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Brass and Copper Door Handles - For battling germs and bacteria?

Solid Brass Door Handles, Brass Door Plates and door knobs have been used on doors for centuries. Solid Brass fixtures fell out of favour only during the last couple of decades of the 20th century, largely because of the need regularly polish the metal to maintain its shine. Manufacturers began to lacquer (or varnish) their brass products to maintain a bright yellow finish, and lacquer eventually began to be regarded as gaudy by some people. This led to Brass falling by the wayside in favour of ‘cleaner’ looking metals, such as stainless steel, aluminium, and polished chrome.

Now it seems that the ‘clean’ appearance of these metals is merely that - an appearance.

Solid Brass Handles

Several scientific studies have recently been published which suggest that Brass handles, door plates, door knobs and handrails should be brought back into regular use in public buildings, to help combat bacteria and germs, amazingly including hospital superbugs such as E-coli and MRSA.

The active component involved in this revelation is Copper. Copper is the predominant metal used in the mixing of Brass Alloy. This means that copper-based metals such as brass, can prevent bacteria from spreading, and even completely destroy germs and bacteria.

Researchers found that plastic and stainless steel surfaces, which are now the most widely used surfaces in hospitals and public buildings, allow bacteria to survive and spread when people touch them. The UK’s NHS website states that Flu viruses can survive on normal hard surfaces for 24 hours. The especially nasty viruses Norovirus and C-Diff can survive for much longer. Norovirus can survive for several weeks, while in one study C-Diff was shown to survive for an incredible five months.

Copper Door Handles Antimicrobial

Researchers found that copper-based alloy surfaces have the ability to destroy a wide range of microbes and bacteria relatively rapidly - often within two hours or less. Several studies found that if touch surfaces are made with copper-based alloys, the reduced transmission of disease-causing bacteria can reduce patient infections in hospitals by as much as 58%.

Copper has even been shown to be very effective at exterminating the much-dreaded hospital ‘superbug’ MRSA. In tests sponsored by the Copper Development Association, a grouping of 100 million MSRA bacteria atrophied and died in a just 90 minutes, when placed on a copper surface at room temperature. The same study found that the same number of MSRA bacteria on both steel and aluminium surfaces actually increased over time. On looking at these figures, many scientists have concluded that the installation of copper-based fixtures such as taps, light switches, door handles, door knobs, pull handles, and push plates in areas such as hospitals could save thousands of lives each year.

Professor Bill Keevil, head of the microbiology group at Southampton University, added his voice to the growing scientific consensus behind this by advocating the use of Copper and Brass door furniture, fixtures and fittings in public places and on public transport, as they could dramatically cut the threat posed by superbugs.

In research published in the journal Molecular Genetics of Bacteria Professor Keevil wrote: “There are a lot of bugs on our hands that we are spreading around by touching surfaces. In a public building or mass transport, surfaces cannot be cleaned for long periods of time… Until relatively recently brass was a relatively commonly used surface. On stainless steel surfaces these bacteria can survive for weeks, but on copper surfaces they die within minutes… We live in this new world of stainless steel and plastic, but perhaps we should go back to using brass more instead.”

In addition to direct contact killing of bacteria and harmful microbes, amazingly Copper surfaces have been found to exude an antimicrobial 'halo' effect on surrounding non-copper surfaces. Research in the intensive care unit a Hospital in Greece found that other surfaces up to 50 centimetres from copper surfaces experienced 70% microbial reduction, compared to the same surfaces with no proximity to copper-based materials. The ‘Halo’ effect was also observed in trials at a U.S. clinic in 2010. This amazing effect demonstrates just how powerful copper is as a weapon against bacteria.

Since this research has come to light, historians have pointed out that some ancient civilizations were aware of the antimicrobial properties of copper, thousands of years before the concept of microbes became understood by modern science. In addition to the use of copper medicinal preparations, ancient people observed that water stored in copper vessels was of better quality than water contained or transported in other materials, as no slime can form on copper surfaces. In addition, the healing power of copper was recognized by the Aztecs and the Ancient Egyptians to sterilize wounds, drinking water, and used the metal to treat skin conditions.

So, How does it work?

Several scientific studies suggest that copper surfaces affect bacteria in two ways. The first step is a direct interaction between the surface and the bacteria’s outer membrane, causing this to rupture. The second step involves the holes in the outer membrane, through which the cell loses essential nutrients and water.

When the cells main defense membrane is breached, a stream of copper ions can enter the cell. Copper literally overwhelms the inside of the cell and obstructs the cell metabolism. It binds to the cell’s enzymes, causing its essential activity to stop. After this process, the bacteria can no longer "breathe", "eat" or "digest" and is thus essentially dead.

So, if the scientific consensus is growing behind the installation of copper-based materials such as Brass in public buildings and development projects, should you be looking to replace your home’s ancillary hardware and door handles to combat bacteria around the home? As we have learned, it may not be a bad idea.

Are Brass Door Knobs Antibacterial?

It should be noted, that Brass and Copper’s antibacterial effect only works when these metals are raw – The destruction of microbes relies on the metal’s ability to oxidize (its exposure to oxygen) and so cannot take place when a lacquer or some other plating acts as a barrier between the bacteria and the copper-based metal. At More Handles, we stock hundreds of un-lacquered brass products that are constructed from raw, solid brass, so maybe the answer to a more hygienic home. Take a look at the following range of Un-lacquered Brass products. This collection encompasses many items, from door knockers to lever handles. Our Cardea range is another wide collection of door furniture, all made from solid un-lacquered brass. We have many traditional items of door furniture in aged brass finish. This is pre-oxidized solid brass, so will provide the same microbe-hostile surface. Our From the Anvil collection uses only un-lacquered brass finishes across their entire range. Finally, if you need cupboard handles, cupboard knobs or drawer pulls, take a look at our Armac Martin range of cupboard and cabinet furniture. This is a premium collection of handmade products, and may be ordered in many finishes, including un-lacquered brass and antique brass – Both of which are Solid Brass based finishes. By their nature, many of the products readily available in un-lacquered brass are of a more traditional style, however as this research becomes more widely known, and as design trends to more authentic finishes and materials, the range of products available in Solid Brass and Copper is increasing all the time. One example is one of our manufacturers Croft Architectural Hardware, who carry an excellent range of solid un-lacquered brass door handles, push plates, pull handles and lever on rose handles in a more contemporary style, which is ideal for specification projects and public buildings and developments.

If you need some guidance in choosing genuine unlacquered Solid Brass or even Solid Copper based door handles, door knobs, pull handles, push plates or other accessories, or would like advice on how to incorporate these amazing microbe and bacteria-hostile metals into your home, please do not hesitate to contact our hardware and ironmongery experts at our HQ in Carlisle, Cumbria at:

TEL - 01228 516 516

WEB - morehandles.co.uk

EMAIL - sales@morehandles.co.uk

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