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How to tackle biofilms with cleaning technology

Given biofilms have biocidal resilience, specialist cleaning companies need to look beyond conventional cleaning products to barrier tech

REACT Specialist Cleaning is at the forefront of tackling harmful biofilms with barrier technology
Hydrophobicity of B. subtilis is shown by the addition of coloured water drops onto the biofilm. Image by Maria Paula Huertas Caycedo

It’s time to talk about biofilms again. We’ve been working closely with the National Biofilms Innovation Centre (NBIC) to raise awareness and promote understanding of the topic. In a recent blog, we explained exactly what biofilms are. These immobile communities of micro-organisms stick to each other and to surfaces. They’re resistant to biocides, meaning that they form a refuge for potentially pathogenic bacteria, viruses, and fungi. And they’re a growing problem, which should be of critical concern to the cleaning industry. But there is help at hand, with the development of new preventative and adaptive cleaning methods to handle them. In the next blog in our series, we focus on how to tackle biofilms with barrier technology.

Conventional cleaning products can’t always clear surfaces of biofilms

We’re used to extravagant claims when it comes to biocidal cleaning products. Many of them state that they ‘kill 99.9% of [known] germs’. Whether it’s hard surfaces or our own hands, this is something that has been in sharp focus over the past three years in particular. Of course, for biocides to work effectively, users of these products must deploy them correctly. You may need to dilute them correctly for effective cleaning, or you may need to rinse them off surfaces to avoid residues.

But there’s a problem when it comes to biofilms. As a reminder, biofilms are characterised by pathogens being embedded in an extracellular, slime-like substance consisting of DNA, polysaccharides, and proteins. This provides biofilms with biocidal resilience, so they’re resistant to removal by conventional cleaning products. Such substances, even when used according to the manufacturer’s instructions, may therefore leave harmful bacteria behind after application on a biofilm. This means we must consider other ways to protect environments, and the people within them, from harmful biofilms.

Treat the surface, as well as what’s attached to it

They always say that prevention is better than cure, and this is certainly the case when it comes to biofilms. Since it’s difficult to remove the biofilm once it’s formed, a more effective strategy is to make surfaces themselves antimicrobial. This will then prevent bacteria from colonising in the first place. Products that do this are known as barrier technologies – or simply ‘barrier tech’.

There are two ways to that truly tackle biofilms:

• Applying a coating that contains antimicrobial materials, such as biocides, copper, or silver, to an existing surface

• Creating a new surface that prevents colonisation by having a structural make-up that ruptures cells or makes it physically difficult for bacteria to adhere.

Each type of barrier tech has huge potential, as they can be applied in different circumstances. Both types of barrier tech are already commonplace in healthcare settings and with medical devices. Their wider use in workplaces and public spaces, such as buses and trains, is in its infancy but is growing. And now’s the time to plan to incorporate barrier tech in cleaning regimes. For new buildings, architects can design in antimicrobial surfaces which will be safer and easier to maintain. In existing spaces, coatings can be applied to achieve the same benefits.

Focus on creating a new surface with barrier technology

One of the most exciting range of products that we’ve come across uses the second type of barrier tech. Jangro describes its ntrl (pronounced ‘natural’) range as “the next generation of cleaning products with the environment in mind”. The line’s 13 products use biology-based technology to deliver next-level performance. And together they work to secure health benefits for people while also protecting the planet.

Specifically, ntrl’s Washroom Cleaner and Multi-Surface Cleaner contain probiotics. Rather than killing pathogens with harmful chemicals, these probiotics colonise surfaces to reduce the presence of harmful bacteria. This barrier solution also continues to work once the surface has been cleaned, for long-term benefits. REACT Specialist Cleaning is a proud user of the ntrl range, supplied to us by Avica UK (part of the Jangro Group).

We’ll look at the challenges to barrier tech in our next blog in the series. In the meantime, you can read the report we’ve published in association with the NBIC. Visit our Resources section and download Biofilms & barrier technologies: The future of commercial cleaning today

To find out more about REACT Specialist Cleaning and how we’re working to tackle biofilms with the latest in barrier technology, contact one of the team today.

Post by Shaun D. Doak

Shaun is the CEO of REACT Group plc., a business dedicated to specialist cleaning, hygiene, and decontamination. He is deeply committed to making sure that every one of our company’s clients receives the highest possible level of service. An expert in HVAC and commercial and industrial cleaning methodologies, Shaun has extensive experience in the facilities management and renewable services sector.


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