Is your synthetic turf provider telling you their turf is “antimicrobial” or “contains antimicrobial additives”?
There’s a big difference between those two claims, here’s what you need to know and ask to avoid being ripped off
Whether you’re building a playground where young children are crawling around on the surface or a dog facility where odor-control is key to a successful synthetic turf investment, the use of antimicrobial additives in your turf can help keep the surface more sanitary and better smelling.
However not all antimicrobial solutions are created equal. This is an area of the turf industry where customers are typically ill-educated and easily taken advantage of. As part of Perfect Turf’s long tradition[i] of getting the “BS” out of the synthetic turf industry, here’s what you should know about antimicrobial additives versus antimicrobial environments.
We’ll categorize the available ‘solutions’ into three categories: Natural Properties, antimicrobial infill and antimicrobial additives.
This first ‘solution’ is a hallmark of many less reputable companies in the turf industry. They argue that because the turf is made of plastic. which is not a hospitable environment to bacteria, it is “antimicrobial by nature”. There is some truth to it based on the University of Pennsylvania research that showed synthetic turf athletic fields to have about 10% of the live bacteria (both good and bad) than a natural grass field.[ii] Saying that is enough proof to point to not needing actual antimicrobial additives in the product is quite a stretch – That’s not enough to protect against ammonia, feces and more. It is also a contested claim, see this article for more on that.
Using regular synthetic turf is typically fine for a regular landscape application, but usually not for playgrounds or especially dog facilities! The whole reason the turf industry has spent millions of dollars collectively making antimicrobial turf is to address the widely known and large problem of odor and sanitary concerns in these applications.
This second solution has more legitimacy, though only for certain applications: The turf company offers an infill with antimicrobial additives to help deal with sanitary concerns and odor problems.
There are a few problems with this method: The infill usually sits on the bottom 10% of the turf, meaning that the top 90% of the turf, the most exposed parts, are totally unprotected.
The second issue is the amount of antimicrobial agents used in the infill. It is treated as “confidential information” by the companies that make this type of “antimicrobial-infused” infills.
While we cannot make definitive statements for that reason, we will share that when we made PetGrass®, our own turf with actual antimicrobial additives built into the yarns and backing during the manufacturing process, we found that we needed a minimum 2% additive rate in the yarns to see the full efficacy of the additives. This increased our costs significantly, but we felt it was worth it to offer our customers a product they can trust.
The third and fourth issues are specific to dog applications. Standard synthetic turf, aka landscape grass” regardless of pile height or whether it has a “Pet Turf” name on it or not, was never constructed specifically for dogs. Dog facilities need to deal with large volumes of urine, as well as the occasional dog with diarrhea or that vomits. This leads to a need for increased drainage to avoid puddles of urine creating terrible smells and causing serious sanitation issues.
Turf not made for dogs doesn’t have that increased drainage, and if it did there would likely be problems retaining infill. See below for the drainage holes on a standard synthetic turf with a “Pet Turf” name and the holes on PetGrass®:
|Generic Pet Turf||PetGrass|
Finally, another reason turf made specifically for dog facilities shouldn’t have infill: That diarrhea and vomit can get trapped in it and create odor and sanitary issues.
With an outdoor dog park, a turf with antimicrobial infill solution may work because there is a relatively low dogs per square foot per hour usage. However, in a dog facility, with a high dog per square foot per hour ratio, it is much easier to wash a no-infill turf until such contaminants are watered down enough to drain through, while with infilled turf it’s extremely hard if not impossible.
If you’re doing your whole backyard and only have a dog or two, you could consider a low-profile “Pet Turf” with no additives other than the additive infused infill to save money. The problems that exist in this solution are largely based on high-volume usage.
If you’re doing a playground application, you’re already going to need to use infill. So using Envirofill infill for an added layer of protection seems to make sense.
The industry gold-standard employed by every major doggy daycare, a huge amount of new local doggie daycares, and an increasingly huge percent of new playgrounds, is buying turf made with antimicrobial agents built straight into the product.
From our experience, this is the only solution that works well for dog facilities. No other turf-based solution comes close, and the well-researched choices made by national doggy daycare chains like Camp Bow-Wow and Paradise 4 Paws.
This type of turf requires special manufacturing requirements with a significant investment of capital, which is why so few companies offer it and so many peddle lesser solutions. The two most notable brands of turf that pack antimicrobial additives into their yarn are Foreverlawn and Perfect Turf.
As other brands offer or claim to offer turf with these same properties, remember to be careful on a few fronts:
- What parts of the turf has Antimicrobial additives? Is it just the yarn, just the backing or both?
- What % of the product is composed of antimicrobial additives? If they won’t tell you, then make your own decision on what that says.
For playgrounds this ultra-safe approach may be overkill. A home playground might prefer saving money for example, or some cities working on a tight budget.
For backyards of dog owners, antimicrobial infused turf products are not always needed. This can be difficult to decide on your own, but a rule of thumb is that an area of over 125 sf per dog, with just an hour or two a day of use, can typically be done with regular landscape turf, Envirofill infill and routine maintenance.
To get better consultation, please contact us and we’ll discuss your situation with you.
[i] In 2007 we published our first version of the “Consumer Buying Guide” to help educate consumers and help them avoid getting ripped off or making a poor turf selection for the planned application. Get your copy here