Textile company gets Royal seal of approval as it launches antiviral face mask

Textile company gets Royal seal of approval as it launches antiviral face mask

AN Ilkeston textile firm which has won the Queen’s Award for its international trade deals has turned its attention closer to home by developing a face mask from a pioneering 3D fabric with an antiviral finish.

Baltex, a technical textile manufacturer, which has been in business since 1831, has been given the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise for a record third time, after previous success in 2003 and 2009.

The company, based in Burr Lane, designs, manufactures, and supplies a variety of technical textiles for a range of high-performance markets including aerospace, military, medical and the automotive industry.

Baltex also won an innovation prize from The Textile Institute in 2010 for its work in 3D fabrics and at the start of the pandemic the company transferred its research and development capabilities into the Airox Face Mask.

Using the same 3D fabric technology it used to develop a pressure relief cushion for wheelchair users and mattresses, the reusable mask provides two layers of breathable fabric in a single lightweight construction which is comfortable to wear as it distributes pressure evenly.

The fabric is water repellent so, unlike cotton, avoids the absorption of droplets and is also constructed to divert expelled air, which reduces the chance of passing the virus on.

The masks, which are machine washable at 60 degrees, are also coated in an antiviral finish, called ViralOff, from the Swedish hygiene specialist Polygiene.

Baltex is one of the first companies in the world to use the finish on a face mask. While the treatment has not been tested against Covd-19, it has been accredited with reducing levels of Influenza A, BirdFlu, Norovirus and SARS by 99%.

Baltex managing director Charles Wood, an eighth-generation owner of the family business, said: “It is likely that face masks will be a part of our everyday lives for some time to come, so in recent weeks we have worked intensively on the development of a completely new product for us: a 3D face mask made of breathable, functional fabric.

“Even though our masks are intended for everyday use and not for medical purposes, it was important to us to equip them with ViralOff. We have worked with Polygiene for a decade and have complete trust in their products.

“When wearing a mask, it’s still important not to touch the face and because our masks are so comfortable this reduces the need to adjust it. The fabric also incorporates a moisture wicking yarn, which draws sweat away from the face which makes it more wearable too.

“We think the masks will also have life beyond Covid, particularly from cyclists, and we expect there to be a lot of interest from airlines, the construction industry and sports companies.”

Baltex was founded by William Ball and his brothers Francis and Thomas in 1831, starting life as a silk and lace manufacturer, before adapting to specialist fabrics after facing fierce competition from cheap imports.

The company employs 50 people and around 70% of its work is for export. It has a subsidiary in Poland, and works with agents in Hong Kong, Italy, Finland and the USA.

Baltex was notified of its latest Queen’s Award, which is regarded as one of the most prestigious business awards in the country, in April.

Mr Wood added: “We are absolutely thrilled to have received this award for a third time, although it’s ironic that we have gone back to a local supply chain in recent weeks – the fabric is being lasercut in Nottinghamshire and sewn in Derbyshire.

“It’s pleasing to go back to our local roots, when the company started during the Industrial Revolution everything was produced in a close geographical area.

“I hope that by manufacturing the masks we will protect local jobs and maybe even generate them.”

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