When we talk about what consumers want in flooring, the conversation usually turns to features like waterproof, wide planks, innovation and on-trend color and design. While those things remain in demand, due to recent events, many consumers have moved sanitation to the top of the list. 

Now more than ever, homeowners are taking the cleanliness of their interiors—floors included—to a new level, in a concerted effort to keep comfort in and potentially harmful viruses out.

“Flooring choices related to style, design, color, and application haven’t necessarily shifted; what has changed are the questions that a consumer is asking,” said Mike Sanderson, vice president of marketing, Engineered Floors. “Much like preferences or concerns related to sustainability and the environment, a consumer wants to know and understand more than ever about the ease of cleaning, sanitation, or maintenance of their flooring choices.”

Continuing to stay abreast of the changing needs of its members’ customers, CCA has expanded its Healthier Living Installation System in a new program named Neutralize. 

“Our belief is that our customers’ homes should be the safest place in the world,” said Frank Chiera, senior vice president of marketing and advertising, Flooring America/Flooring Canada, The Floor Trader, and International Design Guild. “We believe that through Neutralize, we can help ease our customers’ minds about viruses and other contaminants in the home.”

Enhancing the Healthier Living Installation System, which rolled out almost a decade ago, CCA accelerated its efforts to take the program to the next level with Neutralize in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. With this system, the installation process destroys viruses and other contaminants before, during and after a flooring installation.

“We have enhanced the program to not only protect the floor from mold, mildew, viruses and bacteria, but also to disinfect,” said Bevin Andrews, senior vice president of marketing for Carpet One Floor & Home.

According to Andrews, Neutralize is a system that also has the ability to kill traces of coronavirus on the floor’s surface.

In addition to the Neutralize system for residential applications, CCA has also developed Neutralize Pro for commercial applications, and CCA retailers have been given a kit that includes all of the necessary materials needed to get started, and training will ensure that everyone from members to sales pros and installers can confidently execute the program.

“Our mission at CCA is to lift up the independent retailer and make them better, provide more services and help them be the best they can be,” said Chiera.

Coronavirus has visibly sped up product innovation in the antibacterial surface category and companies like Procter & Gamble (P&G) are offering families new sanitizing products that work around the clock.

Microban 24, a new antibacterial home sanitizing product from P&G, keep surfaces sanitized for up to 24 hours—even after multiple touches—kills 99.9% of germs, including cold and flu viruses and sanitizes both hard and soft surfaces, says Martin Hettich, P&G’s vice president of North American home care brands.

Along with a new $100 million campaign to promote the product, the flooring industry has also incorporated the new technology.

“Microban 24 is a $100 million campaign, so it will become a household name,” said Derek Brooks, senior vice president sales and business development, North America, Torlys. Brooks noted that P&G last invested into a brand at this level for its popular Febreze odor-eliminating products 20 years ago and Tide laundry detergent 30 years ago. Since 2016, Torlys has licensed the Microban technology on its EverWood and EverTile LVT flooring, which includes Microban on the CorkPlus attached underlay.

Phenix Flooring has also been onboard, offering the only carpet with built-in Microban antimicrobial technology. “Last year, we made a move to introduce 2019 PET products to include the added feature and benefit of Microban antimicrobial technology, and this year, we’ve extended this protection to virtually all Phenix SureSoftSD polyester and newly launched SureSoftSDN nylon styles,” said Mark Clayton, president of Phenix Flooring.

According to Clayton, the manufacturer chose to work exclusively with Microban due to its strong brand recognition and the ability for consumers to purchase a myriad of other home products which leverage the benefits of Microban technology across a wide assortment of interior surfaces.

Ceramics of Italy notes that porcelain tiles are an ideal solution for homeowners who want to keep dirt, mold and odors out. Porcelain is highly compact and nonporous, making it naturally hygienic and inhospitable to bacterial and fungal growth. Daltile and Florida Tile infuse Microban antimicrobial into tiles during the manufacturing process to help keep the surface of the tile even cleaner for longer.

Also addressing the concerns of those servicing the end user, Engineered Floors has taken extra steps to develop a COVID-19 Sanitation Kit for its retail partners.

“As manufactures, our success is a direct result of our customers success, we want to support them by sharing and addressing concerns together,” said Sanderson. “If we are able to provide guidance, instruction, and support that will ultimately allow them to open their doors and create a safe working environment for our sales people, their sales people, and consumers it’s worth it.”

The purpose and benefit of the kit is to provide basic disinfecting instructions specifically for a retail showroom space and sale manager workspace, while also providing the initial tools to mitigate any possible risk of contamination related to COVID-19, says Sanderson. 

The Engineered Floors’ Showroom Sanitization Kit, which was distributed to each of the manufacturer’s sales managers, includes the following: a hand held steam cleaner, disinfecting wipes, several small bottles of hand sanitizer, several pairs of plastic gloves, and disposable masks or personal protective equipment (PPEs). Also, printed on the inside cover of the kit, you will find ‘Retail Showroom Sanitization Recommendations’ covering such topics as COVID-19 Facts and recommendations on how to clean a retail sample space.

To help educate flooring professionals on proper cleaning and maintenance techniques, HMTX Industries recently launched a new continuing education webinar, “The Role of Flooring in Healthy Indoor Spaces.” This session, intended for residential, commercial and healthcare buildings, discusses how to properly clean and maintain flooring while balancing other indoor health concerns. 

“We wanted to create a new CEU course in 2020 that would be of interest to everyone. Then COVID hit and along with that came our customers’ concerns about protecting themselves, their families and their colleagues,” said Rochelle Routman, chief sustainability and quality officer, HMTX. “Flooring plays a role in this, and from our perspective, it’s all part of a broader conversation about healthy indoor spaces. This CEU is very comprehensive in that it covers not just cleaning and disinfecting, but also how to maintain indoor air quality with the increased usage of cleaning products.”

The COVID pandemic has awakened the market to think much more in-depth and clearly about what the healthy living/working environment now means across all industries. 

“Employees and end users must feel comfortable knowing that business owners are doing everything they can to make them feel safe at the office or home environments,” according to Rick Taylor, HMTX director of training.