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Are your chair fabrics spreading bacteria?

All health care environments including hospices, care homes and hospitals take a practical approach to prevent infections causing harm to their patients and staff. A major way they can help prevent this is by purchasing equipment built with this in mind. Reputable suppliers use materials that will prevent the spread of bacteria and infections and, considering chairs and seating in care environments are known for cross contamination, getting the right fabrics to help eliminate this is vital.

So what are these fabrics and how do they help?

Firstly let’s look at the term ‘infection control’. There are systems and standards that are recognised within practices that are key to patient safety. Where care environments have a turn over of patients, individual pieces of equipment are used by multiple patients which increases the risk of infections spreading.

What to look for in an infection control fabric?


Chairs get a lot of use which causes wear and tear. Select strong, durable fabrics that will last. Once a fabric has ripped it can no longer be cleaned properly and bacteria will spread.

Cleaning instructions

When selecting your fabrics consider the cleaning process. Choose fabrics that can withstand daily cleaning and are compatible with detergents and disinfectants. The fabric should be fluid resistant and non-porous so that spillage can be wiped up easily.

Microbial growth

A fabric like vinyl can help prevent in the spread of microorganisms. Fabrics that can hold moisture aid in microbial growth. Vinyl provides a tough exterior which is waterproof and prevents the spread of infections.

How do these fabrics effect pressure relief?

One of the main concerns for care environments is pressure relief. With this being the case, vinyl, as mentioned above, is great for preventing the spread of bacteria but lacks the properties for good pressure relief.

Ideally you need to select a fabric for the patient surface area that has a 4 way stretch so the fabric stretches with the resident so you get the full benefit of the pressure relieving cushion underneath. It will also help reduce shear.

What material is best?

Overall when choosing fabric for your chairs you need something that is easy to clean, durable, waterproof, prevents the growth of bacteria and aids in the prevention of pressure ulcers.

This being said, we would recommend choosing a VP fabric for the main patient surface area. This is a similar fabric that is used on our OSKA mattresses and and can withstand daily cleaning regimes. For heavily soiled areas, the fabric can be cleaned using a chlorine solution of up to 10,000 ppm chlorine solution. It is a vapour permeable fabric which means no liquid will pass through however, air can pass through making it breathable. Its 4 way stretch allows it to adapt to the persons seating position, ultimately making it more comfortable and will help relieve pressure on the bony prominences.

Vinyl fabrics are ideal for Inside arms/wings of the chairs as it is hard wearing and waterproof as well as being easy to clean. Our range of vinyl fabrics is quite extensive but we understand that designing a chair that is homely and fits with the aesthetics of your home is important.

With this in mind, we offer a range of fabrics that are far more versatile in terms of colours, textures and designs which can be introduced to the outside arms/wings. Generally, textured fabrics can provide small places for bacteria to grow and contaminate others. Our solution to this is a range of fabrics which are enticing and elegant with printed designs but are as smooth as possible with a textured effect.


The points above should always be considered when choosing fabrics for your chair but reputable companies will ensure your fabric options cover all the main requirements. 
If you want to know more about how our fabrics can help with infection control contact our OSKA pressure care experts.


GOV.UK. (n.d.). Care homes market study: summary of final report. [online] Available at: [Accessed 14 May 2019].