Nanocoatings - are there risks?

17th of April 2020
Nanocoatings - are there risks?

John Griep, ECJ correspondent in the Netherlands, tells us about latest research into nanocoatings. What are their functions, and are there any risks in terms of environment or safety?

In 1997 the Association for Cleaning Research (VSR) examined cleaning results when using microfibre cloths. “Microfibre cloths make cleaning easier and require no cleaning product”, it was claimed. The cloths really did remove stubborn stains faster. So it was all systems go! It was a revolution for the professional cleaning industry.

That was until 2015, when the Dutch organisation Plastic Soup Foundation raised the alarm. It turns out that the fibres are carried away in washing water, and that millions of these end up in the sea. Fleece is one of the major culprits. What part does microfibre play in all this? It is very likely that fibres from this material wear out and break off as well. This is a task for us, since how does this correlate with the cleaning industry’s responsibility for a healthy environment?

Easier to clean

In 1998 VSR investigated dirt-repellent coatings for the first time. Nanocoatings on surfaces (such as a façade) contain nanoparticles of eg, titanium dioxide (TiO?). Nanoparticles of titanium dioxide act as a catalyst to break down organic dirt that lands on a surface. Influenced by ultraviolet light from the sun, active radicals (oxygen or hydroxyl radicals) appear on the surface, destroying the dirt by oxidisation. A rain shower or water is then required to rinse off the remaining dirt.

It would be an exaggeration to say that the surface is ‘self-cleaning’, but by applying a nanocoating a surface is indeed easier to clean. The conclusion was that, when properly applied, the frequency of maintenance could be reduced and aggressive cleaning agents were often unnecessary.

In 2020 VSR is continuing its investigation into nanocoatings. What exactly are the functionalities? Are there risks when it comes to the environment or safety? Can VSR make a difference in optimising work procedures for the cleaning of treated surfaces?

Objective cleaning

For 40 years (1979-2019), VSR has focused on acquiring knowledge and making cleaning duties more objective. The progressive insight into the use of microfibre and nanocoatings is demonstration of this.

Knowledge acquisition is a continuous process, which means that different light may be shed on past insights and results. In this case, you must not be afraid – in fact, you even owe it to your members as a research institute – to question existing assumptions.

As an independent platform and research institute, we are the ultimate partner to Dutch organisations and entrepreneurs when it comes to professional cleaning. VSR examines, explains and trains. Furthermore, we are honoured to share our vision and findings with you again this year.


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