Coating Image
These images show the bacterial load on a coated and uncoated computer keyboard, cell phone, and cutting board with raw chicken. (Credit: Anish Tuteja)

Developed by a team of immunologists, a durable coating proved deadly to SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), E. coli, MRSA, and a variety of other pathogens. It killed 99.9 percent of microbes even after months of repeated cleaning, abrasion, and other punishment on real-world surfaces.

The coating, which is clear and can be brushed or sprayed on, gets its durability and germ-killing power by combining tried-and-true ingredients in a new way. It uses antimicrobial molecules derived from tea tree oil and cinnamon oil, both used for centuries as safe and effective germ killers that work in under two minutes. The coating’s durability comes from polyurethane.

The antimicrobials tested are classified as ‘generally regarded as safe’ by the FDA, and some have even been approved as food additives. The researchers found that their particular combination of ingredients is even safer than many of today’s antimicrobials.

The results of the study’s durability tests suggest that the coating could keep killing germs for six months or longer before its oil begins to evaporate and reduce its disinfectant power. But even then, it can be recharged by wiping it with fresh oil; the new oil is reabsorbed by the surface, starting the cycle again.