Building operators are looking for ways to prepare themselves to reopen for business now that coronavirus social restrictions are starting to be lifted. While everybody can agree on the need to sanitize the surfaces they touch with their hands, many people forget to consider the surfaces they touch with their feet! A properly-implemented sanitizing door mat system can go a long way preventing the spread of COVID-19 and other viruses and bacteria. One of the main points to consider when evaluating whether or not disinfecting door mats can actually prevent the spread of COVID-19 is the type of sanitizing solution used in the mat.
Many sanitizing solutions will kill COVID-19. In fact, Health Canada has published a list of sanitizers that have been approved in the fight against SARS-CoV-2 that you can view by clicking here. But just because a sanitizer will kill the coronavirus doesn’t mean that it’s safe for use on your floors! Both bleach and quaternary sanitizers will kill the coronavirus, but there’s a big difference between them.
Bleach is a common household name for a solution of sodium hypochlorite and water. Sodium hypochlorite, in its pure form, is a water soluble, yellowish liquid that contains about 12% chlorine and is an extremely powerful oxidizing agent. Bleach – even when diluted – will corrode or destroy most metals, react with acids, peroxides, and many other chemicals to produce toxic chlorine gas. Bleach will dissolve paper, cloth, and many other organic materials, and will visibly damage or destroy even the hardiest floor finish. Even in the 5% household strength, bleach is still a potent oxidizer and disinfectant with very high alkalinity. Caution must be used when working with bleach, as even in the diluted household form the fumes can produce severe irritation to the respiratory system. Skin contact can result in mild irritation to outright burns if left for long periods of time or with less-diluted solutions. Prolonged eye contact can cause permanent damage or blindness. Bleach contains NO cleaning agents.
Quat is the common shorthand name for quaternary ammonium chloride compounds. There are about 300 varieties of quaternary sanitizers, and all have varying anti-microbial efficacies. Quats are generally surfactants with cationic (positive) charges. Due to their surfactant make-up, quats contribute cleaning power to their formulas as well as disinfecting and sanitizing action. Quats are low in toxicity and corrosivity, making them very user friendly and simple to use without the typical risks and hazards of bleach.
While the advantage of bleach is ultimately it’s low cost, the rest of its attributes are all disadvantages. Bleach is highly corrosive, contains toxic fumes, dissipates quickly, discolours most fabrics, causes irritation to the eyes and nose, has no cleaning ingredients, dulls floor tiles, and significantly damages floor finish and grout. Bleach is also extremely dangerous if mixed with many common janitorial supply chemicals and cleaners.
Compared to bleach, quaternary disinfectant’s only disadvantage is cost; all quat’s other attributes are huge advantages. Quaternary sanitizers have excellent wide spectrum germ-killing abilities, have low toxicity and corrosivity, are simple to use, have long shelf life, work in a variety of pH ranges, have no odor, and safe on virtually all surfaces. Many quats are available in neutral formulas that are totally floor-safe. In fact, many quaternary disinfectants are food safe! These advantages make quaternary sanitizers the choice disinfectant for most hospitals and health institutions, and make them exceptionally well-suited for use in sanitizing mats.