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The Complete Guide to Healthcare Seating Textiles

| Furniture Materials, Healthcare, Office Design


Feb 3 2016

Whether you’re furnishing a new healthcare facility or replacing old furniture in a hospital or private practice, knowing your textiles is crucial to the well-being of staff and patients alike. To help make your chair purchasing experience as easy as possible, we’re breaking down the pros and cons of commonly used seating textiles. This list is ranked from worst to best in terms of appropriateness for a healthcare setting.


healthcare textiles

Fabric

Fabric is a woven textile that is not considered to be appropriate for healthcare settings. The major benefit of this type of textile is its myriad of color and pattern options. Although the appearance of fabric creates a welcoming, homey aesthetic that most medical facilities seek, the good is far outweighed by the bad in the case of this material. Because fabric is woven, it is porous, meaning that fluids can seep into the chair easily and become nearly impossible to remove entirely. This creates an infection control nightmare as fabric is very likely to harbor bacteria and bedbugs. In addition to the health hazards associated with this textile, fabric is not durable enough to withstand regular use in a busy healthcare facility for long.


In summary:

Benefits

  • Unlimited color and pattern choices
  • Welcoming, homelike aesthetic

Challenges

  • Porous
  • Not very cleanable or durable
  • Harbors bed bugs and bacteria

healthcare textiles

Crypton Fabric

Crypton fabric is a specially manufactured textile that has a fluid-resistant backing which makes it closer to the vinyl family than to the fabrics it so closely resembles. This textile has the same large range of color and pattern options as fabrics do, but it’s much more acceptable for a healthcare setting as fluids cannot seep into the chair like they can with fabric; however, this material is still semi-permeable and can hold unwanted odors. Crypton requires specific cleaners for regular maintenance, as it can degrade quickly if cleaned improperly, so staff must be well-trained on the correct cleaner to use on this material. This textile can also be quite expensive and is not the most durable option available. Due to this, Crypton is often used on the backs of chairs in low abuse settings such as private practices and senior living centers.


In summary:

Benefits

  • Same range of color and pattern options as fabric
  • Fluid-resistant backing is healthier than fabric options
  • Good choice for chair backrests that receive less wear over time

Challenges

  • Semi-permeable
  • Requires special cleaners and can degrade quickly if cleaned improperly
  • Expensive
  • Can hold odors

healthcare textiles

PVC-Free Vinyl

Ideal for use in inpatient and acute care facilities, PVC-free vinyl is an impermeable and eco-friendly textile. Because it’s PVC-free, this material emits no off-gas, making it a great choice where indoor air quality is a concern. In addition, this textile has a soft, comfortable feel, but the color palette is limited. Though relatively easy to clean, PVC-free vinyl is fragile and can degrade quickly and pucker if not maintained correctly.


In summary:

Benefits

  • Impermeable
  • Emits no off-gas and is great for indoor air quality
  • Soft, comfortable feel

Challenges

  • Fragile and will degrade quickly if not properly cared for
  • Can pucker
  • Limited aesthetically—only solid colors are available

healthcare textiles

Vinyl

Like PVC-free vinyl, regular vinyl is commonly used in inpatient and acute care facilities such as typical hospital settings. Vinyl is also impermeable and Greenguard certified for better indoor air quality, but this material is much more durable and easy to maintain. Despite this, it should be noted that over-bleaching can lead to the breakdown of plasticizers (the additive used to make vinyl soft and pliable), and the stripping of plasticizers can lead to cracking and ripping that The Joint Commission will quickly write up as a violation. On the plus side, vinyl is available in a much wider range of colors and patterns than PVC-free vinyl. Bed bugs and bacteria contamination are less of a concern with this textile, though these may still thrive in the seams of the material.


In summary:

Benefits

  • Impermeable
  • Greenguard certified for better indoor air quality
  • Many patterns and colors available
  • Durable with good light resistance
  • Easy to clean (though this varies depending on manufacturer)

Challenges

  • Can degrade if over-bleached
  • Seams can harbor bed bugs and bacteria

healthcare textiles

IC+

Ideal for emergency departments, IC+ is the top-of-the-line choice for high traffic hospitals that require the very best of the best in durability and cleanliness. IC+ is only manufactured by a company known as Healthcentric, and it is applied via a spraying technique rather than being sewn. As a result, IC+ has no seams for bacteria and bed bugs to thrive in, making it the best choice when it comes to preventing the spread of infection. This material is also 10 times stronger than vinyl, completely impermeable, does not degrade and has a very high abuse rate, making it ideal for busy emergency rooms that see patients with a vast range of ailments. Not only will this material not rip or crack, but it’s also safe to clean even with harsh bleaches. IC+ is truly the best option available for healthcare facilities, but it is worth noting that color options are limited and this material is not the most comfortable for patients due to its durable build.


In summary:

Benefits

  • 10 times stronger than vinyl
  • Does not degrade
  • Seamless design does not harbor bed bugs or bacteria
  • Highest abuse rate
  • Easy to clean

Challenges

  • Not the most comfortable
  • Very limited color palette

Need more help choosing the best textile for your healthcare facility? We’re happy to help! Call our furniture experts today at (800) 558-1010 or shop our full selection of healthcare furniture here.


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