Here at the Mill, we have a real penchant for things made of brass and copper.
It helps that most of the antique hardware we sell is made of brass and of course, we’ve got some really nifty copper things too.
For thousands of years people have known that copper, and its alloys like brass, have a unqiue and special property inherent in their molecular structure. An Egyptian medical text, dating to the 3rd century B.C. cites the use of copper to sterilize chest wounds and drinking water. The immunity of French copper workers to the cholera epidemic pf 1832 caused a renewed medical interest in the use of copper for antmicrobal purposes. Copper and its alloys posess the ability to kill bacteria, yeast, and fungus rapidly upon contact with their surface; a property known as “Contact Killing”. Sounds pretty deadly right?
As an essential trace element in most living organisms, copper is ubiquitous in our bodies and the world around us; yet, the method of contact killing remains somewhat elusive to scientists even today. Fragmentation of cell DNA appears to be one consistent factor in contact killing, though the complex method of molecular destruction is still being studied extensively.
In a modern world, we tend to see stainless steel as the example of cleanliness. You might think of hospital sterility when you see gleaming steel surfaces. Steel, however, fails to pass the test when it comes to keeping it clean. Brass door handles, old fashioned though they may seem, are now being used in trials at hospitals throughout the world to aid in the reduction of antibiotic resistant bacteria, which looms as one of the largest threats in our worldwide health care system. The EPA has also officially classified copper as the first solid antimicrobial material.
Of course, we are pretty biased about old fashioned things round these parts, but maybe some brass hardware or a copper piece might be in your healthier future? If you’re feeling scholarly, check out this 2011 article from the Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbioloigy. Or, if you’re not feeling scholarly, come browse our amazing selection of antique brass and copper in the hardware section of our website.