English (Honk KOng)Hong Kong S.A.R of China

9 July 2020

Common types of disinfectant additives

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Countries across Asia and the Pacific are slowly making their way out of lockdown. But, with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) a continued threat worldwide, the need for strong and effective hygiene procedures is bigger than ever.

As offices and public spaces reopen, facility managers and municipal officials are seeking the best way to slow the spread of COVID-19 and maintain a basic level of normality.

By far, one of the most effective strategies for keeping COVID-19 at bay is regular disinfection with a disinfectant solution. There are multiple options available, but generally, most disinfectants are effective both against coronavirus and other microbes and pathogens. Regularly disinfecting an area sharply lowers the risk of infection.

In this article we take a look at some of the most common disinfectant actives, and what benefits and drawbacks they offer.


One of the most common types of disinfectant actives, quat makes energy-producing enzymes inactive and denatures essential proteins in the cell membrane of viruses and microbes. Quat is effective against gram, bacteria, fungus, yeasts, and viruses.

With this broad microbial spectrum and fast-acting mechanism, quat is one of the most effective disinfectant actives. It is also minimally toxic, does not stain surfaces, and remains stable at high temperatures when compared to organic compounds.

In terms of drawbacks, quat is cationic - positively charged - which means it is not compatible with anionic, or negatively charged, detergents, which are often used in soap. When used in food production areas, quat must also be rinsed after use.


Diamines and triamines work similarly to quat, making energy-producing enzymes inactive and denaturing essential cellular proteins in the cell membrane. They also similarly effective against gram, bacteria, funguses, yeasts and viruses.

Diamines and triamines differ to quat however by tricking germs into ‘seeing’ a different molecule, meaning they are less likely to build up resistance if used periodically with other actives. The other benefits of these actives are similar to quat, offering a range of microbial disinfection, fast action, a low toxicity level, high stability, and a no-stain finish. This also means that food-surfaces must be rinsed after use.


Chlorine is commonly used as a disinfectant in swimming pools, but its use extends far beyond that. It works by oxidizing proteins and lipids, damaging the cell wall and membrane of microbes. It has a wide microbial spectrum and works effectively on the same microbes as quats, diamines, and triamines.

One main benefit of chlorine is that it is not affected by the hardness of the water used. This can be useful in areas with very hard water. Chlorine is also an economic choice, without being any less fast-acting than its competition, and is ideal for food surfaces and cleaning up bodily fluids.

Chlorine can be corrosive to metals, including stainless steel and aluminum, and also irritate the skin. It needs to be kept at a stable temperature and away from light, air, and organic materials. Chlorine suffers from an incompatibility with detergent, and there is always a risk of harmful gas release. Chlorine in a liquid state also has a very short shelf life.


One of the most common types of disinfectants often found in hand sanitizer. Alcohol works by coagulating, or denaturing, proteins and affecting solubility and hydration of lipids. Fully effective against a spectrum of microbes, alcohol disinfectant does not require rinsing after use, evaporates quickly, and acts fast.

However, a solution of 60% alcohol or more is needed to be fully effective. It is also not effective when organic matter is present, and highly flammable, which can pose a risk. The fast evaporation of alcohol disinfectant may mean contact times for the microbe in question need to be quick.

Finally, there is always the risk that alcohol disinfectants can attack rubber seals or materials incompatible with ethanol if used regularly.

Ask the experts

At NCH Asia Pacific we offer a wide range of disinfectant solutions allowing you to choose the most suitable solution for you. We are striving to make it simple and straightforward for facilities managers to keep areas hygienic and sanitary.

For more information, get in touch via our online contact form, or click here to learn more about our coronavirus solutions.

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