Switching from cotton to microfiber can reduce the likelihood of quat binding problems, but some experts believe there is an easier way: switch disinfectants.

“To me, the simplest way of getting around this situation is to go with a different disinfectant, like a hydrogen peroxide or bleach-based product,” says Hicks. “Then it doesn’t matter what cloth or mop you’re using to apply the disinfectant.”

Wilcox agrees that other classes of chemicals or processes could serve as a substitute for quats. However, she points out that peroxide-based products can be costly, and their kill claim is not as broad. Other options include hypochlorous acid, chlorine dioxide, steam and UV light.

“Hypochlorous acid in tablet or on-site generation machine form is a great choice,” she says. “It has great kill claims, like quats and chlorine bleach; it is neutral pH; it doesn’t cause primary asthma; and in solid tablet form, it is shelf-stable for three years — or a machine can make it on demand.”

According to Wilcox, it doesn’t matter what type of material you use to wipe with when applying hypochlorous acid, although she still recommends microfiber due to its sustainability and efficacy of soil removal.

Healthcare facilities may also want to consider alternative disinfectants because quats are known to cause damage to certain materials. Hicks is aware of one hospital that was using quats to disinfect patient beds. The hospital had to switch to a different chemical solution when they discovered that the disinfectant was causing the plastic to deteriorate.

Regardless of what disinfectant hospitals use, education and training is imperative to determine surface compatibility and — more importantly — protect public health.

“Knowing what classes of chemicals cause skin, eye and respiratory irritation; exacerbation of asthma; materials compatibility; and exposure toxicity are all important,” notes Wilcox. “Seek out an expert to help educate your facility, and work trials to pick the best and most appropriate product and process for you.” 

KASSANDRA KANIA is a freelancer based in Charlotte, North Carolina.

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Tips To Prevent Quat Binding