What is Antimicrobial Copper?

Antimicrobial Copper kills bacteria*. Surfaces made of these solid, copper-based metals, or alloys continuously kill bacteria that cause infections. It is an inherent quality of the metal.

Which bacteria (pathogens) have Antimicrobial Copper alloys been proven to kill?

Laboratory studies conducted under EPA-approved protocols have proven that, within two hours of contact, Antimicrobial Copper' kills greater than 99.9% the following disease-causing bacteria: Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE),Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacter aerogenes, Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli O157:H7), Pseudomonas aeruginosa and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

How quickly does Antimicrobial Copper kill Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)?

Antimicrobial Copper continuously kills greater than 99.9% of MRSA within two hours of exposure.

How can Antimicrobial Copper be used to kill bacteria*?

The use of Antimicrobial Copper for frequently touched hospital surfaces such as door and furniture hardware, bed rails, IV poles, nurses' call buttons, dispensers, faucets, sinks and work stations can help reduce the amount of disease-causing bacteria* in patient rooms

In addition to frequently touched surfaces in hospitals, Antimicrobial Copper may be used in other settings such as senior residences, ambulatory care facilities, public transportation, schools, gyms, and public housing.

How does copper kill pathogens?

Copper is an essential nutrient for bacteria, but in high doses, it harms bacterial cells. The exact mechanism by which copper kills bacteria is still being researched, however, several theories exist and are being studied. They include:

  • Cause leakage of potassium or glutamate through the outer membrane of bacteria
  • Disturb osmotic balance
  • Bind to proteins that do not require copper
  • Cause oxidative stress by generating hydrogen peroxide

There are over 350 alloys that are EPA-registered as antimicrobial copper. These include pure copper, high coppers, brasses, bronzes, copper-nickels and copper-nickel-zincs. The latter are sometimes referred to as nickel silvers because of their shiny white color, even though they contain no silver.

There are no copper coatings that are registered and effective as Antimicrobial Copper. In addition only solid, uncoated copper and copper alloys can claim to be antimicrobial.

What does the EPA registration mean?

On February 29, 2008, the EPA registered 275 copper alloys with public health claims. The number of registered alloys has since increased to 352.

Registration of Antimicrobial Copper is the first time the EPA recognized a solid material for its continuous antimicrobial properties and permitted public health claims to be made about its use for touch surfaces.

What are the public health claims being permitted by the EPA?

Based on rigourous study conducted under EPA protocols, Antimicrobial Copper:

  • Continuously reduces bacterial* contamination, achieving 99.9% reduction within two hours of exposure.
  • Kills greater than 99.9% of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria* within two hours of exposure.
  • Delivers continuous and ongoing antibacterial* action, remaining effective in killing greater than 99.9% of bacteria* within two hours.
  • Kills greater than 99.9% of bacteria* within two hours, and continues to kill more than 99% of bacteria* even after repeated contamination.
  • Helps inhibit the buildup and growth of bacteria* within two hours of exposure between routine cleaning and sanitizing steps.

These health claim apply when Antimicrobial Surfaces are cleaned regularly.

Do Antimicrobial Copper surfaces need to be cleaned?

Antimicrobial Copper surfaces need to be cleaned; they are a supplement to and not a substitute for standard infection control and hygienic practices; users must continue to follow all current infection control practices, including those practices related to cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces.

Don't copper alloys tarnish? What about tarnishing?

Some Antimicrobial Copper alloys, those with a higher percentage of copper,  tarnish to varying degrees, but are still effectively killing bacteria*. In fact, studies suggest that a tarnished copper surface actually kills bacteria* faster than an untarnished copper surface.

How is Antimicrobial Copper superior to other antimicrobial surfaces?

Antimicrobial Copper is the first class of solid antimicrobial surfaces registered by the EPA to make public health claims.

Antimicrobial Copper is inherently antimicrobial through and through. Even when surfaces made of these materials are scratched their antimicrobial efficacy continues to work-they won't wear away like coatings or other treatments can.


Copper and copper alloys are engineering materials that are durable, colourful and recyclable and are widely available in various product forms suitable for a range of manufacturing purposes. Copper and its alloys offer a suite of materials for designers of functional, sustainable and cost-effective products.

Some specific copper alloys have intrinsic antimicrobial properties (so-called ‘Antimicrobial Copper’) and products made from these materials have an additional, secondary benefit of contributing to hygienic design. Products made from Antimicrobial Copper are a supplement to, not a substitute for standard infection control practices. It is important that current hygiene practices are continued, including those related to the cleaning and disinfection of environmental surfaces.

* Laboratory testing shows that, when cleaned regularly, Antimicrobial CopperTM kills greater than 99.9% of the following bacteria within 2 hours of exposure: VRE, MRSA,Staphylococcus aureus, Enterobacter aerogenes,Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and E. coli O157:H7. Antimicrobial Copper surfaces are a supplement to and not a substitute for standard infection control practices and have been shown to reduce microbial contamination, but do not necessarily prevent cross contamination; users must continue to follow all current infection control practices.  Michels et al, Lett Appl Microbiol, 49 (2009) 191-195 demonstrated that Antimicrobial CopperTM outperforms two commercially available silver-containing coatings under typical indoor conditions.