Chalcone ((E)-1-(3-hydroxyphenyl)-3-(4-methoxyphenyl) prop-2-en-1-one) and ZnO flower-like nanorods were prepared and coated on cotton cloth with acacia as binder. The surface was characterized by FT-IR, AFM, goniometer and SEM-EDAX. The antibacterial activity of the coated cotton was tested against three organisms namely Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa in terms of live bacterial load, as measured by the colony forming units (CFU), adhered on the cotton surface. More than 99% reduction in bacterial load was observed against all three organisms. Viability of the bacterial cells was tested using a dual staining BacLight Kit. Majority of the cells adhered on the coated cotton surface were dead and on uncoated were live. S. aureus was found to be most hydrophobic organism. The chalcone showed 48%, 45% and 35% reduction in slime produced by S. aureus, E. coli and P. aeruginosa, respectively. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.