How Quats Work

Quats destroy bacteria, viruses, molds and fungi.  The quat’s positive charge helps it adhere to the microorganism while dissolving its cell walls.  Quats need to be in contact with the surface being disinfected or sanitized for a period of time to completely destroy all of the microorganisms that are present on the surface.  Time varies by product and method of application, so check product labels for proper use instructions.

HOWITWORKSQuats are positively-charged surface agents (surfactants).  Quats bind well to negatively-charged bacterial membranes.  This accounts for the fast speed of kill and broad spectrum activity associated with quats.  Just as a piece of steel is attracted to and attaches itself to a magnet, quats attach themselves to an organism’s cell walls.  This causes the cell wall to break down.  Once this occurs, the cell is destroyed.

Using Quat-Based Disinfectant Products Correctly

To get the best results from a quat-based disinfectant, you must apply it properly.  First, carefully read and follow label directions for the product.  If the application involves disinfection, preservation or water treatment, the product label will have an EPA registration number.  Click Labeling Information to learn how to read a product label.

View EPA container / product labeling system

Assorted cleaning products

Several factors are important:

Concentration – Commercial and industrial use products are often shipped as concentrates.  Prior to use, properly-trained personnel wearing appropriate personal protection equipment must mix the quat-based disinfectant with the right amount of water (the correct dilution rate) according to label directions.

Application – Use the proper application method described on the product label.

Contact Time – To be effective, disinfectants need to be in contact with microorganisms (germs) for a specific amount of time.  If not left long enough on the surface, they cannot do their job completely.
All quat-based products have labeling that defines how long the product must remain in contact with the surface being disinfected.

Where and How to Apply Quat-Based Antimicrobial Products

This is a typical Quat-based disinfectant label. Because all products are different, be sure to read the label on YOUR product and carefully follow the directions.

See Labeling Information