Hard surfaces are a combination of porous and nonporous materials. Common hard-surface materials are stainless steel, solid surface, laminate, porcelain, and a wide variety of tile and ridged plastic materials. Some of the more common porous surfaces include laminate, granite, and various types of tile and plastic materials.

Often overlooked are details such as the material surface texture. It is shocking when one looks specifically for the texture of surface materials, how many there actually are — brushed surfaces, grooved, bumpy, laminated. Also overlooked are seams and how often two or more surface materials are combined on one product. All of this adds to the complexity of disinfection and creating a safe environment.

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Biofilm, a group of microorganisms that stick together to form a protective covering, form on hard, dry surfaces. This protective covering is resistant to biocides, making it difficult to remove. Textures, seams and porous materials support biofilm by providing a perfect place to attach or harbor, where they can't be reached during the disinfection process.

There is often a misconception that hard surfaces are nonporous. While there are nonporous hard-surface materials such as stainless steel, solid surface and some rigid plastic materials, other commonly used materials such as laminate, granite and some plastic materials are porous. They might provide some moisture resistance due to coatings that may have been applied during the manufacturing process, but these eventually wear off if not maintained and reapplied. In many cases, the disinfection product and process will destroy any of these coatings.

In fact, all hard-surface material can be damaged if not cared for properly, which is why manufacturers must test their products and provide recommendations for disinfection. What’s more, not all hard surfaces can be cleaned and disinfected the same way. Environmental services professionals should ask vendors about the process to disinfect and ensure that the surface material is microbially clean, the types of disinfectants and cleaners that can be used and which chemicals and cleaners will cause damage.