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Quats Applied with Cotton Applicators – Ineffective and Unhealthy?

Cleaning professionals often use “quats” (short for “quaternary ammonium compounds”) for the best combination of cleaning and germ-kill performance, and frequently apply this antimicrobial ingredient using cotton towels to clean, sanitize and/or disinfect.

Two Problems with Quats

  1. Cotton textiles (e.g., bar towels, terry and common t-shirt material) deactivate and absorb the active ingredient (APIC, 2013).
  2. Quat exposure is potentially hazardous to health (Virginia Tech, 2014) (European Respiratory Society, 2011).

Good Solution

If you must use cotton and quats:

  1. Use a squirt bottle, rather than sprayer, to avoid aerosolizing. Soak a cotton cloth and apply solution liberally, evenly, and directly to the surface. Increase quat concentration to compensate for deactivation and absorption factors; use test strips to assess quat levels during the process.
  2. Wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves and long sleeve shirts. Use good ventilation to avoid inhaling airborne chemicals.

Better Solution

When possible, use microfiber textiles as they do not bind quats, and offer performance advantages over cotton.

 

Understand the effective use of all chemical disinfectants depends on proper application plus dwell time, and involves exposure to toxics.  Application errors are commonplace, and exposure to chemicals even in minute amounts (e.g., parts-per-trillion) can mimic hormones as endocrine disrupters in people and wildlife.

 

Best Solution

 

Knowing that any use of antimicrobial and cleaning chemistry involves exposure risk, consider non-chemical intervention such as water-only, high-temperature, TANCS® dry steam vapor; shown to be effective in seconds not minutes of contact time in peer-reviewed and other research, using either type of cleaning textile – microfiber or cotton.

 

References

APIC, A. f. (2013). Decreased activity of commercially available disinfectants containing quaternary ammonium compounds when exposed to cotton towels. Retrieved from http://www.ajicjournal.org/article/S0196-6553%2813%2900117-X/abstract?cc=y=

Society, E. R. (2011). Asthma and exposure to quaternary ammonium compounds in healthcare settings. Retrieved from http://erj.ersjournals.com/content/38/Suppl_55/p4936

Tech, V. (2014). Virginia Tech study finds common household chemicals affect reproduction in mice. Retrieved from http://www.vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2014/08/081414-vetmed-disinfectants.html

 

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Quats Applied with Cotton Applicators – Ineffective and Unhealthy?

Created on September 15th, 2015.  Last Modified on September 15th, 2015

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