Hygienic materials top of the shopping list for retailers

A new visual guide for specifiers has been launched to help get the high street Covid-19 ready.  

Bringing together a suite of materials with hygienic benefits, the guide has been designed to support retailers as they reorganise stores to cope with social distancing measures and subject their surfaces to a harsher cleaning regime.

With a huge range of products available, each with different levels of hygienic performance, materials supplier James Latham developed the guide to help building owners and occupiers navigate their choices.  

Steve Johnson of the Advanced Technical Panels division specialises in health-related products at Lathams. He said: “As retailers reopen, the high street experience is going to be very different, with a much greater focus on cleanliness.  

“There is a lot of pressure on specifiers to get things ordered and installed quickly. However, there are many products available and it is not always clear what the differences are between them.  

“For example, there is a lot of confusion between anti-microbial and anti-bacterial products. The difference is that anti-bacterial materials prevent bacteria from growing on their surface, while anti-microbial products halt the growth of bacteria and a broader range of viruses, organisms, protozoa, and fungi such as mould or mildew. This makes them significantly better for high-use surfaces.” 

Products in the guide have been organised into five categories, based on a range of performance criteria and potential uses. Top of the list is advanced thermoplastic KYDEX. Mouldable to any shape, it is heavily utilised in healthcare because of its robustness and inherent hygienic qualities. It can withstand tough cleaning products, without any staining, fading or surface damage, and contains Microban for anti-microbial protection. 

It is equally well-suited to the retail sector because of its hard-wearing nature and ability to be colour matched, making it perfect for branded environments. KYDEX is used for a wide range of objects including counters, display units and in-store furniture. Also, as a homogeneous product, any damage to the top layer does not negatively affect its anti-microbial properties or visual impact, which makes it perfect for high traffic areas. 

 Unlike KYDEX, which is more suited to an off-site manufacturing process, other products within the guide can be easily added to existing surfaces and therefore offer a much quicker turnaround. These include laminates, with Abet Lamishield the highest performer.  

Abet Lamishield is an anti-microbial laminate that incorporates silver-ions within the decorative layer.

Utilising BioCote technology, it inhibits surface growth by 99.9%. It is one of the only certified anti-microbial laminates and when combined with good cleaning practices it is highly effective.  

Another challenge that retailers need to meet is the provision of barriers and other protective measures. This includes installing partitions to help with traffic flow around stores and adding screens at customer contact points, such as till areas.  

For the latter, the Lathams guide recommends AcryBright, a lightweight clear acrylic sheet ideal for protective screens and sneeze guards. While costing slightly more than a standard piece of acrylic, it is more hardwearing, something that Steve believes makes it worth the investment.  

He added: “Many businesses are rushing to get whatever they can in place and not thinking with the long-term in mind. These materials are going to be around for a while and will need to be cleaned more often, with higher strength cleaning chemicals. These chemicals can cause damage, from small surface scratches through to potential warping or clouding of the screen.  

“This damage not only reduces the hygienic properties of the product but also affects its visual appeal, which can have a negative impact on the customer experience. Why pay twice when there is a better option available now?” 

Other categories within the guide include Compact Grade Laminates (CGLs) and Solid Surfaces, both highly recognised for their robustness and resistance to intensive cleaning regimes. Both products are solid sheet materials, which will not delaminate when exposed to the rigours of repeated cleaning with detergents and other chemicals. A range of options from brands such as HIMACS®, Avonite, Kronospan, Egger and Xylocleaf mean that there are colours and textures to suit any design scheme.  

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