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What Are Antimicrobial Coatings?

  • January 8, 2021
Illustration of germ prevention

It’s no secret that germs are everywhere. While invisible to the naked eye, they linger on most common surfaces. Research, in fact, shows that the average person encounters over 50,000 types of germs per day. To prevent the spread of germs, as well as damage caused by germs, many manufacturing companies use antimicrobial coatings. What are antimicrobial coatings exactly?

Overview of Antimicrobial Coatings

Antimicrobial coatings are finishes that are designed to neutralize and discourage the growth of microorganisms. Germs, of course, are microorganisms. They can consist of viruses, bacteria and fungi. Antimicrobial coatings are germ-neutralizing products that are applied to the exterior of a workpiece or surface. When applied, they form a protective shell over the workpiece or surface while simultaneously inhibiting the growth of microorganisms.

How Antimicrobial Coatings Work

Antimicrobial coatings rely on special additives to either stop or significantly slow the spread of germs. Most antimicrobial coatings contain three specific compounds: silver ions, silver zeolite and an ion exchange. The three compounds are mixed together to create a germ-neutralizing product. The antimicrobial coating can then be applied to workpieces or surfaces where it discourages germs.

The Germ-Fighting Power of Silver

Silver compounds, including silver ions and silver zeolite, are an essential component of antimicrobial coatings. Silver has unique properties that make it effective for preventing germs. With that said, the exact mechanisms of silver in regards to how it prevents germs remains unknown. Some experts believe that germs ingest silver, and after doing so, their cell walls begin to break down. Other experts believe that silver causes oxidation. Another theory is that silver interrupts the DNA process of germs. Regardless, silver ions and silver zeolite are highly effective compounds for preventing germs.

Benefits of Antimicrobial Coatings

In the healthcare industry, antimicrobial coatings are used to protect against the spread of illness. They can neutralize and discourage the growth of the germs that could otherwise cause illness. Antimicrobial coatings are found on many products and surfaces inside of hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

Other industries can benefit from the use of antimicrobial coatings as well. For environments where mold is a concern, antimicrobial coatings may be used. Antimicrobial coatings don’t discriminate against specific germs. Rather, they can stop or slow the spread of all germs, including mold-causing fungi. Fungi can’t grow on antimicrobial coatings, regardless of the humidity.

Because they stop or slow germs from spreading, antimicrobial coatings can extend the life of the products with which they are used. Products with an antimicrobial coating won’t be exposed to germs, so they are better protected against degradation.

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