Furnishings to help keep your home bacteria and virus-free

COVID-19 has forced us all to think about new ways to avoid germs in work areas, in public places and even in the privacy of our own four walls. Fortunately, interior designers and manufacturers are responding to demand and offering homeowners solutions to reduce the spread of germs and other harmful particles.

This is where industry professionals share some of the more helpful ideas and innovations currently available.

Easy to clean and sealed surfaces

In a survey of designers conducted by the National Kitchen + Bath Association, a trade group, a majority of respondents said that easy-to-clean surfaces would be an influential trend after the pandemic. “People want something that is easy to disinfect, like stainless steel surfaces on dishwashers and refrigerators,” says Peter Salerno, certified master kitchen and bathroom designer and owner of Peter Salerno, Inc. in Wyckoff. “(Decorators) often put panels on top of it, but non-porous surfaces are easier to clean because they have no crevices.”

This Summit dining room features chairs that are upholstered in wipeable Crypton fabric that is mold and bacteria resistant.  The space, which is part of a house in Summit, was designed by Alexa Harris-Ralff, owner of AHR Designs in Maplewood.

Salerno also praises non-porous countertops such as quartz, which, unlike marble, limestone and granite, have no small cracks, veins or depressions. A combination of pulverized stone and resin: “Quartz is poured into a mold and has no natural defects,” he says. “It cleans like glass.”

To prevent bacteria like E. coli, MRSA, and mold from getting into pillows, homeowners can upholster their furniture with germ-resistant fabrics like Crypton, which the company’s website says contains an EPA-approved antimicrobial silver ion protection (it) that also repels stains ).

In the bathroom, sanitary ware maker Kohler runs a factory-installed surface treatment called CleanCoat, which when applied to shower doors and toilets prevents bacteria, mold and mineral build-up from sticking to them.

Contactless technology

Smart home technology – voice and motion activated devices and other features – has grown tremendously in the recent past, and the touchless options have expanded to meet demand since COVID-19. “Since May 1st, the term” contactless “has been the most frequently searched term on the GROHE website,” says Stephany Osmas, spokeswoman for the manufacturer of kitchen and bathroom fittings.

A woman using the GROHE foot faucet which can help homeowners avoid contact with germs

Since the kitchen is often referred to as the heart of a home, it may come as no surprise that, according to the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), areas where food is stored and prepared contain more bacteria than anywhere else in the house – including the toilet . Which homeowners are usually more conscious of cleaning.

To reduce the spread of germs in the kitchen, GROHE offers a touchless kitchen tap that can be switched on and off with a foot switch. After 60 seconds the tap will turn off automatically. A hands-free faucet is another innovation. The flow of water can be controlled by touching the wrist, forearm, or the back of the hand. With the Sensate and Setra taps from the sanitary fittings manufacturer Kohler, users can either switch water on and off manually or move cookware or utensils – for example by lifting a saucepan. These and other models also offer a voice-activated option with voice assistants already at home.

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Touchless soap dispensers and faucets have been available to private and commercial buyers for a number of years. GROHE has now developed an electronic, sensor-controlled faucet that enables touch-free switching on and off with batteries. It can hold 150 applications per day. And in March of this year Kohler is launching a new range of touchless flush toilets that are equipped with … (a) a sensor integrated in the flush handle, ”says Vicki Hafenstein, company spokeswoman.

Special rooms

Floor plans with discreet areas for storing frequently touched and dirty items go a long way in reducing germs, says Alyson O’Hanlon, certified kitchen designer and owner of Clive Christian New Jersey of Tenafly.

“We all need a storage area where we can leave shoes, handbags, keys, shopping bags, and other items,” she says. “A mudroom next to the kitchen is an ideal solution, but you can also leave your shoes and handbag by the door and set up a shelf in the kitchen for unloading groceries.” The counter should be disinfected after each use.

This storage space in the mud room keeps clutter at bay.

In this redesigned butler pantry, a separate hand washing station designed by O’Hanlon (in a house decorated by Patti Smith of P. Smith Design in Ridgewood) replaces a traditional wet bar so homeowners can wash their hands before doing so they enter the kitchen.

Marina V. Umali, owner of the Marina V. Design Studio in Ridgewood, emphasizes the importance of opening doors and windows so that fresh air can flow through the rooms.

“When I advise, I point out that mold and bacteria can thrive in disorder,” she says. She also recommends humidifiers to fight bacteria in dry rooms and plants to improve air quality. Umali is a Feng Shui practitioner who arranges furniture to create a balance with nature. He recently became a well-accredited professional with expertise in designing spaces that promote health.

The ultimate source of fresh air is of course nature. In its survey of designers, the NKBA found that COVID-19 had sparked greater demand for improved outdoor living spaces.

Better air quality

Kitchen designer Peter Salerno sees air quality as increasingly important for homeowners who are concerned about a healthy environment. The energy efficiency movement has made houses with triple insulation and triple hanging windows so airtight that there is a greater need for air freshening. “My nephew is a Bergen County health inspector and he says the biggest problem is that air systems don’t strip contaminants from the air,” he says. “You could be circulating bad air in your home.”

The Hepa air purifier filters the air and removes dust and germs.

Salerno says he has seen growing demand for fresh air systems – designed to “make up” for indoor air that has been removed due to process exhaust fans. It is a type of HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system that draws in fresh air from outside the house to replace air that cannot be circulated. Kitchen fans do this, he says, moving outside at up to 800 cubic feet per minute to be replaced with air flowing in through a damper.

Hepa filters (High Efficiency Particle Air) also recorded a sales boom. In October, a Texan manufacturer told CNBC.com that high-quality air filters had blown off the shelves since the pandemic and announced: “It’s like toilet paper in April, times two.” The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers rated Hepa -Filters high as they trap almost 100% of the microscopic air particles. “You can hook it up to a wall and use it anywhere,” says Salerno.

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