Antimicrobial power for the wood we walk on

By Graham Harvey, global group director, Microban International

Wood or wood-effect flooring is a feature in stylish homes and commercial premises. The appearance of wood floors can be achieved in several ways – from solid hardwood to wood-effect laminate or even luxury vinyl tiles (LVTs) – with factors including cost, durability, ease of installation and appearance affecting choice. However, whichever material is selected, floors can be subject to a whole host of contaminants as a result of foot traffic, pets, food residues or cleaning lapses. In a study carried out by the University of Arizona, 96% of shoes were found to be populated with faecal bacteria, and an array of other microorganisms. Minimising the colonisation of bacteria, mould and mildew on a floor is important, not just to prevent stains and odours, but also to help extend its longevity. This article discusses the benefits of built-in antimicrobial chemistries and describes how they can be used in all different floor types to reduce the growth of microbes, without affecting the characteristics of the chosen material.

Why traditional cleaning is not enough

Microbes are small living organisms that are found all around us, and their ability to rapidly multiply in different environments makes them difficult to control. Bacteria, moulds, fungi, algae and viruses in undesirable locations can cause illnesses, surface stains, bad odours and reduced product life due to contamination or degradation. Traditional cleaning methods using disinfectants are short-term solutions, offering limited residual activity against microbes, which can build up and grow again as soon as the footfall returns. Some floor types are also harder to clean than others. For example, disinfecting hardwood or engineered wood floors is challenging since manufacturers advise against using excessive water or harsh cleaning chemicals. Finding the right balance between maintaining a high standard of cleanliness and reducing the wear caused by vigorous cleaning is, therefore, an important goal. Flooring that has antimicrobial product protection built-in, or wood flooring treated with a coating, offer an extra level of protection to support regular cleaning protocols.

How antimicrobials work

Antimicrobial additives work 24/7, interacting with microbial cells to prevent their reproduction. Technologies of this kind can be built into some products or come in the form of coatings that adhere to surfaces, effectively acting as barriers to reduce the microbial population. Either way, they become an integral part of the floor, and cannot be washed off or worn away, making this approach the ideal complementary solution to cleaning in both household and commercial settings.

This article first appeared on Wood in Architecture Issue 1, 2022. To read on, click here.