Care and Cleaning Protocols

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Cleaning and Disinfecting Protocols

for Antimicrobial Copper Alloy Surfaces

Copper surfaces are a supplement to, and not a substitute for, standard infection control practices.  Users should continue to abide by all current infection control guidelines, including those related to cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces.


Copper and copper alloy surfaces are active surfaces and will develop a patina over the course of 2 to 4 weeks if washed and cleaned using existing agents and protocols.  Once established, the patina is stable and protects the component from oxidation unless it comes into contact with strong reagents.  The developed patina does not reduce efficacy according to results from laboratory testing and clinical trials.


There are three types of cleaning products to consider -  see below.  For any product specific information, it is recommended that the manufacturer be contacted.


Disinfectant products containing metal-ion chelators such as EDTA should be avoided as these partially, but temporarily, reduce copper’s efficacy.


1.)  Hospital detergents - these will clean grease and other soil from surfaces and should always be used            prior to disinfection. 


  • Most cleaning products are proprietary and will have instructions for use - alway refer to manufacturers’ instructions.


  • Items should be cleaned, dried, disinfected as necessary, and inspected before use.


  • If applying disinfectant after normal cleaning, it is common to wash with clean water and dry between these steps to ensure optimum activity of the disinfectant.


  • Cleaning wipes are single use products and should be disposed of after use.


  • Some products may combine disinfectants with detergents and allow single-step use. 


2.)  Hospital disinfectants - these will disinfect the surface of copper and generally contain: 


  • Alcohols - not corrosive to copper alloys, but not active against all microbes.


  • Bleaches - containing chlorine or with the active ingredient sodium hypochlorite; the solution is not corrosive  to copper when used correctly.


  • Quaternary ammonia - such compounds do not harm copper alloys.


  • Ammonium chloride - is of little concern for copper when used in normal dilute formulations.


  • Phenol and ammonia are rarely used organic chemicals and are not harmful to copper.


Other disinfection techniques:


  • Hydrogen peroxide (solutions or vapor - HPV) has no long-term effect on copper alloys.


  • Steam may be used for cleaning or disinfection and will not harm copper or copper alloys.


  • Formaldehyde is sometimes used for laboratory disinfection and  fumigation and is not deleterious to copper and copper alloys.


3.) Metal polishes and cleaners - these will brighten the appearance of copper alloys.


  • Citric acid-based cleaners are preferred as they disinfect and remove tarnish without leaving a residue. Removal of this residue may be 


  • Proprietary polishing products, such as Brasso, will clean the copper but are not recommended as they leave a residual film which inhibits the antimicrobial effects of copper for a period of time.  Removal of this residue can be difficult but may be achieved with alcohol wipes.