All You Need to Know About Benzalkonium ChloridePosted on: October 3, 2021
Benzalkonium Chloride – what is it? You might have stumbled upon this name quite often lately as you see it on your hand sanitizers, household disinfectants, and cleaning products. Maybe your mum was looking for a disinfectant online might have asked you about it, but alas, you have no idea what it is.
For the most part, you’d probably know it as “a chemical that can kill some germs”.
That is why we are here to help. After reading this, you should understand benzalkonium chloride better and can better answer your mum’s question. Here, we explain what benzalkonium chloride is, what it is for, its effectiveness, applications, and possible side effects.
What is benzalkonium chloride?
Benzalkonium chloride (BAC) goes by an assortment of scientific names such as:
- alkyl dimethyl benzyl ammonium chlorides
- ammonium alkyl dimethyl (phenylmethyl) chlorides, and
- benzyl-C8-18-alkyl dimethyl chlorides
But don’t get confused because they are essentially the same!
BAC belongs to the family of the quaternary ammonium compounds (Quats) and is well known for being a surfactant and an antimicrobial. It is capable of eradicating fungi, algae, bacteria, and viruses.
Right now, you might be wondering whether BAC can kill SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). The answer is a “Yes”. Researchers have concluded that BAS is a virucide against SARS-CoV-2. In fact, it can also inactivate the growth of other viruses such as:
- SARS-CoV (SARS)
- Hepatitis A, B, C
- Influenza virus
And thanks to the chemical substance being a broad-spectrum antibacterial, it can kill an extensive range of bacteria such as:
- Enterococcus hirae
- Streptococcus pyogenes
- S. aureus
- Salmonella typhosa
That is why you can often find BAC in detergents, alcohol-free disinfectants, and hand sanitizers. The chemical substance doesn’t take a high concentration to work, and just 0.1% of it will be sufficient for topical disinfection.
Is benzalkonium chloride as effective as alcohol when it comes to disinfecting?
So, you looked up “best disinfectants” on the Internet. You come across the terms “Ethanol/ISO disinfectant” and “Quats disinfectant”. Thanks to Google, you now know that the former means an alcohol-based disinfectant and the latter an alcohol-free one. However, you are confused. Which is better?
Alcohol, like Ethanol and ISO (Isopropyl Alcohol), has been widely used in formulating disinfectants as it is known to be a powerful antiseptic that rapidly kills bacteria and viruses. These days, alcohol-based disinfectants still seem to be the dominant sanitizing agent preferred by the general public and those dabbling in medicine.
Despite that, alcohol-free disinfectants containing BAC seem to be slowly taking over the market as more and more researchers have found out that BAC works just as effectively as alcohol in killing bacteria and viruses, including SARS-CoV-2.
A study published by The Journal of Hospital Infection in February 2021 has shown that two solutions containing 0.13% and 0.2% of BAC each inhibited the activity of SARS-CoV-2 within 15 seconds. The solutions were tested in hard water and soil and produced similar results.
Also, a study published by the American Journal of Infection Control in 2019 has demonstrated that just 0.12% of BAC can produce a much more persistent antibacterial efficacy than a 63% ethanol solution. This study indicates that BAC can provide better residual protection on the skin against viruses and bacteria than alcohol, which becomes ineffective once it dries.
Other than that, BAC has more advantages over alcohol for being non-flammable, less toxic, and much gentler on the skin. Unlike an alcohol-based disinfectant, a BAC-based one will not lead to dehydrated, irritated, and cracked skin.
Related: How to Effectively Sanitize Your Entire Home
Products that use benzalkonium chloride
If you pay close attention to the ingredient list of your everyday products, chances are you will spot “benzalkonium chloride”. The application of BAC extends across several different fields. From agriculture, cosmetics and disinfectants, to household and other manufacturing industries.
Some of the products that use benzalkonium chloride include:
- Baby wipes
- Hair conditioners
- Laundry detergents
- Facial lotion
- Antimicrobial soaps
- Ophthalmic solutions
- Algaecides for pools and ponds
- Microbicides for the pulp & paper industry
- Cleaning solutions for roofs, floors, and walls
Side effects of benzalkonium chloride
Though there rarely are reports of BAC being a skin sensitizer, it is still important to take note of the possible side effects the chemical substance might trigger.
BAC is known to be corrosive to the eyes and can potentially injure the corneal surface. It might also cause skin irritation like dermatitis when in long-term exposure or allergic reactions such as hives, itching, skin peeling, shortness of breath, and swelling.
In respect of its toxicity, BAC is in Toxicity Category 3 (slightly toxic/irritating) when applied topically and Toxicity Category 2 (moderately toxic/irritating) when consumed orally. Still and all, BAC is not for ingestion.
People with a compromised skin barrier or eczema should consult a pharmacist or doctor before using a product containing BAC. This is to minimize the risk of getting an allergy. Therefore, when experiencing any of the side effects, do seek medical help immediately.
So… did this article help you understand benzalkonium chloride a little better? We certainly hope it did!
Standing behind the mission to present people with a sanitizer that is “tough on germs, gentle on skin”, our team at Beliefit has ditched the alcohol and incorporated benzalkonium chloride into our Oh! So Peachy Sanitizing Spray.
Our sanitizing spray is formulated without alcohol, parabens, thiazolinone, and formaldehyde, and can eliminate fungi and bacteria up to 99.99% in just 15 seconds.
Besides being suitable for use on any surfaces like household furniture, fabrics, and workout gear, you can also use it on your body. But make sure to hold the bottle approximately 15cm from your body before pulling the trigger! We wouldn’t want you to accidentally ingest it or have it come into contact with your eyes.
Packaging-wise, our team has designed the sanitizing spray in such a way that is easy to use and convenient to bring along anywhere. Just toss it in your bag and you are good to go.