Serving the Commercial Painting Market

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Antimicrobial, Antibacterial, Microbicidal: What’s the Difference?

in Paint Innovations

Some of today’s advanced coatings are formulated to kill bacteria or prevent the growth of mold and fungus on painted surfaces, even long after the paint has been applied.

By Steve Revnew

Three terms used to describe these coatings – antimicrobial, antibacterial, microbicidal – are often misunderstood and misused. Each is significantly different, so understanding them will help you steer customers to the right paint product for their specific project needs.


  • When microbes grow on the painted surface, they can cause staining and deterioration. This reduces the effectiveness of the coating. Coatings that contain an antimicrobial can inhibit the growth of these microorganisms, such as mildew and mold. Antimicrobial agents protect the paint film from degradation. They also inhibit the growth of bacterial odor.
  • The term antimicrobial is more commonly known because it can be used in product claims across a variety of materials – like shower curtains, toilet seats, and other household products.


  • Antibacterial agents are generally used to inhibit the growth of bacteria.
  • As employed in paint and coatings, antibacterial agents typically only inhibit the growth of common microbes that make up harmful bacteria. This means they only protect the paint film itself.


  • Generally speaking, microbicidal substances or compounds go a step further by actually killing microscopic organisms on the surface.
  • Paints formulated with these properties are designed to kill microorganisms (such as bacteria or other infection-causing microorganisms) on painted surfaces.
  • The advent of microbicidal paint represents a major breakthrough in the industry with far-reaching benefits for not only healthcare facilities but other projects at places like athletic facilities, schools, day care centers, senior care communities, residential housing, hospitality settings and cruise ships.

Introducing Paint Shield®

Paint Shield® from Sherwin-Williams is the first EPA-registered microbicidal paint. Paint Shield kills greater than 99.9 percent of Staph (Staphylococcus aureus), MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), E. coli (Escherichia coli), VRE (Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis) and Enterobacter aerogenes within 2 hours of exposure on the paint surface.

About the author

A chemist by training, Steve Revnew is Senior Vice President, Product Innovation at Sherwin-Williams.

This article was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of the Sherwin-Williams CommercialPro newsletter. Get more business-building tips and info on products, services, discounts and project solutions on the Sherwin-Williams contractor website

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