Copper, like any surface, needs to be regularly cleaned. The type of copper and its use will determine which cleaning regimen is best. For many home uses, a citric acid cleaner is recommended. Acetic acid - vinegar - is also recommended, especially when cleaning tarnished copper. Tarnishing, however, is only an issue with pure copper materials.
Coptek uses a copper alloy in its products that contains nickel and zinc. The antimicrobial properties are just as effective as pure copper, but tarnishing and oxidation are significantly reduced.
For this article, we will discuss cleaning methods for copper in institutions, primarily where it is used for its antimicrobial properties.
For copper to be an effective germ killer, the bacteria or virus needs direct contact with the copper. This means that any solutions that leave a coating or lacquer on the surface can’t be used. This includes waxes, paints, and varnishes, as well.
Although copper is antimicrobial, it is not intended to replace cleaning procedures. Instead, it enhances the effectiveness of those cleaning procedures, leading to a lower rate of infection spread.
If copper kills microbes, why does it need to be cleaned? To remove dirt and grime. Like any other surface, copper gets dirty and needs regular cleaning. Also, cleaning copper will remove microbes, which is always a good thing.
Cleaning Products To Use
Although copper alloy tarnishes much slower than pure copper, it can still tarnish. If this happens, it does not affect the ability of copper to kill bacteria or viruses.
Citric-based cleaners are effective at removing dirt and grime and will also disinfect and remove tarnish from copper. They are especially good for antimicrobial copper because they don’t leave any residue.
In healthcare environments, read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Detergents intended for removing dirt, grime, and grease are suitable for use on copper.
Copper surfaces should be dried after cleaning. If using cleaning wipes, it is important to know that these are intended as single use items and should be discarded after one use.
Disinfectants are essential for removing bacteria and viruses from surfaces. Many of them are safe for use on copper alloys.
Alcohols will not corrode copper alloys and are safe to use without concern for damaging the copper surface. However, it should be noted that in environments where eliminating all microbes is a primary concern, alcohols are not the best product, as some microbes can survive alcohol.
Bleaches containing chlorine or sodium hypochlorite as the active ingredient are safe to use on copper alloys when used according to directions. If used improperly, bleach will cause copper corrosion.
Cleaning Products To Avoid
Some cleaning products will temporarily interfere with copper’s antimicrobial properties. These products contain metal-ion chelators, which are compounds that are intended to detoxify metal ions. The primary purpose of these products is to prevent accidental poisoning. EDTA, for example, is a chelator and should not be used to clean copper surfaces in areas where copper is used for its antimicrobial properties.
Why Use Copper Alloy
Pure copper is an excellent choice when electrical or thermal conductivity is of prime importance; however, pure copper tarnishes and corrodes quickly compared to alloys. The antimicrobial properties of copper are as effective in alloy form as they are in copper’s pure state. Coptek uses a copper, nickel, and zinc alloy that does not reduce copper's antimicrobial efficacy while also providing several benefits over pure copper.
Tarnishing and corrosion are significantly slowed in Coptek’s alloy formulation when compared to pure copper. This alloy formulation makes them ideal products in wet and dry environments, such as exterior door surfaces.
The addition of nickel and zinc also provides additional strength to the copper, making it more durable. The alloy retains the malleable nature of copper, making it an ideal product for curved surfaces, as well as flat surfaces.
Copper alloys come in many formulations. The alloy used by Coptek is optimized to resist corrosion, add strength, and reduce tarnishing while still providing all the benefits of killing bacteria and viruses on contact.
To find out more about how Coptek copper covers can be used in your business, contact us today.