A real estate columnist recently alleged that doorknobs were traditionally brass due to brass’s innate germ-killing properties. That’s funny. Although germ theory and brass hardware both gained favor in the 1800s, brass hardware was a home-decorating fad like any other. The gleaming, weighty metal had little trouble edging out the dull, black iron– which itself had encountered no difficulty edging out latches and locks that featured leather straps and wooden bars. And when chrome came along, brass faded.
The real truth about brass and ebola: Brass contains a lot of copper. Copper slaughters the heck out of bacteria, and viruses, and fungi. It’s naturally antimicrobial. Hospitals are starting to look at copper for coating “touch surfaces,” the grab-bars, door knobs, push plates, and etc., that suffer the slimy and grimy assault of human skin. Even tarnished, copper is waaaay more antimicrobial than stainless steel.
But neither copper, nor its brass and bronze offspring, is magic. Copper takes time to suffocate, corrode, and collapse the walls and membranes of perching microbes. It’s not totally clear how copper breaches those walls, but it does take some time. An hour or two. Or more, depending on the amount of saliva, booger, sneeze juice, etc., that we’re talking about.
AND if your brass hardware is lacquered, as much of it is, then that copper is essentially wearing an ebola-proof hazmat suit and will not have access to the germs.
A far more effective means of not getting ebola off a doorknob is to stop touching doorknobs altogether. Stop touching everything, while you’re at it. It’s a germy, slimy world. Have you noticed how many people touch the bottom of their own shoes? So yeah, just stop touching things that other people touch. And choose your hardware based on what looks nicest.