chemical bottle

One of the best ways to reduce the probability of quat binding, say the experts, is to switch from cotton to microfiber cloths or mops. Not only will this address the issue of quat binding, but it will also improve the cleaning process.

“Microfiber is a better cleaning tool than cotton,” says Hicks. “But not all microfiber is created equal, so you need to do your research. If you continue to use quats, buy microfiber that doesn’t have cotton in it. Microfiber is also more effective at soil removal, and soil will deplete the active ingredient [in disinfectants].”

Like Hicks, Wilcox favors microfiber to prevent quat binding and remove soil and pathogens during the disinfection process. She also highlights its sustainability benefits.

“Microfiber may be more expensive but, looking at the big picture, they can be washed about 500 times,” she says. “They last and they don’t cause quat binding, so you aren’t wasting chemicals.”

While industry experts agree on the use of microfiber versus cotton, some prefer to use disposable products, such as single-use microfiber mop pads or cloths that transform into pre-saturated wipes with the addition of a quat-based chemical.

“I think disposable microfiber is the way the industry is trending,” says Carrizales. “A lot of hospitals use microfiber, but they either self-launder or use rental microfiber. Unless they have a specialized machine, they can damage the microfiber, making it less effective, or destroy it, making it more susceptible to quat binding. You can also have cross-contamination with different microfibers that are laundered throughout the facility. And if you launder off-site, there’s a lot that you don’t have control over once the microfiber leaves the premises.”

Perfecting The Process

Switching from cotton to microfiber is the first step in preventing quat binding. But how custodians apply the disinfectant is as important as what type of cloth they use.

“In healthcare, [EVS staff] should look at the process and be mindful of how they’re using the products they currently have,” says McGarvey. “Workers need to be trained to make sure they’re not leaving cloths submerged in the disinfectant, unless they’re using wipes that don’t lead to quat binding. If they leave that wipe submerged for more than 15 minutes, chances are they will suffer quat binding.”

Instead, when using a mop and bucket, McGarvey advises custodians to “dip it, wring it out and use it, but don’t return it to the bucket right away. Set it on the cart until you’re ready to use it again.”

He also recommends applying disinfectant directly to the cloth and then wiping down the surface, or applying the chemical directly to the surface and then using the cloth to wipe that surface.

If the use of cotton and quats cannot be avoided, Rathey offers the following suggestions:
• Increase quat concentration to compensate for deactivation and absorption factors. Use test strips to assess quat levels during the process.
• For non-floor surfaces, use a squirt bottle rather than sprayer to avoid aerosolizing. Soak a cotton cloth and apply the solution liberally, evenly and directly to the surface.
• Wear personal protective equipment such as gloves and long-sleeve shirts. Use good ventilation to avoid inhaling airborne chemicals.

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