The final part of this three-part article gives tips using quaternary ammonium chloride products.

To reduce the threat of quat binding, custodial executives must train staff on the pros and cons of various disinfecting techniques. There are three ways disinfectants can be applied to surfaces.

• Spray and wipe: Directly applying disinfectant to the surface eliminates the potential of quat binding. Unfortunately, there are several downsides to this method, including difficulty covering hard-to-reach areas, and overspray and inhalation of the chemical.

“Using a spray bottle presents other issues related to ensuring dwell time on a surface for a minimum of 30 seconds to allow the sanitizer to be effective and aerosol dispersion impacting their patron’s dining experience,” says Huston.

• Dip and wipe: In this method, a dry cloth is dipped into disinfectant for a few seconds and then excess solution is wrung out. Although it can initially reduce the problem of quat binding, absorption can still occur over the time that the same cloth or mop is used.

• Soak and wipe: A common approach for disinfecting is to soak cloths in the quat solution for 10 minutes (or for many hours) before use. The biggest concern about this approach is that cotton cloths absorb quats.

Quat binding is not visible to the naked eye. This means that no matter what method is used for applying disinfectants, there are no signs one can look for in hopes of avoiding absorption problems.

“Therein lies the problem — the person using the disinfectant has no idea when it becomes ineffective, so they go along their merry way in blissful ignorance while people continue to get sick because the solution was ineffective,” says John Scherberger, principal, Healthcare Risk Mitigation, Spartanburg, South Carolina.

So what can be done? First, although quat binding can’t be seen, its occurrence can be detected using a special test kit. Distributors can offer their customers inexpensive quat test strips.

“The disinfectant should be tested, first with no cloths, mops or rags present,” says Hicks. “If the test strip verifies the solution has the available ppm matching the product label, that is good.”

Once the solutions passes muster, add mops, cloths or rags to the verified chemical and retest in five minutes. If the test strip now reveals that the solution is no longer within the label’s ppm, the quat is off label and useless as a disinfectant, says Hicks.

Another important step in preventing quat binding is to evaluate the cleaning tools. Quats and cotton simply don’t mix, so it’s important to rid custodial closets of one or the other. Switch to hydrogen peroxide cleaners if wanting to keep cotton, says Hicks.

Rather than using cotton mops, terrycloth towels or t-shirt type rags for cleaning, use microfiber or micro denier textiles with quat cleaners.

“There is a small amount of quat binding with these textiles, but the amount is so insignificant it is a non-issue,” says Scherberger.

To further simplify the process, some manufacturers offer disposable wipes made of textiles that are specifically designed to be soaked with quat disinfectants.

Other manufacturers s offer quat disinfectants at concentrations sufficient to compensate for quat absorption. These products are diluted at such a level that even after textiles have absorbed the quat, there is still a sufficient concentration of the chemical to meet Environmental Protection Agency regulations for disinfectants.

Because of their cost and effectiveness, quat-based chemicals aren’t going away anytime soon, which means quat binding will continue to plague restaurants and other foodservice facilities. With such a strong focus on disinfecting, distributors can help custodial managers guarantee proper disinfecting by taking a second look at chemical dilutions, textiles and application methods. 

Becky Mollenkamp is a freelance writer based in St. Louis.

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Quat Binding A Bigger Issue In Foodservice Industry