MD&M West Trade show Feb. 7-9, 2023

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Antimicrobial Qualities of Copper and Silver as a Plated Finish

Inquiries about the antimicrobial qualities of Copper and Silver in the metal finishing industry are higher than ever. In today’s day and age, the consumer market for products that kill or prevent the spread of germs and viruses is at an all-time high. As a result, people buy disinfectants and sanitizing agents like never before. Indeed, many questions are being asked about the lifespan of viruses on surfaces like brass door handles and steel handrails. With the introduction of the novel Coronavirus, the questions begin to be more specific. Chiefly, people want to know how long SARS-CoV-2 can live on surfaces. While all these questions often do not have definitive answers, we know that certain materials’ properties are repulsive to viruses and germs.

Antimicrobial Qualities of Copper and Silver

MaterialApproximate Lifespan of COVID-19
Aluminum2-8 hours
Copper4-6 hours
Silver4-6 hours
Stainless steel7 days
Plastic7 days
Some stats from the new England journal of medicine

Silver and Copper Plating

Silver and Copper have been used for years in the plating industry because of their resilience to microbes. Undoubtedly customers often want a Silver finish on surgical instruments. Also, as we can see from the chart above, plating Silver over a stainless steel surface makes a dramatically more resilient surface to viruses and germs. Additionally, the use of Silver in medicine dates back thousands of years. Scientists have long known that the metal is a great antibacterial agent. Silver ions perform their work by breaking through bacterial membranes and wreaking havoc once inside.

Copper has very similar qualities when it comes to antimicrobial function. Laboratory studies have shown that bacteria on copper surfaces suffer rapid membrane destruction and DNA degradation, and other, less well-defined cell damage. Additionally, Copper has been used for centuries to treat skin infections and prevent fungal attacks. However, Copper can corrode quite easily and does not have as many other qualities as Silver, like conductivity, corrosion resistance, and appearance. Although Copper is very antimicrobial, Silver is the better choice for a final plating finish.

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