By their nature, plastic banknotes are cleaner than paper notes. The ‘paper’ is made from cotton, which makes the surface textured and easily capable of absorbing dirt, bacteria and – to a lesser extent - viruses. In plastic notes, the surface is smoother, non-absorbent and can even be wiped clean. Here are some other reasons why plastic beats paper when it comes to hygiene and cleanliness:

Bacteria and viruses
Scientists at Harper Adams University found that bacteria commonly found on everyone’s hands are much less likely[1] to stick to plastic banknotes than paper banknotes. The research found that “the substrate from which banknotes are produced has a significant influence on both the survival and adherence of bacteria to banknotes. Smooth, polymer surfaces provide a poor means of adherence and survival.”

Is contactless really any better?
Plastic cards, payment machines, cash machines…they’re all surfaces that are touched or handled by many different people. So, they’re all capable of carrying bacteria and viruses, just like bank notes. Quoted in an article in Central Banking magazine, Christine Tait-Burkard of the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute said: “unless someone is using a banknote to sneeze in”, the risk of transmission is very small.

Don’t plastic banknotes get dirty?
Naturally, all banknotes are exposed to all sorts of dirt and grime during their lifetime.  Traditional paper banknotes are porous and absorb oils, dirt and fat onto their surface so they look dirty and go floppy.  Plastic banknotes are made of a non-absorbent polymer which is harder for oil and dirt to stick to. This means that plastic notes stay cleaner for longer.  Even when they do get dirty the can be easily wiped clean. The special plastic core also retains its shape throughout the banknote’s life.


[1] Harper Adams University, Professor Frank Vrieskoop, 6th December 2016, “New plastic banknotes will harbour less bacteria than the old ‘paper’ ones” says research, [online], Available at: https://www.harper-adams.ac.uk/news/202960/new-plastic-banknotes-will-harbour-less-bacteria-than-the-old-paper-ones-says-research

Want to know more about plastic banknotes?



Banknotes that last longer, take more wear and tear and cost taxpayers less to make.


Advanced security features make counterfeiting plastic banknotes virtually impossible.


A smoother surface means less dirt, bacteria and viruses.


Made from materials that can be recycled to reduce environmental impact.