There is much more to consider than just color when it comes to specifying a coating for a health care setting. Due to recent advancements in technology, paint can go beyond aesthetic benefits to perform a variety of tasks, such as killing harmful pathogens on painted surfaces, helping to reduce odors and improving indoor air quality.

In order to select the right coating for a health care project, it’s important to know the difference between these new advancements to ensure the correct one is chosen for the right project. One source of confusion is the use of the terms antimicrobial, antibacterial and microbicidal. Each term refers to specific benefits.

Being knowledgeable of these technologies and terminology, in addition to other considerations, can inform and ultimately empower the specification process – supporting the outcome of a project in both look and function.

In the Know: The Difference Between Antimicrobial, Antibacterial and Microbicidal Coatings. Photo courtesy of Sherwin-Williams

Photo courtesy of Sherwin-Williams

So, what is the difference between antimicrobial, antibacterial and microbicidal?

Antimicrobial: When microbes grow on the painted surface, they can stain and deteriorate the paint film, thus reducing the coating’s integrity. Coatings that contain an antimicrobial can inhibit the growth of these microorganisms, such as mildew and mold, protecting the film itself from degradation. In addition, antimicrobial agents inhibit the growth of bacterial odor.

The term antimicrobial can be used in a variety of product claims across industries. As such, products that claim antimicrobial properties with a public or nonpublic health claim must go through appropriate testing by product type to demonstrate efficacy and then approval by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Antibacterial: A type of antimicrobial, antibacterial agents are used to inhibit the growth of bacteria. However, in paint, antibacterial agents typically inhibit only the growth of the common microbes that make up harmful bacteria, thus only protecting the paint film itself.

Microbicidal: Generally speaking, microbicidal substances or compounds go a step further by actually killing microscopic organisms on the surface. Paints formulated with these properties are designed to kill microorganisms, such as bacteria or other disease-causing microorganisms, on painted surfaces. Any product that has health-related claims to kill harmful microorganisms must be registered with the EPA.

Unlike antimicrobial paint, Paint Shield is a new microbicidal paint that has an active ingredient – quaternary ammonium compound (Alkyl Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride) – that actually kills five types of harmful bacteria. The ingredient is commonly known in the industry as “quat.”

Sherwin-Williams Paint Shield, the first EPA-registered microbicidal paint, kills greater than 99.9 percent of Staph (Staphylococcus aureus), MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), E. coli (Escherichia coli), VRE (Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis) and Enterobacter aerogenes within two hours of exposure on a painted surface.

The development of Paint Shield represents a major breakthrough in the industry with far-reaching benefits for health care settings and more.


About the author

Steve Revnew

Steve Revnew, senior vice president of product innovation at Sherwin-Williams and author or In the Know: The Difference Between Antimicrobial, Antibacterial and Microbicidal Coatings.

Steve Revnew, senior vice president of product innovation at Sherwin-Williams

Steve Revnew, senior vice president of product innovation at Sherwin-Williams, has been in the product innovation market space for more than 15 years. A chemist by training, Revnew began his career in the Sherwin-Williams research and development labs before venturing into the world of marketing and sales.

During his 28 year tenure with North America’s largest paint manufacturer and retailer, Revnew has served as a chemist, sales representative, store manager, sales manager, district manager, product manager and director of marketing. Now in his current role, Revnew moneyslots lends his talents as the go-to expert  on topics ranging from products and technology  to coatings innovation and sustainability.

Revnew has championed the company’s speed to market initiative  and has led the development of many Sherwin-Williams industry-leading products including Paint Shield™ Microbicidal Paint, Emerald® Paint and Primer in One,  and Harmony Paint with formaldehyde reducing and odor eliminating technologies.

Revnew is a member of the National Association of Home Builders and the U.S. Green Building Council. He also served on the Painting and Decorating Contractors of America’s Board of Directors and as the Chairman of the PDCA National Associates Board. Revnew has been interviewed on various topics on paint and coatings in numerous publications including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Fox News, American Painting Contractor, Green Builder Magazine, Buildings Magazine, Durability and Design, Metropolis and many more.

Revnew has a B.S. in Chemistry from Eastern Michigan University and an M.B.A. from Baldwin-Wallace College.


Editor’s note
Also on PRISM “Paint Shield® named a 2017 Bronze Edison Award Winner.”