From Traditional to Revolutionary: The Evolution of Surface Disinfectants

Bob Godfriod, PhD

Bob Godfriod, PhD

President & Chief Science Officer

During the recent COVID-19 pandemic, cleanliness and disinfection became essential components of our daily routines. A 2021 study by the American Hotel & Lodging Association revealed that the cleanliness of lodging options is among the most crucial factors that influence people’s decision to travel again. With this in mind, effective disinfection practices have become more critical than ever before.

However, with countless viruses and bacteria lurking on surfaces, achieving long-lasting protection can be a challenge. This is where residual antimicrobial technology comes in–a breakthrough innovation in surface disinfection that provides continuous protection against harmful germs. In this blog, we explore the science behind these innovative products and their role in creating safer environments. As we examine the challenges faced by the industry, we also highlight the ways in which residual antimicrobial technology is expected to reshape the future of cleanliness and wellbeing.

What Is a Residual Antimicrobial?

To understand what residual antimicrobials are, it’s essential to note that traditional disinfectants only kill microbes when the surface is wet with the product. Once dry, the surface is immediately susceptible to recontamination from new microbes, making frequent cleanings necessary. These cleanings are labor-intensive, time-consuming, and often inefficient since surfaces quickly become dirty again.

In contrast, residual antimicrobials are coatings that stay on the surface even after drying, providing continuous protection against harmful germs for a prolonged period. This property of continued activity after drying is what sets residual antimicrobial products apart from traditional antimicrobials. While traditional disinfectants have been in use since the 1950s, residual antimicrobial technology is a recent breakthrough that promises to redefine the paradigms around hygiene.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends frequent cleaning for frequently touched surfaces, but this process can still be inefficient, especially in high-traffic areas. Residual antimicrobials provide a more efficient and convenient solution for keeping surfaces clean and disinfected between cleanings, reducing the risk of recontamination and providing peace of mind.

What Is Required of a Residual Antimicrobial?

During the pandemic, many cleaning products claimed to be residual, but only some meet the standard. It’s essential to note that not all products claiming to be residual actually kill microbes. While some may prevent the growth of low-risk microbes, they are ineffective against organisms that can cause illness.

In the United States, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has oversight and control of all antimicrobial cleaners. The EPA defines a residual antimicrobial as one that:

  • Kills bacteria and (often) viruses of public health concern when applied;
  • Continues to kill dangerous pathogens on a surface for a 24-hour period; and
  • Resists abrasion that might remove the coating after drying.

These requirements ensure that residual antimicrobial products are effective in reducing the risk of infection and are capable of providing long-lasting protection against harmful germs.

What’s So Hard About That?

The development and production of residual antimicrobial products face three primary technical challenges. The first challenge is efficacy, which refers to the effectiveness of the product in killing public health-related germs. Killing germs like bacteria and viruses is no easy feat, and there are strict requirements for measuring and proving the germ-killing efficacy of any product. While there have been many chemistries developed that effectively kill microbes in the wet state, maintaining efficacy in the dry state is a more significant challenge.

The second challenge is keeping the antimicrobial actives efficacious in the dry state. This is achieved by binding the actives in a polymer film on the surface, which allows them to remain active against microbes. The film must maintain the activity of the antimicrobial and resist being rubbed off or abraded from the surface in use. However, the film must not be too hard as it can inhibit bio-availability of the active or too soft and be wiped away when touched.

The third challenge is creating a product that meets the first two challenges without leaving a greasy or sticky residue. For the consumer or user, a treated surface that has an unpleasant residue or haze does not convey a sense of cleanliness or safety. On surfaces like floors, a sticky or oily residue can be dangerous and lead to slips or falls. Moreover, sticky, greasy, or oily residues can be damaging to surfaces covered with fabric.

Meeting these challenges is difficult, and technologies are only now being developed to address all three. However, most residual products in the market today fail the third challenge of leaving behind a clean and pleasant surface after treatment. It’s essential to look for products that meet all three challenges to ensure the safety and wellbeing of individuals and the community.

How Will Residual Cleaners Change Wellbeing?

Residual antimicrobial technology is expected to transform the future of wellbeing by providing lasting protection against dangerous microbes in homes, businesses, and healthcare. As residual antimicrobials become more effective at meeting both efficacy and aesthetic challenges, the conventional thinking around frequent cleaning will change. They also promise to lower labor efforts and costs, reduce the usage of chemicals in the workplace and home, and provide safer environments for users.

At SRFC Bio, we understand it’s not enough just to wipe germs away with a traditional disinfectant. We are on a mission to redefine safety with residual antimicrobial technology. Our EPA-registered residual product, RS®, cleans surfaces, disinfects bacteria and viruses upon application, and continues killing 99.9% of bacteria for up to 24 hours after it dries. RS® dries to a residue-free coating that cannot be felt or seen on the surface, providing the benefits of such technology to public health, especially in today’s climate of enhanced microbial awareness.

Revolutionary residual technology is poised to change the way we approach hygiene, providing long-lasting protection against harmful germs and bacteria. As more advanced technologies like RS® become available, we can expect a future where cleaning practices are more efficient, cost-effective, and safer for all.

To learn more about SRFC Bio’s revolutionary residual technology and leading scientists, chemists, microbiologists, and product developers, download our new SRFC Bio infographic.

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