Hygienic Flooring comes of Age amid Pandemic

By Emily Best & David Sheehan

Floors gather all the dirt, debris and microbes carried in from outside or adjacent spaces. In residential dwellings, they are exposed to the tread of family members, visitors and pets, while high-footfall environments like shopping centres and hospitals see hundreds, even thousands of people everyday, each adding to the build up of grime and dust.

In a study carried out by the University of Arizona, fecal bacteria, as well as other microorganisms, were found on 96 per cent of shoes. When tracked over long distances, there was a 90 per cent or more transfer rate from shoes to clean tiles.

Unsurprisingly, floor cleanliness presents a serious pain point for many consumers, with 90 per cent wanting flooring that is easy to clean, according to an independent study. The Covid-19 pandemic has further heightened the awareness of microbes. Cleanability has now become a must-have when purchasing flooring, along with style, durability and affordability.

In the home, luxury vinyl planks and tiles are often a popular choice for bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms since they are water-resistant and easy to maintain. But these environments experience higher moisture, humidity and warmer temperatures than anywhere else in the home, creating the ideal growing environment for common microorganisms, including mould and mildew. As these microbes grow and proliferate, they can cause irreversible damage, unpleasant odours and discolouration, leading to early deterioration of the flooring. Regular cleaning is needed to maintain these surfaces and prevent the decline of surface durability that results from microbial growth. However, traditional floor cleaning products can only offer limited residual activity once a treated surface is dry. The flooring is defenceless against re-contamination events, which means microbial communities bounce back quickly.

One floor manufacturer has pioneered a novel solution that offers a more effective systemic approach to cleaning. Metal-based antimicrobial technologies are built into luxury vinyl planks and tiles to provide enhanced surface protection against the growth of troublesome microbes, mould and mildew. Incorporating the antimicrobial properties into the flooring’s wear layer helps to proactively maintain cleanliness and combat damage, odours and staining caused by the growth of microorganisms on the surface. The technology is always active, working 24-7 for the expected lifetime of the flooring, and doesn’t wash off or wear away, functioning alongside regular disinfection and cleaning practices.

The new development is the result of a unique partnership between the flooring manufacturer and a global leader in built-in antimicrobial solutions. The major challenge the duo faced was ensuring the addition of antimicrobial chemistries did not compromise key product features, such as the texture, finish and durability of the flooring. The antimicrobial additive company brought the knowledge and expertise that was needed to select the right technology for each floor type and harmonize it with other chemistries, such as scratch resistance, for the seamless addition of antimicrobials.

The pioneering antimicrobial product protection applied to the planks and tiles has helped the manufacturer guarantee the durability of its vinyl flooring and reassure consumers of surface cleanliness. With cleanliness becoming a top priority for many, these emerging technologies are staying ahead of the curve and providing much needed peace of mind to consumers.

Emily Best is marketing manager, Americas, at Microban International. Microban is a global leader in antimicrobial additives and odour control solutions with operations in North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region. David Sheehan is vice-president of residential resilient at Mannington Mills, a manufacturer of residential and commercial sheet vinyl, luxury vinyl, laminate, resilient and hardwood floors, as well as commercial carpet and rubber. Sheehan was instrumental in the launch of Adura vinyl plank flooring, which includes Microban antimicrobial product protection.

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