little you can do at this point to guarantee your transfers will stick. So what to do?

 

Be Proactive.

This is one of those situations where the old saying about an ounce of prevention holds true. It’s better to advise your customers proactively.  Suggest that, if they buy garments with odor-reducing treatments,  they may not work with your graphics.  That way they can make informed decisions about the apparel they bring you.  Based on our tests, we’d recommend you start with  BCG Brand performance apparel, available from Academy Sports.  In our testing, it worked with EnduraTex, HotMark 70, and Siser Easy Weed. Some of the films worked better after the garment was pre-heated with a silicone sheet to remove some of the coating. But they all stayed stuck before and after laundering.

So, if a customer insists on bringing you garments with odor-reducing treatments, you may want to pre-treat your shirts. If possible, charge for the extra step because it will affect your shop’s productivity. At the very least, make sure they know of the risk before they go out and purchase the garments for their team jerseys. That way, you may help them avoid an embarrassing failure on the field. That simple step may place you head and shoulders above your competition. Finally,  you may want to do some testing of your own and find a brand that you can comfortably recommend.  Your customers will thank you for taking the extra step to ensure their success.  If you do find one that seems to work consistently with your favorite heat transfer film, feel free to share it in the comments field below.