June 12, 2022
Hygienic flooring is required in applications where sterile and sanitized floors are vital. These industries include, but are not limited to: healthcare, life sciences, biosciences, food and beverage manufacturing, food service, cannabis, and veterinary services.
When considering hygiene, areas such as cleanrooms, operating rooms, and laboratories typically come to mind, however, there are many other indoor environments where hygiene is key.
Multiple studies have shown floor materials in indoor environments are sources of microbes, contaminants and pathogens. These studies have demonstrated the benefits of utilizing hard-surface flooring materials to assist in disinfecting and sterilizing.
What Is Hard-Surface Flooring?
Hard-surface flooring includes any flooring material that is not carpet. Resilient flooring is included in hard-surface flooring even though it is often constructed using “softer” materials. Linoleum, vinyl, rubber, and wood are all types of resilient flooring.
An argument could be made that any hard-surface flooring can be considered hygienic, however, unless it is a monolithic (seamless) and chemical resistant surface, it is an inaccurate argument. Seamless floors eliminate crevices and absorptive surfaces that can harbor pathogens, harmful germs, and debris. Having a chemical resistant topcoat is also key to creating an exceptionally hygienic surface.
Hard-Surface Flooring Materials
Tiles (Ceramic, Porcelain, Vinyl, etc.)
While the material for the tile itself may be water and chemical resistant, the seams between the tiles are not. These cracks and crevices can harbor germs. Hard tiles using grout creates a greater amount of places for germs and debris to settle. As the grout deteriorates, the floor will become more difficult to sanitize and will need to be replaced.
Solid & Engineered Hardwood
Natural and engineered hardwood floors are not water or chemical resistant. They are also not seamless. Water, debris, and microbes can settle into the cracks and allow bacteria to grow on or beneath the surface. Moisture can also warp the boards posing other health risks.
Vinyl Plank Flooring
Although the surface layer of vinyl plank flooring may offer some chemical resistance, the overall construction of the plank is not water resistant. Similar to hardwood flooring, plank floors are installed with seams. Water, debris, and microbes can settle into the cracks and allow bacteria to grow on or beneath the surface. Moisture can also warp the boards posing other health risks.
Sheet Flooring (Vinyl, Rubber, Linoleum)
Vinyl sheet flooring and rubber sheet flooring are chemical and water resistant. Linoleum sheet flooring is not impervious to water and can be penetrated and damaged by it. Sealing and resealing linoleum is required to address this.
Sheet Flooring is installed in pieces with heat or chemically welded seams. The welds technically deem the floor seamless, however, there are potential issues with welded seams which can include contamination, intermittent gapping, concaved welds, and complete seam failures where the bond doesn’t hold. This type of flooring is not typically tied into an integral cove base and creates seams where the wall and the floor meet.
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Terrazzo flooring is both chemical and water resistant, and said to be monolithic, however, this is not always accurate. The surface is susceptible to pin holes or pores created during the grinding process. Although a grout coat is used to fill them, some will open back up during the final steps of polishing. These pinholes or pores can be filled with germs and debris and are difficult to clean.
Terrazzo is often installed using metal strips to create patterns or isolate joints. Overtime, failures can occur at the metal strips leaving exposed seams. The same is true with the cove base. Integral cove base is possible with terrazzo but it is not common, and often includes a metal strip to fill the seam. As previously noted, seams reduce the overall hygiene of a floor.
Integral cove base is possible with terrazzo but it is not common, and often includes a metal strip to fill the seam. As previously noted, seams reduce the overall hygiene of a floor.
Concrete floors are seamless, however, they can be porous. Concrete is neither chemical nor water resistant and is also prone to dusting. Concrete can be sealed to offer additional protection, but can still be dinged chipped compromising the floor’s integrity and is therefore not recommended for sterile environments.
Resinous flooring is a poured-in-place flooring option. Resinous floors are seamless, chemical resistant and water resistant. Seamless floors can be constructed with an integral cove base to create an impermeable surface from the floor to the wall.
Another nice feature for hygiene and cleaning is seamless integration into floor drains. This helps in daily cleaning and keeps the space drier which can aid in less places for bacteria to grow.
What Are the Most Hygienic Hard-Surface Flooring Options?
Hard-surface flooring materials that are non-absorptive, chemical resistant, and monolithic, such as resinous flooring, are the most hygienic flooring options.
Resinous flooring consists of a solid and impermeable surface. Bacteria and allergens can sit on the surface, but cannot penetrate like they can with carpet, seams, or grout. With proper sanitization, contaminants can be easily eliminated from resinous floors.
Resinous floors are extremely hygienic — and require little to no maintenance outside of cleaning.
- Seamless transition to decorative cove
- Chemical resistance to many cleaners
- Stands up to rigorous sterilizing protocols
- Easy to clean and maintain
Dur-A-Flex, Inc. is a manufacturer of high-performance seamless floor and wall systems. Currently offering five families of resinous flooring consisting of various chemistries, the flooring can be tailored to the requirements of the space— especially chemical resistance for cleaning and sterilizing considerations.
All Dur-A-Flex, Inc. 100% solids flooring systems are available with Micropel® Antimicrobial. This treatment will provide the floor with additional long-term protection against a broad spectrum of bacterial and fungal attack. It will also help prevent surface growth, musty odors, permanent staining and the development of fungal spores.
- Can be added to any Dur-A-Flex 100% solids product
- Pre-mixed and bonded within the monolithic structure of a cured resinous flooring system
- Aids in preventing surface growth of bacteria / fungus
- Reduces staining and odors caused by bacterial / fungal growth
Maintaining a Hygienic Floor
Having an established cleaning protocol in place to remove foreign material from floors is required for safety and health risks. It is also imperative for the longevity of the floor.
Seamless surfaces are easier to clean and maintain and are preferred in any environment where sterilization is key.
Facilities should determine which cleaners and sanitizers are required for their space and discuss these cleaning protocols with the flooring manufacturer before choosing and installing a system. This will ensure the topcoat selected for the flooring system can withstand the chemicals.
Dur-A-Flex provides guidelines on the proper cleaning of seamless floors, noting equipment needs vary between smaller and larger floor areas.
For more information on hygienic flooring, please contact your local Dur-A-Flex territory sales manager. They will be happy to assist you in determining what options are best for your facility or project.
- Capobianco, C. (2012, January 17). Heat Welding Resilient Floors. Floor Covering Installer. https://www.fcimag.com/articles/87885-heat-welding-resilient-floors
- Dur-A-Flex, Inc, dur-a-flex.com
- Guo, Z., Wang, Z., Zhang, S., Li, X., Li, L., Li, C….Chen, W. (2020). Aerosol and Surface Distribution of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 in Hospital Wards, Wuhan, China, 2020. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 26(7), 1583-1591. https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.200885.
- Gupta, M., Lee, S., Bisesi, M., & Lee, J. (2019). Indoor Microbiome and Antibiotic Resistance on Floor Surfaces: An Exploratory Study in Three Different Building Types. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(21), 4160. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16214160
- National Institutes of Health: Office of Research Facilities (2015, July). Seamless Sheet Flooring in Laboratories. Division of Technical Resources Technical News Bulletin, (42). https://orf.od.nih.gov/TechnicalResources/Documents/Technical%20Bulletins/15TB/Seamless%20Sheet%20Flooring%20in%20Laboratories%20-%20July%202015%20Technical%20Bulletin_508.pdf
- Pyrek, K. M. (2018, October 31). Shoe Sole and Floor Contamination: A New Consideration in the Environmental Hygiene Challenge for Hospitals. Infection Control Today. https://www.infectioncontroltoday.com/view/shoe-sole-and-floor-contamination-new-consideration-environmental-hygiene
- Top End Terrazzo. Terrazzo, safe and sterile flooring for medical facilities. https://topendterrazzo.com/projects-and-installations/terrazzo-for-hospitals-medical-facilities/
Author: Jes Grant
Jes Grant is the content development manager for Dur-A-Flex. She has over 15 years of experience creating content for various technical industries, and has been featured in several publications for her writing and design work.