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Why You Should Avoid Quat-Based Disinfectants

Posted by Stephen Steinberg on 01 24, 2021

Why You Should Avoid Quat-Based Disinfectants

Believe it or not, most disinfecting wipes on the market are nearly identical to one another. If you look at their active ingredients, almost all use what are called quaternary ammonium compounds, or quats, to disinfect. That is, except for Vapor Fresh Disinfecting Wipes.

Quats are a legacy disinfectant that have some disturbing health and environmental risks associated with them, including:

Quats Have Skin, Eye & Lung Risks

It’s well known that quaternary ammonium compounds are skin, eye and lung irritants. This means there’s a risk of forming contact dermatitis if quats come in contact with someone who has sensitive skin. There's also a risk of eye and mucous membrane injuries if it comes in contact with your eyes, and an increased likelihood of triggering an asthma attack if exposed for too long. This led to the California Department of Public Health to issue guidance to schools to avoid quats when possible.

Disinfecting is usually a necessary task, but are these risks worth it? Probably not, especially if you’re disinfecting a place meant to improve health and wellness like a gym, fitness center, doctor office or recreation center.

Quats Are A Known Mutagenic

One of the most terrifying facts about quats are their mutagenic and reproductive effects on the body. One study connected quats with neural tube defects in mice embryos, which eventually led to the discovery that quats are specifically linked to developmental and fertility problems among other negative effects on cellular processes.

Quats Pose Reproductive Concerns For Men & Women

There’s also concern about the reproductive toxicity of quats affecting both men and women, which showed both decreased fertility in female mice and decreased sperm count and motility in male mice exposed to two quats commonly found in disinfecting products.

Quats Are Not Great For The Environment

If the health effects of quats haven’t already caused you to throw out every single quat-containing disinfectant you own, wait until you hear the environmental impact of quats. It is estimated that about 75% of all quats used make their way into our sewers and wastewater treatment plants. Their presence in our water systems leads to carcinogenic byproducts, risks of antibiotic resistance and their toxic effects on aquatic life from fish to algae.

Quats Don’t Always Disinfect Better

We all know how serious the need is for effective disinfecting wipes. Even with all the unintended consequences of quats, you could maybe make the argument that they are risks we should accept if quats were truly unmatched in their disinfecting powers. But when we snap back to reality, we see that’s not the case at all.

You can quickly and easily determine how effective a disinfectant is by figuring out how long it takes to disinfect a surface. Luckily, all disinfectants are required to list this information in the directions on their packaging.

Many quat based disinfectants state that after cleaning a surface with their product, the surface must stay visibly wet for 10 minutes before the surface is considered disinfected. To put that in contrast, our citric acid based disinfecting wipe only requires 5 minutes, or twice as fast.

Avoid Quats. Choose Citric Acid & Vapor Fresh!

A smarter alternative would be to consider using a citric acid based disinfectant, which can help you avoid a lot of these health and environmental concerns associated with quaternary ammonium compounds.

Luckily, Vapor Fresh Disinfecting Wipes are completely free of quats and use an innovative citric acid chemistry to help you disinfect!