Debunking common misconceptions about materials and cleanability


Health and wellness expert Rod Vickroy provides some guidelines for selecting the right materials for the cleaning needs of different projects.

Even after the threat of COVID-19 has passed, more intense cleaning protocols are likely to remain in most types of buildings and spaces. In the future, according to wellness expert Rod Vickroy, designers will select materials not only based on their visual or spatial qualities, but also based on a host of research-driven priorities, including cleanability. . Courtesy of Verne Ho / Unsplash

Driven primarily by the increased importance of cleanliness in physical spaces, the global market for manual cleaning products is expected to reach $ 15.1 billion in 2024, up from $ 11.7 billion in 2019. COVID-19 has made it all right. the world more sensitive to sanitation practices, pretty much the same. how 9/11 raised awareness of security measures. It seems reasonable to expect that many of the protocols put in place for today’s pandemic will become standard operating procedures for post-pandemic routines.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that cleanability is a major demand from product specifiers working on the design of new spaces. However, according to Rod Vickroy, president of UX Planning and Design, there are many misconceptions in the industry when it comes to materiality and its cleanability ratings. Vickroy is an experienced healthcare design and strategy expert, and there is perhaps no better place to glean sanitation standards than the healthcare industry. As Vickroy says, “The healthcare industry doesn’t have the opportunity to trial and error. It needs to be evidence-based and right the first time.


For starters, Vickroy shares that one of the biggest concerns he sees right now is the lack of a uniform vernacular. “People ask for a product to be cleanable, when in reality they may want it. [stand up to cleaning with] disinfectants, ”he says. “It is important to establish a level playing field with the language so that we are all talking about the same thing. “

To do this, Vickroy suggests following these definitions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

• CLEANING removes germs, dirt and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but eliminating them reduces their number and the risk of spreading infection.

• DISINFECTION uses chemicals to kill germs on surfaces or objects. This process doesn’t necessarily clean dirty surfaces or kill germs, but killing germs on a surface after cleaning can reduce the risk of the infection spreading.

• SANITATION reduces the number of germs on surfaces or objects to a safe level, as judged by standards or public health requirements. This process works by cleaning or disinfecting surfaces or objects to reduce the risk of spreading infection.

Toa Heftiba Fv3gconvsss Unsplash
Courtesy of Toa Heftiba / Unsplash


Vickroy reminds us that the healthcare industry has long been concerned about the introduction of harmful chemicals into physical spaces. They can damage the products and surfaces we place them on and harm our health and the environment.

“The CDC has an excellent list of approved cleaners, including proper dilution rates and standard cleaning protocols,” says Vickroy. “But it’s also important to remember the order in which we apply these steps. For example, you clean first, then disinfect, then rinse with water to remove the disinfectant. In healthcare, we don’t want these harmful chemicals to come in contact with humans or create a superbug that becomes immune to disinfection. These are concerns we should take into account in any environment that requires chemicals, not just healthcare. “


In terms of materiality, Vickroy shares that many products on the market today are designed to withstand CDC cleaning protocols: cannot damage stain. But there are also gaps in the market offerings, for example, quilted surfaces with moisture barriers. “We need something that is built into the fabric or wraps around the foam or cushion structure that can withstand cleaners and does not allow chemicals to penetrate and reach the substrate. “

While these types of materials have been on the market for some time, Vickroy advises specifiers to ensure products meet the right standards. “We got used to a design focused on aesthetics or the ‘resimercial’ appeal so coveted by end users. We’re learning that the future should really rely heavily on a level of science and research to understand how these spaces work. He finds this evidence-based planning approach very encouraging. “As an industry, we’ve become too comfortable with planning what’s going on, working designs on features that grab the attention of fickle cohorts. Now the shoe is on the other foot, and we need research to support our decisions, not just visual appeal. For me, the biggest lesson we’ve learned from COVID-19 is that we need to raise the level of the space delivery discourse. I am inspired to see where these conversations will take us.

Amanda Schneider is President of ThinkLab, the research arm of SANDOW. Join us for the next steps at

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