Quaternary Sanitation In Your Kitchen
Keeping your kitchen clean is one of the most basic steps in food safety and sanitation. But cleanliness and sanitation are two different things. After washing all surfaces, a sanitizer should be used to ‘finish the job’, and there are two main types that are typically used. Chlorine bleach is common and has been used for years, but the smell and abrasiveness can be off-putting. Luckily, there’s another type of sanitizer that is used by many: quaternary ammonium compounds.
While chlorine bleach may be the easiest and most widely-used type of sanitation for kitchens, there are benefits to using quaternary ammonium compounds as well. If you’re unfamiliar with these compounds, you may recognize some of their more well-known brand-names such as Lysol, and these are sometimes grouped into the shortened name ‘quats’. The active ingredient in this type of sanitizer will be listed on the product label, e.g. alkyl (C12, C14, C16) dimethyl benzyl ammonium chloride. Regardless of what you use, the importance is that the sanitizing fluid kills microorganisms effectively.
The first step is to thoroughly clean the surfaces, and then your quat solution can be applied to sanitize the item - if you’re using chlorine, that is. If you plan to use a quat solution, then it can double as both cleaner and sanitizer! Encore Facilities says, ‘Anything that will come into contact with food must be sanitized. This includes such things as pots, pans, countertops, dishes, slicers, cooking utensils, silverware, and glassware. Surfaces that will not come into any contact with food do not necessarily need to be sanitized and will suffice with just cleaning.’ Unlike bleach-based sanitizers, quats can often effectively kill germs on surfaces that have not been fully washed and rinsed.
Most of the sanitizing products need to be mixed with water for the correct concentrations that meet the specifications set by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). For quaternary ammonium compounds, that concentration is 200 ppm. There are test strips available to help in this process. The quat solution usually must remain on the surface to be sanitized for at least 10 minutes, and it also may have to be rinsed off before food can be placed on said surface. Be sure to always read the directions for whichever solution you plan to use, as instructions can differ between individual products.
When it comes to sanitizers and anti-microbials, quaternary solutions are a viable and widely-used choice! Deciding what is right for your setup may boil down to individual needs and time constraints, so have a look at both quats and bleach to see which is right for you.