The housekeeping at your facility may have just properly cleaned all the restrooms with an EPA-registered disinfectant. EPA registration is viewed as an international guide when selecting disinfectants. As instructed, they must have first cleaned all surfaces with a general-purpose cleaner to remove surface soils and then applied the disinfectant. This two-step process is often overlooked in professional cleaning but is necessary to ensure that a floor, counter top, fixture or toilet is properly disinfected. If this process is followed, administrators can be rest assured: They have done their job in keeping their facility clean and healthy.
Well, not so fast.
We now know two things that can happen when disinfecting surfaces that can have a negative impact on the effectiveness of the disinfectant:
- As the disinfectant is used, the quats (quaternary ammonium chloride) – the active ingredients in the disinfectant – are being absorbed into the wipes, cleaning cloths and mop heads.
- In relation to this, not only are the quats getting absorbed into wipes, cloths, and mops, but they are also getting pulled into these items. Quats have positively charged ions and these cleaning applicators typically have negatively charged ions.
In both situations, the effectiveness of the disinfectant is being reduced. This was proved by a simple test. A cleaning cloth was soaked in a disinfectant solution for about 10 minutes. The Quat levels, which were measured before and after the soaking, were cut in half after just 10 minutes. In this case, quats had got absorbed into the cleaning cloth. When this happens, not only does the disinfecting powers of the disinfectant gets reduced, the product will not meet the “kill claims” listed on its label. (All EPA-registered disinfectants will list “kill claims” on their labels. This list includes the germs, bacteria, and pathogens the product has been tested against and designed to eliminate.)
Awareness and Addressing the Problem
If you and your staff in India have never heard of quat binding, you are not alone. The director of environmental services for a major US hospital admits he just learned about quat binding in 2015. Some in the food service industry may have heard about quat binding, but in many cases, facility owners and managers are still in the dark as to what it is.
However, as awareness spreads, medical, food service and other types of facilities are taking steps to address this issue. Among them are the following:
- Use higher concentrations of disinfectant than are called for, especially if many surfaces and fixtures are to be cleaned
If you are using cleaning cloths and spray bottles, do not spray the disinfectant on the cleaning cloth. Instead, spray the disinfectant directly onto the surface to be cleaned; allow adequate dwell time for the product to work (five to 10 minutes); and then wipe. (Cleaning professionals typically are advised to spray the cleaning cloth and not the surface to be cleaned. One reason for this is it can help limit the amount of chemical released into the air. However, when it comes to dealing with quat-binding issues, it is best to directly spray the area to be cleaned and disinfected.)
- Transfer to automated cleaning systems that do not require cleaning cloths or mops; typically, these are spray-and-vac or no-touch
cleaning systems that apply the disinfectant directly to surfaces, rinse these areas, and then vacuum up solution and contaminants.
For many facilities, automating the cleaning process may be the most effective approach because it is also a faster way to clean surfaces. However, at this point, the most important thing is to be aware of quat binding, what it is, why it happens, and the negative implications it can have for the health of a facility.
International Business Development Manager, Kaivac