Antiviral, COVID-19 and you – your guide to a confusing market

Luglio 27, 2020
It is just four months since we launched ViralOff® and I have never seen anything like it. We are already treating things from gloves to scarves to wool for premium suits as well as jeans for Diesel, as well as personal accessories for Fossil. Reusable and antivirally treated bags and crates from Returnity might change the way we use and view packaging. ViralOff went from a niche thing for facemasks and scrubs to a widespread and recognized brand in just a few months.

But as always when there are fast development and lots of interest, involvement and money in a new field, there are many claims and disruptions. I find it hard myself, despite years of working with the technology. Here it is equal parts of marketing, tech and legal issues that shape the market and, in many ways, distort it! So, I wanted to give you a report on what I think are important matters if you are working with treatments and their claims regarding antiviral and COVID-19 efficacy.

There are quite a few cases now of claims to have tested “effect on COVID-19”. Well. Let’s be careful here. First, the virus is called SARS-Cov2, while COVID-19 is the disease. Few textile treatments have effects on diseases, right? If you are sick, you will not get well from any textile treatment. Second, we have yet to find one commercial lab that keeps, and tests on, SARS-Cov2. If you think about it, it is reasonable that commercial labs don’t handle dangerous viruses. They also have enough to do these days even without raising Cov2 cultures. The non-commercial labs, such as universities or advanced medical clinics do it, but prioritize other research, like vaccines and other clinical effect tests to directly save lives. Like it should be.

So while some parties claim to have tested on the Cov2 virus, we have yet to find anyone that can do it. The ones who say they have tested must have been extremely well connected as we simply get a “we don’t and we can’t” everywhere we ask. So, I would be wary of the claims. We would do a test ourselves when we find one, even though we already know what the result will be. Having a “study that shows effect against SARS-Cov2” is of course a nice thing to wave around, even if it adds nothing to our knowledge nor to claims toward the consumer.

You see, the whole thing is about earning the right to call yourself antiviral in the market. On textiles, the standard is by passing the ISO18184:2019 test and we make every application to do just that. The ISO test uses Influenza A viruses to represent other viruses, as they are tough, enveloped and therefore harder to kill. If you reduce the number of them in the test, you earn the right to call yourself antiviral in the market. (Antimicrobial in the US, when talking about treated articles.)

And this is important too. Because many mixes it up on purpose: they talk about a “test versus COVID-19” but it is not done by ISO18184. This means nothing in terms of antiviral claims for a treated article. So, while they (hopefully) test according to ISO18184, it is not on the SAR-Cov2. Read claims carefully!

But then again when it comes to washability there is another switch – suddenly talking about antibacterial effect rather than the ISO tested effect. So, watch out for washability claims on multiple washes, it is almost certain that an antibacterial test has been performed if it is for 20+ washes, I have yet to see washability of 30+ for antiviral effect, other than by mistake!

Most claims of “lasts the lifetime of the garment” or 20+ washes are for antibacterial, not antiviral. Confused? I am. Imagine the poor consumer.

While washability remains a challenge, many products don’t really require it. A mask that is antivirally treated really only needs to be cleaned if physically soiled – it is self-cleaning when it comes to viruses and bacteria. And with clothes, the effect will also protect it from most body odors as well. Leaving washing as an optional thing, again more a question if and when dirt and other external elements make it necessary. So, for instance, with our partnership with Diesel, we are giving jeans aficionados the answer to their prayers – denim that doesn’t need to be washed, like, ever.

Ultimately ViralOff will help us change consumer behaviors for the better. The external scare factor of virus contamination leads to more awareness of hygiene. More awareness of hygiene should lead to more washing – but we can turn it to less washing. Less washing is the ultimate benefit as there is less wear and tear, prolongs product life and freshness means products can be kept in circulation and in the second-hand market. Everyone wins.

Having said that we know that many consumers want the washability regardless. I must admit the prospect of never washing my jeans is a little too extreme for me. But making an antiviral treatment that lasts for 20 or 30 washes has been tough. We have however come up with a formula that delivers that. It just needs to be formally tested across different applications, strictly, by ISO18184:2019. Only when we have these tests done satisfactorily will we launch the new formula, which we call ViralOff+. It will then be offered to those brands and products that need it.

But back to the beautiful paradox: fear of virus and bacteria will make people look for ViralOff, but once they get ViralOff treated products they can wash less, not more. ViralOff suddenly made reusable packaging even more of a viable proposition (see separate story on Returnity) and wait until people realize that every piece of furniture, curtain etc in public spaces should be cleaned more regularly to keep viruses and bacteria from accumulating. It will be prohibitively expensive unless textiles could somehow clean themselves?

The hygienic revolution has only begun. Behavioral changes take a long time. But I feel fairly certain ViralOff is going to change a lot for the better.


Mats Georgson – CMO at Polygiene. Georgson has a PhD in Marketing Communication from the University of Connecticut and has been a (part-time) assistant professor at the Department of Advertising and Public Relations at the Stockholm University for 10 years. In his previous career he had a position as Global Brand Director for Sony Ericsson and was responsible for the brand project Bluetooth and Sony Ericsson’s brand strategy. He is also co-author of the leading academic textbook for branding: Strategic Brand Management: A European Perspective (Keller, Apéria, Georgson) and has run a successful branding consulting company since 2003. He is a popular public speaker on the subject of branding in different segments and industries.


A mask that is antivirally treated really only needs to be cleaned if physically soiled – it is self-cleaning when it comes to viruses and bacteria


Ultimately ViralOff will help us change consumer behaviors for the better. The external scare factor of virus contamination leads to more awareness of hygiene