Fabrics used for Personal Protective Clothing (PPE)


What are types of fabrics used for Personal Protective Clothing (PPE)?

Personal protective equipment (PPE) refers to protective clothing, helmets, gloves, face shields, goggles, facemasks and/or respirators or other equipment designed to protect the wearer from injury or the spread of infection or illness.

We might have few questions frequently in mind in this Corona-virus pandemic situation.

 What Protective Clothing Is Appropriate for Corona-virus (2019-nCoV) Disease Control?

 What quality fabric is required for making protective clothing for Novel Corona-virus Disease Control?

 What are the standard requirements for Protective Clothing?

 What are the fabric specifications of Protective Clothing?

 Why can’t we produce fabric for protective clothing in Bangladesh to support the healthcare professional?

 Is Bangladesh is capable of producing protective clothing fabric?

 Which quality Protective clothing should use for the protection from Corona-virus in which condition?



Everyone should have knowledge regarding above two questions particularly in this Novel Corona-virus (2019-nCoV) pandemic situation worldwide. Otherwise we might use protective clothing to save ourselves from Corona-virus but at the end, it will not protect us from getting infected. Especially for the healthcare professionals (Doctors, Nurses & others related to medical treatment) who are the front line fighter against Corona virus. We should identify which quality standard of PPE before using it in certain condition. We should check the PPE standard before buying and using for specific reason. We should identify which level of protection will be given by the PPE.   

What are the Standards of Personal Protective Clothing (PPE)?

Normally it is mentioned in the PPE tag where the manufacturer mentioned the standard level either FDA/CE/ISO standard.  Let’s discuss about the standard first.

FDA (Food and Drug administration) and CE (European Commission) have their own PPE standards and need prior approval before production of those PPE. If we use wrong PPE in high risk area then very high chance of getting infected rather getting protection.    

For Gown, the FDA standard describes the barrier protection levels of gowns and other protective apparel intended for use in health care facilities and specifies test methods and performance results necessary to verify and validate that the gown provides the newly defined levels of protection:

Regardless of how the product is named (that is, isolation gown, procedure gown, or cover gown), when choosing gowns, look for product labeling that describes an intended use with the desired level of protection based on the above risk levels. Product names are not standardized.

The critical protective zones for surgical and non-surgical gowns are defined differently by the standard. While the critical zones designate different protective areas for the different gowns, the levels of protection are the same for both surgical and non-surgical gowns. Liquid barrier performance is not related to the strength of the material. This standard references several other standards.


We will discuss only on gown grading base on their level on protection based on FDA and CE standard. For Novel Corona-virus protection we can follow the below instruction according to level grade from FDA. We will discuss European standard later on.  

FDA Classifies a gown’s ability to act as a barrier to penetration by liquids or liquid-borne pathogens based on four levels.

PPE Grade: Level 1


  • Used for MINIMAL risk situations
  • Provides a slight barrier to small amounts of fluid penetration
  • Single test of water impacting the surface of the gown material is conducted to assess barrier protection performance.


Basic care, standard hospital medical unit

PPE Grade: Level 2


  • Used in LOW risk situations
  • Provides a barrier to larger amounts of fluid penetration through splatter and some fluid exposure through soaking
  • Two tests are conducted to assess barrier protection performance:
  • Water impacting the surface of the gown material
  • Pressurizing the material


Blood draw from a vein, Suturing, Intensive care unit, Pathology lab

PPE Grade: Level 3


  • Used in MODERATE risk situations
  • Provides a barrier to larger amounts of fluid penetration through splatter and more fluid exposure through soaking than Level 2
  • Two tests are conducted to test barrier protection performance:
  • Water impacting the surface of the gown material
  • Pressurizing the material


Arterial blood draw, Inserting an  IV, Emergency Room, Trauma

PPE Grade: Level 4


  • Used in HIGH risk situations
  • Prevents all fluid penetration for up to 1 hour
  • May prevent VIRUS penetration for up to 1 hour
  • In addition to the other tests conducted under levels 1-3, barrier level performance is tested with a simulated blood containing a virus. If no virus is found at the end of the test, the gown passes.


Pathogen resistance, Infectious diseases (non-airborne), Large amounts of fluid exposure over long periods



FDA recommends below for using gowns for Corona-virus protection:

  • Implementing the use of reusable gowns instead of disposable single use gowns.
  • Using ANSI/AAMI PB70 standard Level 3 or 4 gown (that is, sterile surgical isolation gowns) for surgery/invasive procedures with a medium to high risk of contamination.
  • Isolation gowns for routine care of patients that are suspected or confirmed to be infected with COVID-19.


The European Union issued a number of regulations to improve health and safety at work and to ensure high quality PPE. The PPE Regulation (EU) 2016/425 covers the manufacturing and marketing of personal protective equipment. It defines legal obligations to ensure that PPE on the European market provides the highest level of protection against hazards. The CE marking affixed to PPE provides evidence of this protection.

As this is a “New Approach” Directive, manufacturers or their authorised representative in the EU can comply with the technical requirements directly or with European Harmonised Standards. The latter provides a presumption of conformity to the essential health and safety requirements.

As per CE standard, there are three categories of PPE as explained below. If you see the mentioned protective clothing having approval under category III, then only we can consider using for Corona-virus disease control.

Let’s have a brief of all the three categories…

Category I :

PPE intended to protect users against minimal risks. Category I includes exclusively PPE

intended to protect users against the following risks:


(a) superficial mechanical injury;

(b) contact with water or cleaning materials of weak action;

(c) contact with hot surfaces not exceeding 50°C;

(d) damage to the eyes due to exposure to sunlight (other than during observation

of the sun);

(e) atmospheric conditions that are not of an extreme nature.

Category II :

Category II includes:

(a) PPE intended to protect users against risks other than those listed in Categories

I and III;

(b) made-to-measure PPE except where such PPE is intended to protect users

against risks listed in Category I.

Category III :

PPE intended to protect users against very serious risks. Category III includes exclusively

PPE intended to protect users against the following risks:

(a) inhalation of harmful substances;

(b) aggressive chemicals;

(c) ionising radiation;

(d) high-temperature environments the effects of which are comparable to those of

an air temperature of at least 100°C;

(e) low-temperature environments the effects of which are comparable to those of

an air temperature of -50°C or less;

(f) falling from a height;

(g) electric shock and live working;

(h) drowning;

(i) cuts by hand-held chain-saws;

(j) high-pressure cutting;

(k) bullet wounds or knife stabs;

(l) harmful noise.


Producers must have to take prior marking approval before selling of protective clothing from CE as per standard procedure in EU market. 


There are few standards of protective clothing according to their area of use and level of protection given….

In order to avoid misappropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) during this corona-virus pandemic battle, we need to use protective clothing under category III and EN 14126:2003 standard clothing, which is the standard specifies a set of requirements and test methods to measure the fabric protection against infective agents.

EN 14126:2003 includes 5 test methods to determine the protection class against several specific biological hazards listed as the following:

ISO 16603:

Resistance to penetration by blood/body fluids.

ISO 16604:

Resistance to penetration by blood borne pathogens

ISO 22610:

Resistance to wet microbial penetration

ISO/DIS 22611:

Resistance to liquid aerosol penetration

ISO 22612:

Resistance to dry microbial penetration

COVID-19 belongs to the Corona-viruses family, with size of approximately 0.125 microns. From the above contaminants, Phi-X-174 (0.027 microns) is the only contaminant which smaller than COVID-19. Hence, if the protective clothing passes ISO 16604 with a relatively high protection class, it means that it has a higher protection level.

If you are frontline medical personnel, you might focus on ISO/DIS 22611. Earlier in February, China admitted that aerosol transmission is possible. It could happen when the patient sneezes hard or when you are exposed to high aerosol concentrations in an enclosed environment for a long time, such as inserting respiratory tube during medical procedures, which causes a burst of mass aerosols.

In a conclusion, during the selection of protective clothing against COVID-19, you can first identify EN 14126:2003 certification via wording “-B” behind “TYPE” classification, namely “TYPE 3-B”, “TYPE 4-B” and “TYPE 5-B” in  product series. Once identified the protection capability against infective agents, do take a closer look at respective test results according to your job specification in particular working environment.

Hope everyone is clear about quality standard and parameters that needs to check before using protective clothing. Hope everyone is aware of appropriate protective selection and parameters checkpoints.


What are the best fabric Construction for the PPE ?


Fabrics used in protective clothing for corona-virus may be constructed of either single-use or reusable materials. It can be nylon taffeta, microfiber filament or – laminated cotton / poplin fabric. But the issue is we need to ensure that the fabric is giving enough protection against as per FDA/CE standard. When we will produce the fabric, we must need to meet the standard and must need to test as per CE / FDA standard. As far I can remember there is no standard in Bangladesh mentioning the fabric quality or garment quality standard for protective clothing. In this situation BSTI (Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution) or Bangladesh Government should take immediate action to standardize the PPE quality parameters to ensure the health and safety of our front line fighter healthcare personnel.
Let’s discuss about non-woven fabric technology and details although non-woven factories are not yet developed in Bangladesh. We need immediately take action to develop the factory and the technology is not too critical. We have enough infrastructures to set up non-oven factory to produce non-woven protective clothing fabric in Bangladesh. We already have some non-woven factories but they are not producing this technical fabric rather producing non –woven felt/ normal non-woven fabric. We only need the intention our industrialist to come forward to establish the factory.
Most single protective clothing is most often constructed from fibers such as polypropylene and polyester, by using a non-woven technique. These fibers are relatively cheap to make but produce a high quality product. Typically, protective clothing uses the non-woven technique known as SMS which stands for spunbond, meltblown, spunbond. In some cases the SMS process can include more than one meltblown layer between the outer spunbond layers.
During a spunbonding process, polypropylene is extruded onto a collecting belt and later bonded using heated rollers . The purpose of the spunbond layer closest to the skin is primarily to keep the man cool and maintain the highly breathable environment. The outer layer of spunbonded material is to give the gown tensile strength to prevent ripping or tearing of the fabric. 
The meltblown portion of the material is processed by using high pressured air that blows molten thermoplastic resin (usually polypropylene chips) from an extruder die tip onto a conveyor or a takeup screen to form a fine fiberous and “self-bonding” web. The meltblown middle layer of a protective clothing serves as protection against bodily fluids, fibers, dirt, dust, and grease, however, the surgical gown usually has a chemical finish to further these protective properties. 
The nonwoven fabric is finished with the different percentages of antibacterial, antistatic, and fluorochemical finishes usually in a single bath, using the pad-dry-cure method. In the pad-dry-cure method, the fabric is immersed in the bath of liquid solution and then squeezed through rollers to remove excess liquid. This process is completed twice to ensure even distribution across the fabric samples. 
Disposable protective clothing are meant to be used during one time and then thrown away. Disposable protective clothing is usually cheaper due to the SMS construction with a nonwoven material. Reusable gowns however, tend to be made a little differently as they have to resist a lot more wear. Various reusable gowns made by multiple companies will have differences in that some are thicker due to more meltblown layers in the center, some have extra paneling added to the abdominal and arm regions for added protection, others are have different levels of performance depending on protection it will be needed for. Reusable gowns will have a different chemical exterior to resist degradation after multiple washes.
When purchasing a protective clothing to use for corona-virus protection, we need to consider The most important factors to that is physical and chemical properties of the fabric, shape, size and other characteristics of the microorganism, characteristics of the carrier, and external factors. Also, we need to check that the protective clothing meeting the standard as well as testing parameters.
Below are two fabrics from that is usable for protective clothing but need to get protective marking and standard test after the clothing preparation…
1. 100 % Polypropylene Nonwoven(SS)+PE Membrane Bonded 70 gsm (Disposable ,anti-static, fluid and microbe resistant)
2. 99%polyester 1%carbon (75d*75d ) micro filament ( Reusable, anti-static, fluid and microbe resistant )
We have gone though some of the fabric supplier in online and offline (Like Amazon) but very few are declaring the protective grading (or marking) standard of their fabric from china and other county. So, the situation is very critical and we don’t know the fabric we are using for corona-virus protection PPE will protect us or not. So, please check the standard parameters of the protective clothing and test report before using for corona-virus protection. Otherwise the purpose of using the protective clothing will not meet and at the end we will suffer for this. We never expect the situation goes up to that extent.
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