Antimicrobials: The what, why and how

Products with antimicrobial properties continue to help keep our workplaces, schools and homes safe. But what are antimicrobials, why are they growing in demand and how can they benefit your workplace? We interviewed Caroline Ayers, Health, Hygiene and Safety Specialist to explain.

What does ‘antimicrobial’ mean?

“In the simplest terms, antimicrobial means to be active against microbes. But let’s break it down,” says Caroline.

“Both products and agents can have antimicrobial properties that kill or slow the spread of microorganisms. This includes bacteria, viruses, protozoans, and mould,” informs Caroline.

“It’s important to keep in mind that the effectiveness of different agents differs in the results and their effect on different microbes. The efficacy of one antimicrobial agent can vary greatly from another in killing or inhibiting growth and contact times can vary,” advises Caroline.

“Products with antimicrobial properties are usually made from one of three material types. The first are antimicrobial fabrics. These are often synthetic fibres that have been treated to kill microbes or stop their growth.

“The second include laminates and lacquers with antimicrobial additives. You might find this in tabletops and other hard surfaces in high-traffic areas.

“The third are plastics made from materials like nano-silver that naturally contain microbe-inhibiting properties,” explains Caroline.

What’s the difference between ‘antimicrobial’ and ‘antibacterial’?

“These terms are often used interchangeably, but there are distinct differences. ‘Antimicrobial’ is a general term for any product or ingredient that kills or inhibits microbes.

“Antibacterials, on the other hand, can kill and inhibit growth but are only effective against a spectrum of harmful bacteria,” Caroline explains.

“Antimicrobials offer a broader scope of protection for longer periods of time. This makes them a great solution for high-traffic or hygiene critical environments like workplaces, schools and hospitals,” she says.

Why are antimicrobials trending?

“Antimicrobial offerings have grown in popularity, especially in the past two years, due to the pandemic. Any additional measures that workplaces can use to help keep people safe at work, they will – it’s a no-brainer,” says Caroline.

What antimicrobial products are great for workplaces?

“Furniture and cleaning solutions are most popular and should be used for any high-traffic areas or high touch points in the workplace or in public spaces,” says Caroline.

“For example, it’s a good idea to keep antimicrobial hand sanitiser on desks, around dining and food prep areas and near toilet facilities. Antimicrobial furniture is great for meeting rooms, kitchen areas and any other areas people gather.

“Of course, the best way to kill germs is to maintain good hand hygiene and social distancing where possible.” suggests Caroline.

Help keep your workers safe this cold and flu season with a range of health and hygiene products. We also stock products with antimicrobial properties to inhibit the growth of microbes. View our full range of Winter hygiene products online.