What does a sparkling room with gleaming floors and nearly-invisible windows have in common with the inside of your mouth? The presence of biofilm: invisible aggregates of bacteria, encapsulated in an extracellular matrix that can be extremely difficult to penetrate, growing on almost every surface. Depending on the species of bacteria, this extracellular matrix can resist undiluted chlorine bleach and other disinfectants. And while it is most likely to be present in damp areas, biofilms can be found on dry surfaces, as well.
Biofilms are not all bad – water treatment plants use them to extract organic compounds from the water and filter it before the water is returned to the ecosystem. But they do pose a particular challenge for the healthcare and food industries, as they can harbor bacteria that can go on to contaminate food or medical devices. The only way to remove it is to physically scrape the surface it adheres to, and physically remove it. Flash-burning a surface might be useful for some applications, but such a method could hardly be used in, say, a hospital, where large amounts of pure oxygen are used. This fact is posing increasing challenges to our ideas of hygiene and cleanliness. Just because a surface is visibly clean doesn’t mean it’s clean.
While getting rid of an established biofilm is very difficult, the best way to beat a biofilm is to prevent it from growing in the first place. This means keeping surfaces dry as much as possible, and using adequate amounts of biocides in cleaning agents to kill bacteria. At Sirius we have several such reagents in our catalog. Anionic surfactants such as Britens ABS are disruptive to cell membranes, while some combinations, such as Britebleach SPC together with Britebleach TAED, generate peroxy acids that tests have shown to be highly effective against bacteria. And Britequest PAPEMP keeps broken-up biofilms in suspension so they can be drained away, rather than colonizing another surface.
The Sirius Effect:
As we continue to learn more about microorganisms and how they occur, it is important to update how we think of hygiene as well. Because Sirius is a flexible company, it can more readily adjust its stocks and resources to reflect the demands of a constantly changing world – but always with an eye on sustainability and/or environmental friendliness. If you’d like some advice on how to change old processes to meet new demands, give us a call today.
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