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Antimicrobial Surfaces to Protect Your Home

Frequent reminders to wash our hands and refrain from touching our faces have kept personal hygiene top of mind in the wake of a novel coronavirus pandemic. Those measures — along with appropriate social distancing — remain the most effective steps to slow the transmission of airborne pathogens like the coronavirus known as COVID-19.

But such pathogens, along with bacteria, mildew, and mold, can also live on surfaces in our homes for up to several days. Certain materials and finishes offer antimicrobial protection, meaning they either kill microorganisms or stop their growth.

To find out more about which countertops, hardware, flooring finishes, paint, and textiles may help limit the growth of microbes and other organisms in our homes, here are the thoughts of several design experts, from architects and builders to textile and interior designers.  Hope you find this useful.

What countertop surfaces are antimicrobial?

“Quartz is one of the hardest nonprecious stones on earth, therefore countertops made from quartz (which are made of ground quartz combined with a small amount of resin) are hard, stain- and scratch-resistant, and antimicrobial,” says Cyndy Cantley of the Birmingham, Alabama-based design and cabinet firm Cantley and Company.

“Furthermore, quartz is completely nonporous, so resealing is not needed. There are numerous manufacturers of quartz or quartz blend countertops (including Silestone, Dekton, and Caesarstone), so every color and finish is available,” adds Cantley.

“Copper is another natural antimicrobial surface that has no off-gasses and ages with a beautiful patina over time,” adds Cantley.

“And semiprecious stone countertops (think agate, tigereye, and petrified wood) are also stain- and scratch-resistant, resistant to bacteria, and some of the most beautiful surfaces you could ever use — though pricey.”

“Several manufacturers, such as Wilsonart, make antimicrobial laminate countertops,” notes Cantley. “Protection from damaging microbes like mold and mildew is actually built into the surface.”

Are there any fixture and hardware materials are antimicrobial?

“Lead-free copper is a great choice for hardware, as the material is naturally antimicrobial and never needs sealing.”

Another option? “Hands-free fixtures in the kitchen,” says Franklin, Tennessee-based architect Kevin Coffey. “Thanks to several manufacturers — such as Delta, Kohler, and Moen — there are far more stylish options available today than there used to be.”

Are there any finishes or sealants that offer additional protection?

“Microban offers sealants for door hardware, and Kwikset has Microban-coated offerings for door hardware,” says Coffey.

What, if any, flooring materials are antimicrobial?

“Bamboo flooring has an antifungal agent living in it, and cork flooring, which comes from the cork oak tree, stops bacteria and microorganisms from growing,” says Cantley. “Both need to be sealed and resealed with a polyurethane coating.”

In terms of design, Coffey points out that, as with countertops, continuous, nonporous flooring surfaces are the easiest to keep clean. “The fewer joints and recesses, the better,” he says. Terrazzo, epoxy, and linoleum are all good flooring material options.”

Are there any finishes that offer protection?

“Epoxy can be used to seal many floors so they are antimicrobial, but this is typically used in commercial applications,” says Cantley, who notes seamless, poured-in-place floors (like rubber) also offer antimicrobial protection. “They are easily cleaned and also primarily used in commercial applications.”

How do antimicrobial paints work? What protections do they offer?

“Most paint manufacturers offer an additive that is simply mixed in to any color or finish, making it antimicrobial. This makes the paint resistant to mold, fungus, and bacteria even after repeated cleanings,” says Cantley.

Are any synthetic textile fibers antimicrobial?

“Acrylic, polyolefin, and polypropylene are all hydrophobic (meaning they don’t absorb water), which makes them resistant to mold and mildews,” says Rachel Doriss, design director of Pollack.

What textiles are bleach cleanable?

“Most of our outdoor fabrics are bleach cleanable with a diluted bleach solution, and they’re mold- and mildew-resistant,” says Doriss. “Our customers are drawn to these textiles for high-traffic public areas, as well as at home for families with kids and dogs.”

Are there any coatings or finishes one can apply to textiles for additional protection?

“At Pollack, we tend to stay away from antimicrobial finishes for health and environmental reasons,” says Doriss. “Most of the antimicrobial finishes I have seen are in nonwovens like polyurethane and PVC.”

Published by Veranda March 13,  2020

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