Food service businesses use it. Your shampoo, hair conditioner and body lotion all have it, your clothes have it if you use liquid fabric softeners when laundering them and your mouthwash contains it if the label has “disinfectant” written on it. Even spermicidal jelly preparations have it.
These products all contain quaternary ammonium salts which are also present in Quaternary Ammonium Disinfectants as well as in other many other end-use formulations such as those mentioned earlier. Generally known as “quats,” quaternary ammonium is used in the manufacture of disinfectants because of their anti-microbial properties.
Preventing transmission of infections is always a challenge, but especially for medical and health care facilities. Infections get transported by interaction of people through their hands, for instance, an infected person touching door handles in a hospital will pass whatever bacteria he has to the next person coming in through that door through those same handles. Relative to circumstances such as these, there has been an increasing demand for previously moistened germicidal wipes to clean and disinfect surfaces and medical equipment such as cardiac catheters and cystoscopes.
These wipes contain biocidal properties known as germicides that cause deactivation of microorganisms which produce diseases. Some of these wipes have formulations containing quaternary ammonium compounds, alcohol quaternary ammonium compounds, chlorine and hydrogen peroxide. The preferred choice of most healthcare and medical facilities is the alcohol-quaternary ammonium wipe.
Non-corrosive to metals, alcohol-quaternary ammonium wipes have been found to be safe for use on hard surfaces which are non-porous and its repeated use will not streak or build up on these surfaces. This is a good reason as any as to why Quaternary Ammonium Disinfectants are popularly used in health care environments. Disinfectants that contain quats not only kill bacteria but virus and fungi as well.
However, disinfectants with quaternary ammonium compounds have been proven ineffective as antiseptics because while they have very low levels of toxicity, prolonged contact with them have caused skin irritation, allergies, respiratory irritation and endocrine disruptions that interfere with hormonal functions in the body.
Quaternary ammonium-carrying disinfectants have proven effective against enveloped viruses and Gram + (positive) and Gram – (negative) types of bacteria but are ineffective against fungi, non-enveloped viruses and bacterial spores, including bacteria that causes tuberculosis.
This kind of disinfectant, although classified as a low level type of disinfectant, has the distinct characteristic of carrying a powerful positive charge which works excellently with surfaces that are negatively-charged, the reason disinfectants containing quaternary ammonium compounds are best for walls, furniture, floors and other surfaces which come into contact with people and become susceptible to acquisition of germs.
Disinfectants containing quats have several advantages over bleach or bleach-based compounds, namely: they are non-damaging to clothing, other fabrics or carpets; they don’t corrode metal pipes or other surfaces; and, although they require longer contact time to work on bacteria, they are able to clean and sanitize surfaces at the same time.
Quaternary ammonium in facial moisturizers and body wash products may make skin smoother and softer almost immediately, but remember that repeated use of products containing these compounds will eventually leave skin and hair dry and flaky and dry and brittle, respectively. Additionally, in its undiluted form, quaternary ammonium disinfectants may cause burns to mucous membranes, eyes and skin.