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Ceramic tile surfaces reduces need for cleaning agents in aquatic and recreation facilities

Ceramic tile surfaces reduces need for cleaning agents in aquatic and recreation facilities
August 2, 2011

In aiming to keep their facilities hygienic, managers face a dilemma in cleaning surfaces in public areas. 

Aggressive cleaning agents in high concentration can be harmful to both the facility and users, while mild agents often do not have the desired cleaning effect. 

For some years, certain manufacturers of roofing tiles, shower partitions, bath tubs, sanitary ceramics or ceramic tiles have taken advantage of research into new methods for ensuring cleanliness of surfaces without harmful side effects. Special surface designs that ease cleaning conform to two basic principles, either they are hydrophobic (water-rejecting) or hydrophilic (water-friendly) surfaces. The two versions distinguish themselves not only by their principle of action, but also by their properties of use. 

The 'Lotus effect': the attempt to imitate nature
The development of new surfaces started with the discovery of the so-called Lotus effect - a surface on which dirt finds it difficult to adhere. 

The leaves of the Lotus plant serve as model for such a surface (a nanostructure of hydrophobic waxes) which prevents the adherence of water and dirt. Rainwater rolls down the leaves of the Lotus plant taking dirt particles with it.

This principal can be applied to surfaces but because of sensitivity to mechanical stress may not be suitable for articles or objects of regular use. In addition, cleaning substances can also reduce the surface’s properties.

Sensitive coatings: partly very sensitive
Some manufacturers in the ceramic industry offer coatings which are ‘only’ hydrophobic and consist of organic compounds. Their functional principle is similar to that one of a Teflon frying pan with the surface coatings applied only after burning makes the ceramics water-repellent (due to anti-adhesion properties which are sufficient to permit drops of water to roll down the tiles). 

For the daily use, maintenance instructions must be carefully observed, and the use of aggressive or abrasive cleaning agents must be absolutely avoided as they would quickly destroy the coating. 

Hydrotect: a special principle of action permits revolutionary properties 
To counter the sensitivity of hydrophobic surfaces, renowned manufacturer Deutsche Steinzeug (owner of the Agrob Buchtal and Jasba brands), has developed Hydrotect, a new ‘intelligent’ surface coating for ceramic tiles.

The manufacture of Hydrotect tiles sees titanium dioxide baked onto the glaze of the tiles as catalyst, which effects a reaction between light, oxygen and air humidity. The coating is not applied by spraying or any other ‘cold’ method, but baked onto the glaze at high temperature. 

Compared to conventional sealing, impregnating or coating methods, this procedure makes Hydrotect tiles so robust that they can be used not only for walls but also as floor tiles with a unique level of resistance to abrasion and chemicals.

The photocatalytic effect of Hydrotect tiles is activated at normal indoor lighting and forms the basis for the almost revolutionary properties of Hydrotect: the tile surface becomes hydrophilic (water-friendly). The water is not repelled, but spreads to form a thin film on the surface. In this way, dirt is washed down and can be easily removed. 

But Hydrotect offers further advantages: the photocatalysis produces activated oxygen, which decomposes microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, algae, moss and germs and prevents the formation of new pathogenes. While the effect decreases in the case of other methods based on the addition of certain additives, the antibacterial effect of Hydrotect reactivates itself again and again. 

Moreover, Hydrotect eliminates unwelcome or harmful odours typical on pool decks, in sanitary areas or in changing rooms. This applies both indoors and outdoors, and even to smells such as tobacco and vehicle exhaust fumes.

Scientific analyses prove that a Hydrotect facade surface of 1,000 metre² cleans the air as effectively as 70 medium-sized deciduous trees.

With these properties, ceramic tiles with Hydrotect coating are an ideal solution in numerous public areas such as hotels, restaurants, food processing and medical areas, swimming pools, fitness and wellness centres, and sanitary rooms.

In domestics spaces, Hydrotect tiles are perfectly suitable for the bathroom, the kitchen and the entire living area.

Hydrotect tiles minimise health risks, with international tests and analyses, conducted by the Fraunhofer Institut für Grenzflächen-und Bioverfahrenstechnik (Germany), TNO (Netherlands) and the Hatano Research Institute (Japan), showing that the coating is absolutely non-toxic and free of irritating substances. In addition, with Hydrotect tiles the consumption of cleaning agents and their resultant costs can be considerably reduced, time and money can be saved and the environment is protected. 

With this innovation, Deutsche Steinzeug impressively underlines its position in the market and offers architects, planners as well as commercial and private building owners a problem solution which is unique in its form. 

In Australasia, Hydrotect tiles are available exclusively from Ceramic Solutions (Aust) Pty Ltd.

For more information contact Oliver Huss, Director, Ceramic Solutions (Aust) Pty Ltd on 03 9545 5322, E: 

Image of Hydrotect tiles at the Australian Institute of Sport pools in Canberra courtesy of Ceramic Solutions.

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