Cleaning up the reputation of self-cleaning glass

The British Standard on self-cleaning roof glass has done much to clarify what the term really means. But, according to one of the drivers behind the new benchmark, it hasn’t completely stopped some in the industry from taking liberties with the term. Paul Higgins, commercial and procurement manager for TuffX explains.

There’s nothing a dubious marketer likes more than an indefinable word. Whether it’s hi-fi, low-calorie, superfast, energy-saving or anti-ageing, it’s a quick-fix to sell a low-spec product on a premium tag that no-one can ever pin you down and force you to prove.

That was very much the case with the ‘self-cleaning’ tag on conservatory roof glass until BS EN 1096 was introduced in 2016, finally giving a clear and irrefutable definition to what the product should be.

However, according to one of the driving forces behind developing the standard, the spectre of the label’s misuse is still not fully exorcised – and it is the reputation of the whole industry, as well as the unwitting consumer, that comes off worst as a result.

True self-cleaning glass is a premium product resulting from massive investment into development and cutting-edge manufacturing technology, and it should be treated and marketed as such. But when a ‘sort-of’ nearly self-cleaning glass can be substituted for literally a tenth of the price, it’s hardly surprising that so many businesses are still trying to get away with it, especially when the unsuspecting homeowner may not recognise the difference until it’s too late.

The two products are actually very different. True self-cleaning glass works by photocatalytic process where the effect of sunlight on the special coating causes the surface to become hydrophilic, where it clings to water in a flat layer rather than forming droplets.

The cheaper version is simply a liquid that is wiped on the surface by the glass processor to give the opposite effect, causing the surface to repel the droplets (hydrophobic).

It’s not only less effective and visually attractive but potentially may need reapplying every couple of years.

The introduction of BS EN 1096 in 2016 may have clarified the standard but it still hasn’t stopped many companies from muddying the waters with vague claims and false promises, he continued.

Every TuffX conservatory roof product is made with genuine hydrophilic glass that carries the BS EN 1096 label, but the same cannot be said for many others.

We actually wish some of our competitors would start using BS EN 1096 so that we could compete with them on a like-for-like basis rather than see them undercutting the rest of the industry with cheaper alternatives.

In self-cleaning glass, we have a product with real benefits to the consumer, with a name and definition that the consumer should be able to trust.

No one can stop the sale of cheap alternatives, in this industry or any other, but if we all help to promote genuine self-cleaning glass as the valuable premium product that it is, at least we can help homeowners to see the difference and make an informed choice on that basis.