Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the importance of surface hygiene has been brought more sharply into focus than ever before.
While keeping surfaces clean has always been a high priority for healthcare environments, the frequency and thoroughness required to stop the spread of the virus in hospitals and care homes has resulted in a massive global boom in the market for disinfectant and sanitizer products.
The intensity of surface hygiene protocols required to keep Covid-19 in check has also resulted in a huge strain on hygiene personnel across the healthcare sector. We know that depending on the material and the conditions, the virus may be able to survive on surfaces for a period of days. We also know that even when surfaces are disinfected regularly, they can quickly become re-contaminated in high-volume environments with lots of touchpoints such as door handles and handrails.
As a result, hospitals and other healthcare environments are increasingly on the lookout for materials that help to minimize these risks, by making it harder for germs to harbour.
PVCu is a good example of a ‘germ deterrent’ material; it’s non-porous and extremely smooth, which makes it easy to keep clean, and it’s also highly durable even in the face of frequent disinfection. But is PVCu really better than the alternatives? Read on to find out!
Why is PVCu considered hygienic?
PVCu stands for unplasticized polyvinyl chloride and is one of the most widely used synthetic thermoplastics in the world. It takes the form of a rigid, white substrate that is extremely durable with a very smooth, non-porous surface. Unlike other materials which may have a slightly textured or even porous surface, this means that germs cannot penetrate or even cling to a PVCu surface – they are very easy to rinse or wipe away, or to kill using a ‘spray and leave’ disinfectant formula. Because PVCu can be thermoformed,materials have fewer joins and seams – the plastic can be heated and formed around corners, window and door frames and other interior features for a totally seamless result that gives bacteria and dirt no place to hide.
How does PVCu stack up against other materials?
In terms of surface hygiene, PVCu compares very favourably to other materials that are commonly found in healthcare environments, particularly for high-frequency touchpoints such as wall protection and even work surfaces.
Wood is a soft, porous material that can absorb moisture and once wet, it creates a moist, warm home where bacteria can multiply freely. We can counteract this by sealing wooden surfaces with layer upon layer of paint or varnish, but a painted finish simply cannot withstand the effects of regular cleaning using concentrated disinfectants, and will eventually break down leaving the bare wood exposed. PVCu alternatives that are much more durable – a PVC surface can deliver around 20 years of useful lifespan, where wooden surfaces are likely to need replacing in as little as 5 years.
Used for wall panels since the 1960s, FRP stands for fiber-reinforced panels, which are made from polyester reinforced with fiberglass. FRP is readily available, cost effective and durable, but it also has lots of drawbacks. Firstly, FRP is a highly toxic material. When it’s cut to size or damaged, it releases microparticles of glass into the air that can cause irritation to the eyes and lungs. Unlike PVCu, it can’t be thermoformed, which means this cutting is an essential yet hazardous element of any FRP installation.
The fibres in FRP cladding also mean it’s very difficult to achieve a truly smooth finish. Tiny pits in the surface make this material prone to accumulating dirt and germs that are virtually impossible to remove using daily cleaning methods. Hygiene teams must work hard to remove this build-up by scrubbing with a brush or using heavy-duty products, which causes excessive wearing to the surface and can even reduce the overall lifespan of the product. PVCu cladding is easy to clean with minimal effort, and as a result it stays looking fresh for longer.
PVCu has another key advantage over wood and FRP and that is the fact that it can be infused with antimicrobial agents during the manufacturing process. The addition of these materials – in the case of our hygienic PVCu sheeting, silver ions – has no effect on the durability or thermoformability of the finished material. Once locked into the PVCu substrate, the silver ions will kill bacteria on contact throughout the life of the surface, reducing the burden on hygiene staff and reducing the risk of recontamination in between cleans.
To find out more about our range of hygienic PVCu wall sheeting and antimicrobial handrails, get in touch. Contact – Belroc Group