January 2020

Don’t be deterred by detergent

Roger MooreRoger Moore is back again and this time, he’s tackling a sticky problem.

Floor cleaning detergents can be a bit of a mine field; which to use regularly, which are most effective, which are best for stains, and so on. We can give guidance around these areas easily, and there is plenty of information, including a list of recommended detergents in the cleaning section of our website. When we receive a cleaning-related call to our technical hotline, the use of detergent is often at the root of it – in fact, that can be the case, even when the call doesn’t seem to be about cleaning initially. Let me take you through two occasions that come to mind.

The first is a call we received from a customer who was concerned about marks that had appeared on the floor, which was installed in the toilets of a bar. There were stains around the base of the urinals, plus a stubborn water mark. Not to be too delicate about it, urinals are a common problem area for cleaners, as you can probably imagine. The temptation can be to use an aggressive cleaner, such as bleach, without thinking about how this might affect the floor, and this could cause problems. In fact, using an acidic sanitary cleaner will effectively remove urine stains, lime scale and water marks. Usually for urine and other body waste we recommend an alkaline cleaner but when urine has built up, mineral deposits form which are similar to lime scale in appearance and make-up. At this point a heavy-duty, acidic cleaner is a better choice. In addition to the detergent recommendation, the pattern of the marks pointed to a leak from the urinal which we were then able to bring to the attention of the customer.

The second call was about a kitchen floor with a problem area around one of a number of drains. It was clear that the subfloor was sloping, with the drain and floor then installed on top, causing a raised edge of flooring around part of the drain, causing an irregular amount of strain and wear to be put on the floor. The flooring around the other drains, which were all level, were fine. This issue can be solved by cutting back enough vinyl to grind the floor level even then use levelling compound to achieve a smooth and level finish. The flooring in this area could then be replaced.

However, there was another issue. On the flooring around the affected drain, we noticed a build-up of detergent. Not rinsing detergent away or not diluting detergent correctly is a common cause of discolouration and, in extreme cases, can cause issues such as shrinkage. A build-up like this can also leave a film that reduces the floor’s slip resistance and attracts contaminants, encouraging bacteria – the very opposite of what you want a detergent to do! We recommend checking the detergent manufacturer’s dilution instructions and rinsing the floor post detergent as part of the cleaning regime.

So, something simple –choosing the right detergent, diluting it correctly and rinsing it away post-wash, can avoid problems with safety, hygiene and the perception people have of your space.

To find out more about which detergents to use and when, take a look at our cleaning pages, and if you need any help, just give us a call on 01462 707600.

Until next time, Roger Out.


Posted: 16/01/2020 08:00:00 by Saloni Robinson | with 0 comments

Update on biocides: there is no ‘silver bullet’

In recent years the arguments for and against the use of biocides have intensified. Some pro-biocide organisations (typically manufacturers utilising biocides in their products) are making bolder claims than ever before. In the absence of firm evidence to support these claims, however, there are concerns that these additives may be having no positive impact on infection control. At the same time, newly-published research is painting an increasingly worrying picture regarding the long-term effects of these substances on human and animal health, and on the environment. These issues are being debated widely by academics and regulatory bodies throughout the world.

This article will aim to outline the arguments that are being put forward by organisations on both sides. It will provide an update on the regulatory status of silver biocides, from bodies including the European Chemical Agency’s Biocidal Products Committee and the US Food and Drug Agency. Lastly it will explain Altro’s current policy regarding use of biocides.

Pro-biocide claims

Kings Ely SchoolOrganisations on both sides of the divide agree on the need for effective infection control, particularly in sites such as hospitals and commercial kitchens. Those for and against the use of biocides differ, however, on the best practice recommended for hygiene in these environments. They also disagree about the effectiveness (and therefore the advisability) of using biocides.

For some years, organisations backing the use of biocides in areas where infection control is paramount have argued that a range of silver-based additives used in products for the healthcare environment are capable of slowing the growth of bacteria, mildew and mould. The process they describe is one in which silver ions block the ‘food’ required by the bacteria by interfering with the surface of the microbes and coating them. These organisations argue that incorporating silver ions into products used in the hospital or commercial kitchen will reduce the spread of infection.

Anti-biocide arguments

Organisations opposed to the use of biocides, however, argue that the use of these substances needs much tighter regulation, because the extremely widespread (and largely uncontrolled) use of these chemical additives in the world today leads to antimicrobial resistance.

The World Health Organisation has identified antimicrobial resistance as a major risk to human life and is urging countries to collaborate in a global action plan to tackle the problem. The WHO factsheet explains:

Antimicrobial resistance happens when microorganisms (such as bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites) change when they are exposed to antimicrobial drugs (such as antibiotics, antifungals, antivirals, antimalarials, and anthelmintics). Microorganisms that develop antimicrobial resistance are sometimes referred to as “superbugs”.

As a result, the medicines become ineffective and infections persist in the body, increasing the risk of spread to others. Antimicrobial resistance occurs naturally over time, usually through genetic changes.

However, the misuse and overuse of antimicrobials is accelerating this process.

The extremely widespread use of biocides threatens to speed up antimicrobial resistance because increased exposure means increased opportunity for genetic mutation within the bacteria. WHO stresses that this is not a problem of the future, but an immediate health risk. Data published by WHO’s Global Antimicrobial Surveillance System group in January 2018 revealed ‘widespread occurrence of antibiotic resistance among 500,000 people with suspected bacterial infections across 22 countries’. The most commonly reported resistant bacteria include E.coli and Salmonella, among others.

Terveystalo Healthcare ServicesGenesis Biosciences, a company involved in the development of new ‘eco-benign’ antimicrobial products, explains that a key problem with today’s most commonly used biocides is the long-term contact between biocide residues and the bacteria they are designed to kill. The company states that, ‘because the residues contain sub-lethal concentrations of the biocidal product, the targeted bacteria are becoming more resilient against the products used to treat them’. In other words, the more ‘competitive’ bacteria (often those associated with serious health problems) are not entirely destroyed by the biocide. Instead they can remain in contact with the biocide over an extended period of time, if traditional hygiene processes are not followed stringently. This close contact between the bacteria and the chemical designed to kill it creates an ideal environment in which the bacteria can mutate and develop resistance. We all remember the claims about 99.9% of germs being killed by strong cleaning fluids. It is now understood that it is the remaining 0.1% of bacteria that is the long-term risk factor. A particular concern is that use of products containing biocides could lead to a harmful relaxation of cleaning regimes in areas where hygiene is critical, if reliance on the infection control capabilities of the products leads to complacency.

In recent years a number of scientific studies have contributed towards a better understanding of the processes of mutation involved in the development of antimicrobial resistance as a result of biocide use, in addition to the environmental impact of biocides leaching into water resources. A research project carried out at the University of Cardiff, for example, concluded that ‘exposure to triclosan (0.0004%) was associated with a high risk of developing resistance and cross-resistance in Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli (E.coli)’2. The recommendation of the Cardiff research team is that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and European Union Biocidal Products Regulation should demand information from manufacturers on antimicrobial resistance and cross-resistance in bacteria after the use of their products.

1World Health Organisation
2Rebecca Wesgate, Pierre Grasha and Jean-Yves Maillard, ‘Use of a predictive protocol to measure the antimicrobial resistance risks associated with biocidal product usage’, American Journal of Infection Control 44 (2016), pp. 458-64.

Regulatory decisions

The United States regulatory body has already taken action regarding biocides. On September 9th, 2016, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the incorporation of triclosan and 18 other antimicrobial chemicals in household soap products. In 2017 it banned companies from using triclosan in over-the-counter health care antiseptic products without premarket review. The reason given was that manufacturers had failed to provide the FDA with sufficient proof that triclosan was safe and effective in the light of research into long-term health risks, such as antimicrobial resistance.

European regulatory bodies are also taking action. The Biocidal Products Committee (BPC) of the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) has been examining the use of silver copper zeolite, silver sodium hydrogen zirconium phosphate and silver zeolite in a range of different products. Decisions are still pending for floor and wall covering products but, on 17th October 2018, the ECHA BPS decided not to approve the use of silver compounds in disinfectant products.

The committee opted for ‘non-approval’ as there was insufficient evidence to suggest that biocides were effective under dry conditions. The BPC of the ECHA stated, for example, (with regard to silver sodium hydrogen zirconium phosphate):

Generally, the antimicrobial effect of polymer materials containing silver active substances is dependent on how much of the silver is released. A precondition for the release of silver is a solvent, i.e. a liquid which the material comes into contact with. A dry polymer material surface will not release any silver ions and thus will not exert an antimicrobial effect 3.

In other words, whilst the committee accepted that biocides might be effective if a surface is immersed continually in a solvent solution, and remains wet for a period of time, it was not proven that biocides had any antibacterial effect where surfaces are dry. In the absence of this proof, the committee decided not to approve the use of biocides in the disinfectant product category.

Whilst a decision is yet to be made regarding floor and wall coverings, the decision regarding disinfectant products has important implications. Flooring and wall coverings are typically employed in environments that are predominantly dry, particularly in healthcare sites. So there is every reason to believe that the ECHA BPC will reach a similar non-approval decision regarding the use of biocides in floor and wall coverings, within the next two to three years, when scientific examination of other product categories reaches completion.

3European Chemical Agency Biocidal Products Committee, ‘Opinion on the application for approval of the active substance: Silver sodium hydrogen zirconium phosphate, Product type: 2 ECHA/BPC/211/2018, 17th October 2018.

Altro’s policy

For manufacturers such as ourselves the decision to include or remove biocides has been at the top of the agenda for nearly a decade, so our policies reflect our response to the latest research from academics and regulatory bodies. Traditionally, customers have been keen to have antibacterial additives included in wall and floor coverings. In an industry sector where research and technology is advancing rapidly, it is understandable that suppliers and specifiers welcomed this apparent opportunity to solve major issues. Our technical teams follow scientific and regulatory evidence relating to our products on an ongoing basis, however, as part of our duty to customers and end users. So a key question for us has been whether it would be better to remove biocides from all of our product ranges, irrespective of customer demand.

A breakthrough in recent years has been the development, by scientists, of new testing protocols for biocides which are revealing new insights and calling earlier findings into question. Responding to the latest evidence from teams of academics and bodies such as the ECHA BPC, we decided back in 2012 that inclusion of biocides could be discontinued in our resilient flooring ranges as they had no positive impact on hygiene. Use of biocides in Altro wall cladding products was also reviewed. In 2012 we decided to exclude biocides when designing new Altro wall cladding ranges, and began to supply specific geographical markets (notably the USA and Nordic markets) with biocide-free materials. Today we do not include any biocides in our products.

Inclusion of biocides is only one aspect of infection control, however. We continue to focus on hygiene as a key aspect of our research and development. Using the latest testing protocols, Altro Whiterock (without a biocide) was recently shown in tests to be up to 99.99% effective against MRSA and 99.89% effective against Ecoli, indicating levels of infection control equal to those claimed by manufacturers incorporating biocides, without the associated risks to health and the environment. It is also important to mention that, depending on the progress of research teams across the world, our policy on biocides could change over time. There have been exciting discoveries regarding new types of ‘eco-benign’ biocides, based on plant-based ingredients, which could possibly play a role in infection control in our products in the future.

In conclusion, research involving currently-available additives suggests that specifiers and customers should not consider biocides a ‘silver bullet’. But end customers can continue to rely on solid gold best practice for all areas where infection prevention is paramount. Firstly, research has confirmed the critical importance of hand hygiene, which has been shown to have far greater impact on infection control than was generally thought. Secondly, irrespective of whether biocides are incorporated into products, good cleaning regimes, that physically remove the microbes from surfaces, remain the most effective way to ensure hygiene criteria are met, even in critical hygiene areas. To make this possible it is advisable to look for impervious, grout-free wall coverings, such as Altro Whiterock, with a smooth, easy-to-clean surface. A thorough cleaning regime on impervious surfaces such as this, with supporting good hand hygiene, is the answer.

Hand hygiene
Posted: 20/01/2020 08:00:00 by Saloni Robinson | with 0 comments

LVTs role in creating ‘social media worthy’ leisure interiors

The role of LVTs in creating ‘social media-worthy’ leisure interiors – guest blog by Emily East, Interior Designer at Bignell Shacklady Ewing.

Within any leisure venue, a visitor is no longer just attending for an activity, they are also impacted by the space itself. The interior design of leisure venues and the overall feel within the space provide a visitor with a complete experience, one that they will want to share.

Ace of Lanes, Bishops Stortford, Bignell Shacklady Ewing

From the main entrance to the toilets – each detail and finish matter. With the next generation wanting to visit ‘Instagrammable’ interiors, the need for leisure venues to be photogenic from every angle, in innovative ways, is increasing.

According to Oberlo, Instagram now has over “1 billion monthly active users and more than 500 million of them use the platform everyday”. They also add that “83% of Instagrammers say they discover new products and services on Instagram”. This is an extremely large network of people, constantly learning about the latest trend, restaurant chain or even song releases!

Instagram has become a popular space for food and beverage trends to be shared (we all remember the start of the ‘cheeky Nando’s’ and everyone desperately photographing their food before tucking in). However, leisure interiors are slowly following and transitioning to become social media-worthy venues too.

The main leisure interiors that have begun to pop-up on our timelines are new brands, normally with fresh ideas; Ghetto Golf, Puttshack, Flight Club, Roxy’s Ballroom and Bounce to name a few, with people wanting to socialise in new ways. Or some new takes on traditional past times, like Lane 7, and more of these feature ‘Instagram opportunities’ – spots to pose and have your picture taken – typically with the name of the venue to share awareness (I couldn’t count the amount of flower walls on my feed throughout 2018/19).

Food and beverage venues are also starting to adopt this with places like Dirty Martini featuring illuminated wings and halos and Elan cafes popping up over London (more flowers of course!). As designers, we have been asked to add these zones into some of our recent work – particularly in nightclubs, most recently Deltic’s Eden’s, to increase the social media presence of a brand. But, as some of the above brands have proven, it isn’t just about featuring some photo spots now – it’s all about the entire space being photogenic.

Puttshack, Westfield
Mama Kelly, Amsterdam
Carlton Bingo, Fife Leisure Park, Bignell Shacklady Ewing

Gyms, exercise studios and leisure centres are also starting to follow the trend with brands pushing their identities in various ways. From bold patterns inset into floor finishes, to neon lighting and heavy industrial schemes (Rebel, for example), even the space which you work out in must now look attractive from every perspective.

In order to do this, designers need to consider every surface as a design detail. Historically, walls would be the main area of interest, with the trend of focal walls, along with anything at eye level such as counters and furniture. Now everything you see must be thought through: ceilings, doors, skirtings, floors, transitions and stair edge trims.

So how can we create these dynamic, memorable interiors with effective use of flooring?

Providing a more cost-effective finish: LVT traditionally replicates an alternative finish; typically - wood, ceramic or stone. But with the market stretching further and further the designs and styles are increasing to create a diverse range of options, like the painted vintage timbers in the Altro Ensemble range. But we aren’t just limited by the design printed within the LVT – there are various plank/tile sizes and shapes which can be combined to create unique patterns: the design possibilities are endless. With wear layers (commonly 0.55mm or 0.7mm) to suit various applications, the durability of LVT can differ; however, all commercial ranges will withstand a lot of wear and tear throughout high traffic zones. The benefit of the manufacturing process of LVT is that if an installation does feature areas of wear, planks or tiles can be lifted and replaced with ease and designs can even be matched if required.

Opera Bingo, Barrow-In-Furness, Bignell Shacklady Ewing

There are some great examples of how LVT floors can be used to add identity within a space; Nocturnal Animals in Birmingham for example. The striking monochrome geometric pattern on the ground floor draws you into the bar, while the 4-colour pattern in the basement restaurant resembles a dance floor. We recently designed and completed a project with Altro Ensemble, creating a striking design feature around the bar counter. The design wasn’t too complicated on plan, 3 colourways in 2 varying sizes and in a laying pattern from the Altro initial ideas – but when you see the result it really is impactful and we already can’t wait for our next project that we can try a new pattern on.

LVT can even be used to replicate tiled finishes, like tiled entrance halls and foyers, recreating traditional designs, in a cost-effective way. Another well photographed and shared trend is #ihavethisthingwithfloors, where intricate, beautiful tiled floors are shared amongst millions who also appreciate these details. This trend spanned from the #ihavethisthingwithwalls hashtag which quickly flooded Instagram feeds and commenced the ‘Selfie Wall’ movement (now even #ihavethisthingwithdoors has started).

Sometimes, the floors will also include text, which could be a word or phrase, occasionally associated with the location, enhancing the buzz about a new place or trend to be following.

Franco Manca, Birmingham
World Trade Centre, New York
Opera Bingo, Barrow-In-Furness, Bignell Shacklady Ewing

As people become familiar with the finish or text on their timeline, the place becomes more desirable – people want to take the same picture and get the same feedback on their posts. Due to the flexibility, wayfinding can also be incorporated into the floor finish, with brand logos or a directional motif cut out of the LVT and infilled with another colour or finish entirely.

Opera Bingo, Barrow-In-Furness, Bignell Shacklady Ewing

LVTs can have many applications within leisure venues – from bar skirts to main floor finishes they can go just about anywhere that isn’t a consistently wet space. With most achieving an R10 slip rating, they are perfectly suited to commercial leisure environments. We use LVT on most of our projects: bowling alleys, cinemas, nightclubs, bingo halls, gyms and leisure centres, casinos and holiday parks etc. Of course, the acoustic properties that some LVTs have, like Altro Ensemble, are an additional benefit and these enhance our specifications even further. LVTs are typically quieter and warmer underfoot than most hard surfaces.

LVT is also a great solution due to its transitional abilities. The thickness of some LVT ranges results in seamless transitions between other finishes, such as carpet tiles. LVT can also be used to create borders on LVT patterns or other finishes, or even to zone areas within a large space.

Forms can even blend into one another with no need for transition strips, creating a modular flooring system. The transition, therefore, doesn’t need to be regular – it could create a shape itself and enhance the design. Finishes can be staggered into the LVT design or LVT can be cut to suit the form of another finish – for example it can sit seamlessly beside a hexagonal LVT piece or a hexagonal tile. Because of this condensed thickness variation that LVT can lead to, installation times can also be reduced.

All these design possibilities – design, size, laying patterns and transitions - mean that LVT has many ways of enhancing the brand identity within an interior and can be truly unique to the space itself. The floor design can therefore enhance the overall scheme, and become an exceptional focal point, that people want to share amongst the billion monthly users, on just one of the major social media platforms. We can’t wait to develop how we continually use LVT within leisure venues to progress the sector for the social media generation to share.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not reflect the opinions or views of Altro. This article may contain links to other sites and resources provided by third parties. Such links should not be interpreted as approval by Altro of those linked websites or information that you may obtain from them. Altro has no control over the contents of those sites or resources. Please also see our disclaimer for more information.

Additionally, all content in this article is the copyright of the author or Altro (as applicable) and cannot be used without express permission.

Posted: 28/01/2020 11:02:44 by Lea Charnley | with 0 comments