Antimicrobial technology can be incorporated into various flooring types to complement regular disinfection routines for long-lasting cleanliness. Jonathan Clapp
discusses the power of antimicrobial additives, and tackles common industry questions.
WHY should we be concerned about the cleanliness of flooring?
Carpets and floors are often dirtier than we realise, as they gather all the microbes that are tracked in from the outside. If left to grow, microbes can cause lasting damage to flooring, as well as unpleasant odours and staining, leading to early product deterioration. Keeping floors clean in public areas – such as in restaurants and hospitals – can be particularly challenging, as they experience footfall from hundreds or thousands of visitors a day.
A study found the shoe soles of healthcare workers and food servers, among others in the community, contained pathogenic microorganisms including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and clostridium difficile.1 It’s therefore unsurprising that floors can be hotspots for microbial growth, and maintaining clean floors is an important aspect of regular hygiene practices.
Is cleaning enough?
Traditional disinfectants can only act as a short-term solution, offering limited residual activity against the growth of microbes. As soon as the floor is used again, microbes are able to occupy the area and grow. Cleaning recommendations can also vary between floor types, as some are harder to clean than others, and are damaged more easily by chemicals.
For example, it’s recommended carpets are professionally cleaned every 12-18 months, which provides ample time for microbial populations to accumulate and grow.
Disinfecting hardwood floors is also often challenging, as manufacturers advise against using excessive water or harsh cleaning chemicals to avoid crack formation. Finding the right balance between maintaining a high standard of cleanliness and reducing the wear caused by vigorous cleaning is therefore a large consumer pain point, not just for these flooring types, but across all floors.
Is there a longer lasting solution?
In a word, yes. Built-in antimicrobial technologies can be incorporated into all types of flooring – from carpets to tiles and laminates – to offer lasting, durable surface protection against the growth of microbes. These technologies work 24/7, interacting with the cells wall of microbes to prevent their reproduction for inherently cleaner floors.
Applied to the flooring during manufacture, they become an integral part of the material, and cannot be washed off or wear away, making this approach the ideal complementary solution to cleaning in both household and commercial settings.
How are these technologies applied?
Each material requires an individual approach, and an understanding of both how the antimicrobial chemistry interacts with the product surface and the manufacturing process to achieve optimal performance. However, there is a common general approach for each material:
Antimicrobial properties can be applied to a wide range of tiling materials, from ceramics to luxury vinyl tiles (LVT). For ceramic tiles, the antimicrobial compound is added to the glaze during the firing process, and for LVT it can be incorporated into both the surface wear layer and the pre-attached underlay.
Built-in options can be more challenging for solid hardwood floors, as they’re obviously made from natural materials. Instead, a thin urethane top layer with built-in antimicrobial properties is applied to the surface, which does not affect the quality or appearance of the wood, but successfully adds a layer of protection against microbial growth.
Vinyl can be particularly susceptible to staining from the growth of mould and mildew, as it’s often used in areas that are frequently exposed to spills and higher humidity, such as kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms. For a well-rounded protection against microbes, antimicrobial chemistries are infused into all three layers of vinyl – foam, vinyl, and surface topcoat – prior to extrusion, calendering or coating.
High-pressure laminate (HPL) is often touted as having natural resistance to microbial proliferation, due to the presence of formaldehyde. However, these properties have a limited lifespan, and will eventually wear off. In addition, global biocidal regulations don’t permit the marketing of any laminates as being ‘antimicrobial’ unless they contain a registered biocide.
Antimicrobial technology can be seamlessly introduced into HPL during the final resin bath of the impregnation process, ensuring product protection that lasts.
Antimicrobial chemistries can be directly infused into carpet fibres to maintain cleaner and fresher carpets in between cleans. These treatments work around the clock to prevent the growth of stain- and odour-causing microbes.
Antimicrobial experts are able to incorporate product protection into a wide range of flooring types, without impacting the style or finish, for a systemic approach to cleaning. With many consumers asking for products that aren’t only easy to clean but also help alleviate cleanliness anxieties, antimicrobials can put flooring manufacturers at the forefront of future innovations.
Jonathan Clapp is international senior technical manager at Microban International
1 Rashid T, VonVille HM, Hasan I, Garey KW. (2016). Shoe soles as a potential vector for pathogen transmission: a systematic review. J Appl Microbiol. 121(5):1223-1231. doi: 10.1111/jam.13250. Epub 2016 Sep 19. PMID: 27495010.