Quaternary Ammonium Compounds

The quaternary ammonium compounds (or quats) are a family of low-level disinfectants (according to Spaulding) with most quats being derived from benzalkonium. Quats are reacted to provide a varity of chain lengths and molecular strutures so that the mix of quats used in the disinfectant provide a wider range of efficacy than a single chain. Quats are generally used to disinfect countertops, toilets and other high touch environmental surfaces and floors. They are low cost, and used in many applications. Quaternary ammonium compounds are cationic disinfectants. This means the quats chain carries a positive (plus) charge on one end of the molecule; many soils and soaps/detergents carry an anionic or negative (minus) charge. Quats can also bind with, or be absorbed by, materials and fibers including cotton (e.g., cleaning rags and mops). Quats generally take 3-10 minutes to disinfect, and should be used with cleaning tools that are tested to be compatible.

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