With the vast number of online resources available today, it is far easier for consumers to do product research on features and benefits, and collect recommendations from their peers. Consumers are taking more time to do homework before they buy and are becoming more demanding of their products—especially as it relates to the home. The 24/7 news cycle only adds to this information flow; it is no secret that microorganisms such as Ebola and the Super Bug have been in the news this last year with a number of high profile stories.
Whether by touch, spill or environmental contamination through the air, all surfaces in our modern society host a certain baseline population of microorganisms. Around the home, particularly in warm, humid areas like kitchens or bathrooms, microorganisms can build up on counters or faucets and generate odors and stains—in some cases even degrade unprotected material. When left in a conducive environment, many bacteria will reproduce and double their numbers every 20 to 30 minutes—a single organism can grow to a colony of many millions in less than 12 hours.
There are two methods for controlling bacterial populations on surfaces—disinfection and incorporation of an antimicrobial product directly into surfaces. Cleaning the surface with a disinfectant product provides an immediate but temporary effect. This method, more temporary, provides a fast and complete kill with no residual efficacy but the surface will be re-contaminated and the organisms will multiply quickly returning to pre-cleaning levels. Disinfectants are harsh chemicals that must be used on a frequent basis to have control over bacterial growth.
The second method, incorporating an antimicrobial product directly into surfaces vulnerable to contamination, is more long lasting. This method renders the surface permanently inhospitable to organisms so that bacteria do not prosper and multiply. Incorporated antimicrobials generally interfere with an organism’s metabolism so that it cannot properly digest nutrients or reproduce. The antimicrobials operate 24/7 to inhibit population growth to prevent the odors, stains and damage these organisms can cause. Since the antimicrobials are incorporated at manufacture, the consumer does not have to worry about application procedures although they will add to the cost of the product.
The antimicrobial industry has come a long way in the past few years. Antimicrobials such as mercury, tin and arsenic compounds have been withdrawn from the market in favor of zinc-, silver-, and organic based alternatives with better environmental profiles. The EPA closely regulates this field of treatment and all incorporated antimicrobial products must be registered for the specific use intended. Incorporated antimicrobials cannot make health claims and are designed to be combined with a regular cleaning routine for best results. When choosing articles treated with an incorporated antimicrobial, be sure to choose a known brand with a track record of success for best results.