Now more than ever, commercial furniture providers are keen to use materials and finishes that have anti-microbial and anti-viral properties, including GB Projects.
Our materials of choice would normally be MDF, plywood, laminate, solid surfacing, solid wood and veneers. However, since the outbreak of COVID-19, we have explored the survival rate of bacteria and viruses on such materials, enlisting the help of expert Dr Elizabeth Illet to ensure the health and safety of ourselves and our customers.
*All research papers used have been referenced at the bottom of this blog.
- Historically, wood has been unfairly classed as “unhygienic.” Some species of wood, such as pine and oak, show excellent anti-bacterial qualities and clear advantages over other woods and plastics.
- There have been several scientific studies into whether micro-organisms survive less well on wood compared to other materials but the results have been contradictory. Some studies indicate that wooden surfaces can be contaminated more easily than metal or plastic surfaces and may be more difficult to decontaminate2), whilst other work has indicated that fewer viable bacteria can be detected on wooden boards compared to plastic ones3-4.
- The survival of two different bacterial strains on sawdust from several different woods compared to their survival on plastic chips showed that survival of the bacteria on wood depended on several factors, one being the species of wood.
- Bacterial levels decreased fastest on pine and oak, with the other species being similar to plastic5. Similarly, a study showed that the levels of bacteria decreased rapidly on the surface of boards made of oak, beech and ash compared to plastic or stainless steel surfaces6.
- A further study of children’s toys in a hospital showed that plastic toys were more highly contaminated with bacteria than those made of wood7.
- Evidence for any anti-viral properties of wood is more limited. Influenza virus appears to survive less than four hours on wooden surfaces, but up to nine hours on some types of plastic materials8.
- With regard to the current pandemic, there is no data on how long Covid-19 can survive on wood, but it is less stable on cardboard (a porous material) compared to plastic and stainless steel, surviving for 24 hours and two to three days respectively9.
- The results of a recent survey demonstrated which materials were perceived as the most hygienic. Laminate was the most popular (38%), followed by glass and wood (31%), with rubber (9%) and fabric (8%) scoring lowest.
To summarise, there is some evidence that micro-organisms have a lower survival rate on wooden surfaces compared to plastic or stainless steel but this does depend on several factors including the type of the micro-organism, the environment and the species of wood.
At GB Projects, we pride ourselves on providing our customers with the highest quality yet affordable products and service and understand that health and safety are important additional factors when considering the best materials to manufacture furniture our customer’s needs.
- Aviat F, Gerhards C, Rodriguez-Jerez Je-j, Michel Ve, Bayon IL, Ismail R, et al. Microbial Safety of Wood in Contact with Food: A Review. Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety. 2016;15:491-505.
- Rodel W, H H, Dresel J. Hygieneaspekte zu Schneidunterlagen aus Holz und Kunststoff. Fleischwirtsch. 1994;74:814-21.
- Ak N, Cliver D, Kaspar C. Cutting boards of plastic and wood contaminated experimentally with bacteria. Journal of Food Protection. 1994;57:16-22.
- Ak N, Cliver D, Kaspar C. Decontamination of plastic and wooden cutting boards for kitchen use. Journal of Food Protection. 1994;57:23-30.
- Milling A, Kehr R, Wulf A, Smalla K. Survival of bacteria on wood and plastic particles: Dependence on wood species and environmental conditions. Holzforschung,. 2005;59:72-81.
- Koch A, Kofod C, Konova D, Kvist K, Lindegaard B. Wood, plastic and steel – a comparison of hygienic properties. Partial report 10 ‘‘Wood in the Food’’. Danish Technological Institute. 2002.
- Boretti VS, Corrêa RN, Santos SSFd, Leão MVP, Silva CRGe. Sensitivity profile of Staphylococcus spp. and Streptococcus spp. isolated from toys used in a teaching hospital playroom. REVISTA PAULISTA DE PEDIATRIA. 2014;32(3):151-6.
- Greatorex JS, Digard P, Curran MD, Moynihan R, Wensley H, Wreghitt T, et al. Survival of Influenza A(H1N1) on Materials Found in Households: Implications for Infection Control. PLoS ONE. 2011;6(11):e27932.
- Doremalen Nv, Morris DH, Holbrook MG, Gamble A, Williamson BN, Tamin A, et al. Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1. New England Journal of Medicine. 2020;382;16.