Creating Sanitary Walls with Wallcoverings Engineered for Cleanability

09/16/2020 | By Matthew Jones

The COVID-19 pandemic has elevated the importance of sanitizing wall surfaces in interior spaces. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces can help prevent the spread of the virus, and it lists shared surfaces as walls, doorknobs, tables, countertops, etc.

Cleaning protocols used by public facilities are still evolving, but Wallcoverings Association members are being proactive in testing against new cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting practices, and are releasing test information to specifiers and end users as it becomes available. In addition, wallcovering providers are bringing new technologies to market that protect the product from today’s harsher cleaners.

History of Cleanability

The Wallcoverings Association and its member companies are working toward establishing cleaning guidelines that address today’s increased need for disinfecting. To date, tests among the major U.S. wallcovering manufacturers have shown that the appearance of Type II vinyl wallcoverings is not affected by many disinfectants listed on the EPA’s List N of disinfectants. For information on how specific wallcoverings perform under particular protocols, it is best to contact the wallcovering provider.

Pawleys Island
Photo: Pawleys Island by National Solutions

Type II commercial vinyl wallcoverings have a long track record for durability, scrubbability and cleanability. These wallcoverings are produced specifically for use in high-traffic commercial environments such as offices, hospitality spaces, hospitals and healthcare, schools, and retail stores.

Type II vinyl wallcoverings are generally:

  • Washable, withstanding sponging with detergent solutions
  • Scrubbable with a brush and prescribed detergent solution
  • Resistant to stains such as grease, butter, coffee, etc.
  • Able to withstand abrasions from actions such as rubbing, scraping or scrubbing
  • Treated with antimicrobial technologies that inhibit the growth of bacteria and other harmful organisms

To meet Type II requirements, wallcoverings are also tested for UV degradation using the Federal Specification CCC-W-408D. In response to the pandemic, many facility managers are exploring UV exposure as a disinfecting protocol. Type II wallcoverings have a reliable history of test results showing durability to UV exposure.   

Versa_Wallcovering
Photo: Ocean Drive by Versa Wallcovering

More than 2,000 wallcoverings are certified to the NSF 342 Standard for Sustainability, making it easy to identify wall treatments that are both cleanable and sustainable. As examples, National Solutions offers Pawley’s Island by DeNovo, a Type II vinyl wallcovering with an oversized botanical print set against a faux silk background. Versa Wallcovering’s Ocean Drive, a Type II vinyl wallcovering named for the famous street in Miami Beach, FL, brings art deco-inspired triangular lines to the wall for a bold and graphic effect.

[Related: Lighting Designers Play Vital Role in Product Specifications]

Disinfecting with EPA-Recommended Cleaners

Type III wallcoverings and semi-rigid wall protection systems can be cleaned with many of EPA’s List N of disinfectants for use against SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. In addition, these wall surfaces are generally chemically resistant to soiling and tough stains such as mustard, ketchup, ink and iodine. Engineered to meet high federal requirements for tear resistance, abrasion resistance and breaking strength, they are impact-resistant to contact from housekeeping and medical carts, rolling luggage, desk chairs, wheelchairs, gurneys and more.

P3TEC
Photo: P3TEC by J. Josephson

J. Josephson’s P3TEC Advanced Wall Protection provides extreme chemical resistance and is unaffected by repeated exposure to the harshest cleaning and disinfecting chemicals. P3TEC protects against the EPA’s list of disinfectants, undiluted or in any concentration, registering no change in appearance.

Impact by Versa Designed Surfaces
Photo: Impact by Versa Designed Surfaces

Versa Designed Surfaces offers three wall protection products—Impact, Guard and Shield.  These are durable, non-porous, and highly cleanable with chemicals intended to fight bacteria and disease-causing microorganisms. They can be cleaned with common cleaning agents like 409, Fantastic, Simple Green, Soft Scrub and Magic Eraser, and disinfected using common EPA approved products such as isopropyl alcohol, ethyl alcohol, sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and hydrogen peroxide. 


Photo: Duratec by MDC

Conceptualized for the wall but built with the performance standards of a floor covering, MDC’s Duratec resists alcohol, ammonia, full strength bleach, and all alkali and acid-based chemicals. While the product maintains its appearance against harsh chemicals, most stains are easily removed using just soap and water with a bristle brush.


Photo: RAMPART by Wolf-Gordon

Wolf-Gordon’s RAMPART is engineered to resist harsh cleaners and is antimicrobial. This flexible wall protection material provides extreme resistance to abrasion and impacts and is finished with Surcoat, a proprietary chemical-resistant coating. Surcoat resists many water- and oil-based stains and stands up to many of the disinfecting agents that the EPA has registered as being effective against COVID-19.

Technologies that Enhance Cleanability 

Wallcoverings Association member companies are testing wall surface products against more aggressive cleaning and disinfecting protocols in response to COVID-19. Many wallcovering providers are highlighting new technologies that may provide additional product protection and allow for stronger disinfecting cleaners. 

Len-Tex provides two technologies that enhance product protection – Ultra-fresh and Aqua-Clear. Ultra-fresh is added to the wallcovering substrate during manufacturing to control the spread of bacteria, mold and mildew throughout the life of the product. Aqua-Clear, a protective coating, serves as a barrier to protect the decorative wallcovering layer from many cleaners and disinfectants. The blend of urethane, acrylic and vinyl polymers seals the surface of the wallcovering, providing improved scrubbability with commercial cleaning agents.

Hytex uses Fosshield technology in its acoustical wallcoverings. Fosshield incorporates silver and copper ions into the fiber that attack microbes and deliver surface protection in addition to odor, mold and bacteria resistance. This FDA-cleared antimicrobial inhibits the growth of viruses such as MRSA, Strep, Legionnaires, SARS, Norwalk and the common cold.

SafeWalls by BrandAmor are Type II wallcoverings specially formulated for use in markets where cleanliness, durability, antibacterial and antimicrobial features are required. SafeWalls are protected with a proprietary polymer finish that ensures a long-lasting, colorfast and easily cleaned surface. The surface has been manufactured with active antimicrobials that inhibit the growth of microbes on the surface.

Wolf-Gordon offers a protective film that can be applied to its Type II wallcovering to provide chemical protection. InvisiCap has been tested to resist repeated cleaning of even the harshest chemicals including undiluted bleach, mineral spirits and battery acid.

The Wallcoverings Association is facilitating the development of science-based cleaning guidelines that demonstrate efficacy against SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19. In that effort, the WA is also tracking the work of other organizations such as ASID, the Vinyl Sustainability Council, the Chemical Fabric and Film Association (CFFA), the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association (BIFMA) and the EPA. Research and test results are being released from the WA and WA member companies as they become available. For more information on wallcoverings, visit www.wallcoverings.org.

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About the author: Matthew Jones is Executive Director of the Wallcoverings Association, a nonprofit trade association representing wallcoverings manufacturers, distributors, designers, specialty manufacturers and suppliers. The WA educates consumers, designers and specifiers about the beauty and use of wallcoverings. The association keeps the industry at the forefront of sustainability with specifier tools such as NSF 342 and Environmental Product Declarations. To view a list of Wallcoverings Association members, go to www.wallcoverings.org.


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