Quat-based disinfectants are popular cleaning and disinfecting solutions used to kill bacteria, mold, and viruses. When used properly quats are highly effective. When used with the wrong cleaning tools, quat disinfectants become less effective and the disinfecting that you think is killing bacteria is not actually happening, even when you’re using the right dilution ratio.
A quat or quaternary ammonia chloride, is a common, highly effective ingredient found in disinfectants. Quats are Cationic (positively charged) ions that disinfect surfaces by binding to the negatively charged membranes of germs to break down their outer cell wall.
Opposites attract. Quats are positively charged. Common cleaning tools like microfiber cloths or terry rags, which are used to wipe down surfaces, are Anionic (negatively charged).
When Does Quat Binding Occur?
Quat binding is a result of improper cleaning procedures. Quat binding occurs when positively charged quats are attracted and absorbed into negatively charged rags and/or cloths.
Common practice is to let a rag and/or cloth sit in a disinfectant solution prior to cleaning a surface. This is not best practice. When a rag is left to sit in a disinfectant solution, quats bind to the cloth and are never released.
Why is Quat Binding Dangerous?
When quat binding occurs the disinfectant is no longer performing at the efficacy you’d typically expect and is NONCOMPLIANT with EPA manufacturer usage instructions.
Quat binding reduces the efficacy of the disinfectant by reducing the parts per million (ppm). When the concentrate of quats are reduced, the disinfectant doesn’t effectively remove and/or destroy germs from the surface.
Pathogens (germs that cause disease) that were not totally eradicated from the surface may be producing microorganisms resistant to the disinfectant.
How Do I Know if Quat Binding is Occurring?
Quat binding is not visible to the eye.
You will not be able to determine if quat binding is occurring just by looking at your rag or surface. There are no clear signs or signals to alert you if and when quat binding begins.
The best way to determine if quat binding is happening is to test the quat activity with a quat strip. Quat strips test to make sure the disinfectant solution has the proper ppm.
How Can I Avoid Quat Binding?
Review your Cleaning Procedure
The best way to avoid quat binding is to review your cleaning procedure. Do you let your rag sit in a container of disinfectant solution? If yes, then it is time to change your cleaning procedure.
There are generally three different ways to apply disinfectants to surfaces: spray and wipe, dip and wipe, soak and wipe.
Soak and Wipe
A cloth is left in a disinfectant solution for a period of time and then removed when the cleaning procedure is going to be performed.
Soak and wipe leads to quat binding. Avoid letting your rag sit in a container of disinfectant.
Dip and Wipe
A cloth is dipped into a disinfectant solution, wrung out, and applied to the surface.
Dip and wipe will initially reduce the chance of quat binding, but over time the rag will still begin to absorb quats from the disinfectant solution.
If you use the dip and wipe or soak and wipe method with a quat based disinfectant, change your cleaning procedure. Don’t let your cloth sit in the container of disinfectant.
Spray and Wipe
Spray and wipe is considered best practice.
The disinfectant is applied directly to the surface, allowed to dwell and then wiped away.
This method eliminates the potential for quat binding.
Use a Non-Woven Wiper or Single-Use Disposable Cloth
When using a quat-based disinfectant, choose a cleaning tool that has no charge.
Most non-woven wipers do not carry a charge and are safe to use with quat disinfectants.
The best alternative to avoid quat-binding is a single-use, disposable cloth.
Follow Manufacturers Guidelines
Always make sure you adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Check to make sure your solution is properly concentrated and you are using the recommended procedures for proper disinfection.
Using the right commercial cleaning supplies and tools can help reduce germs and the spread of illness throughout your facility.
If you’re located in the United States, Puerto Rico, or the Caribbean, Imperial Dade has a wide variety of disinfectants that effectively kill bacteria, mold, and viruses in your building.
Contact an Imperial Dade Specialist for help choosing the right disinfecting product to keep your facility and its occupants safe.