The incidence of infection in U.S. hospitals is increasing, with treatment-resistant bacteria and fungi on the rise. These organisms are found on hospital equipment, linens, clothing, furniture and patients themselves. As concern over the spread of these organisms grows, the medical industry is working feverishly to contain them. Hospitals also grapple with ways to contain the spread of common infectious organisms, such as those that cause pneumonia, dysentery and urinary tract infections.

One good way to fight bugs and fungi is to scrupulously wash hands – and everything else in a room, including the bed, the drapes, the floor and the door. Sanitation becomes a bigger struggle and a greater need every day, with the expansion of urban centers and population densities on the rise. And hospitals aren’t the only businesses struggling with these needs – restaurants, doctor’s offices, crime labs and other operations have similar problems. But choosing the right cleaner isn’t the only factor; the materials your surfaces, doors and door hardware are made of also have an impact.

How are Commercial Fiberglass Doors Made?

Fiberglass is a polymer – a mix of strong plastics reinforced with tiny glass fibers. Because of this, it has several notable advantages over plastics, as it’s inorganic and significantly stronger. When creating an interior or exterior fiberglass door, glass is melted until it’s a hot enough liquid to then extrude into extremely fine fibers. These fibers a then bundled and adhered and coated with a resin-like material. Much in the same way today’s exterior wood doors are created with composite cores for increased strength, fiberglass doors are made with a manipulated glass core to increase strength. This makes fiberglass a great material option for doors that see a lot of use, as you would see in medical facilities. But there are additional properties of fiberglass that make it the most useful door material for hospitals and labs, because it’s extremely easy to sanitize.

Fiberglass Doors are Non-Porous & Easy to Sterilize

To keep a door as clean as it needs to be in an environment such as an ICU, where sterile conditions are required, is a challenge. Door finishes must be impermeable and must hold up against daily continuous contact with alcohol-based sanitizers. Doors must also be seamless; there should be no cracks or gaps that provide hiding places for bacteria or contamination from one space to another. Doors must be strong enough to withstand rigorous daily washing and cleaning with harsh chemicals. So, what material is best when considering a new door installation at a facility concerned with keeping its portals and surfaces sterile? Answer: fiberglass.

Interior and exterior fiberglass doors are one of the best choices for a sterile environment. Fiberglass is non-porous, meaning bacteria and the like are unable to “soak” into the door, making cleaning easier. Fiberglass doors used for this purpose may also need to be FDA compliant and meet NIH standards. They may also have to be available with a 90-minute fire label, or be storm resistant. Corrosion-resistant fiberglass doors and frames should be made of high-quality materials; they should also be customizable for the unique requirements for the door system’s application.

The best quality doors for sterile environments should offer these qualities:

  • Be rust-free
  • Doors molded in color will never need painting (even in a coastal environment)
  • Durable construction and longevity (should have an outstanding warranty)
  • Custom option for colors, sizes and design
  • Acceptable for use in USDA-related facilities
  • Repairable

Installation of Fiberglass Door Systems

Door systems will vary, depending on the need. For instance an NICU might need a glazed, hermetically sealed sliding door to maintain a controlled environment that helps to prevent cross-contamination. Specialized commercial door hardware like gasketing might be applied to the door to ensure a strong seal in a negative or positive-pressure room. Hands-free access can be achieved through automation, lowering the risk of spreading bacteria. Anytime you can eliminate the need to touch a door while in a medical environment, the better, so fiberglass doors in hospitals and labs are best paired with automated commercial door hardware. Besides easier cleaning, an advantage of fiberglass doors being non-porous is that bacteria can only live so long on a surface, after which it dies and its potential effects are nullified.

Fiberglass’ Anti-Corrosion Properties

Doors in a sterile environment are repeatedly washed and cleansed with strong soaps, water and disinfectant. Hollow metal doors in this environment will have a limited life span, needing to be replaced or repaired and repainted frequently. Fiberglass is simply the best choice when a door is going to be exposed to water, corrosive materials or frequent heavy wash-downs. It can’t warp or rot, doesn’t rust, can’t harbor any bacteria or viruses, and can be customized for virtually any setting, indoor or outdoor.

We supply, install, maintain and repair both interior and exterior doors for specialized organizations like hospitals and laboratories. We can advise you on what’s best for your sterile space, which may include adding additional preventative features like an air curtain. We can also give great suggestions on what types of commercial door hardware to pair your door with. Automation is a great way to cut the chance of contamination, but even manual knobs can be optimized, either with an antimicrobial coating or by choosing antibacterial materials like copper alloys.