Copper is a fascinating material. It’s a germ-killing metal that has excellent electrical conductivity. It’s equally useful at killing the germs on your keyboard and delivering the electricity to keep your computer running. It’s malleable, too, meaning that it bends easily without breaking. And it was the first metal used by humans.
A copper pendant found in northern Iraq has been dated to 8,700 B.C., making it more than 10,000 years old. For 5,000 years, it was the only metal we humans knew until we discovered gold.
Today, copper is used for a wide range of products, both functional and decorative. Electrical wires, earrings, kitchen sinks, mugs – there’s a long list of uses. But the most interesting is the use of this metal as a germ-killer.
Copper is able to kill 99.9% of bacteria and many viruses – including the virus that causes Covid-19.
1. Effective as an Alloy
Pure copper is good at killing viruses and bacteria but also tends to tarnish, turning to a green colour that some people find unsightly. Copper can also corrode in a pure state. When used in an alloy, though, copper won’t tarnish. And the germ-killing power of copper isn’t reduced when used in an alloy, either. By blending copper with other metals to create an alloy, a better material is created. This alloy can be made into a wide range of products to kill microbes, from light switches to countertops.
One of the most effective uses for copper alloy is as an adhesive covering. The malleable nature of copper allows the covers to be easily bent over curved surfaces and around corners, making it ideal for use over bed rails, grab bars, and door handles.
2. Proven Effectiveness
Copper has been proven effective at reducing the spread of infection in hospitals when used on high-touch surfaces. Many studies have been done showing the effectiveness of copper in killing bacteria and viruses on contact. These studies have shown that copper kills more than 80% of bacteria. When used alongside a cleaning regimen in a hospital, surfaces remain below threshold levels for transmission. When only cleaning agents are used, bacteria counts rise above accepted levels.
Copper is safe for human consumption and nontoxic.
The antibacterial properties of copper were known for thousands of years before anyone understood what bacteria was. In Ancient Egypt, soldiers put copper powder in their wounds to aid in healing.
This use has been proven effective by modern science. In fact, it has been found that copper is needed for healing wounds. However, this is not the metallic version of copper but rather the mineral version. A person who weighs 70kg has about 100 mg of copper in their body, found in the bones, muscle, skin, liver, and brain.
Copper isn’t the only antibacterial metal - silver also has antibacterial properties. Silver tends to be far more costly than copper, making it a poor choice when budgets are a concern. Additionally, silver must be wet to be effective, whereas copper is effective either wet or dry.
In a production setting, where copper is being used to manufacture products, the cost is similar to stainless steel. However, stainless steel has no inherent antimicrobial properties, making this essential to consider.
In comparing it to plastic, the plastic wins on an initial cost basis. However, plastic’s tendency to harbor bacteria for long periods, and the cost of treating hospital-acquired infections, should be factored into the real cost of using plastics in high-touch areas, such as bed rails.
In this instance, covering plastic bed rails with copper covers can even pay for itself. These covers help to lower infection spread, thereby reducing the costs of treating hospital-acquired infections.
Used in this way, copper covers effectively become cost-neutral.
Copper naturally produces a protective layer on its surface that prevents corrosion. When used as an alloy, copper is especially resistant to corrosion, and as a bonus, also won’t tarnish.
This makes it a durable material for use in environments where corrosion may be a concern, such as on exterior doors.
Copper Alloy: Your Germ-Killing Ally
Pure copper, as we’ve seen, is an effective germ killer. Even as an alloy, copper retains its bacteria and virus-killing properties.
In fact, it becomes a better product as an alloy since it can be used in areas where pure copper would tarnish or where tarnished copper would be unappealing.
The effectiveness of copper has been proven repeatedly, and we are beginning to see it adopted in healthcare settings. As awareness of copper’s effectiveness grows, we can expect to see its uses become more widespread.
Interested in using copper covers in your workplace? Contact Coptek today.