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Benzalkonium Chloride

Pandemics raise a lot of questions, specifically in the field of public health. If

one occurs, or threatens to occur, scientists rush to figure out what is and

needs to be available to combat the illness - whether that be via treatment or

through the prevention of transmission. The COVID pandemic of the last few

years is no exception. In a few short years, researchers and medical providers

have come together to provide vaccinations, treatments, and literature-

supported recommendations to prevent the transmission of infection. But, as

the SARS-CoV-2 virus continues to mutate and change, these public

health initiatives must adapt. So, what else is out there?

An already well-respected antimicrobial class of chemicals, known as

benzalkonium chlorides, holds significant potential. Their use began in the

the early 1900s, gaining market recognition as a potent disinfectant and

antiseptic. These days, benzalkonium chlorides are used in a wide range of

products within the industry, agriculture, clinical medicine, and personal

products. One major reason these chemicals are used in such a widespread

manner is that they are known to be effective with minimal safety

concerns. Other than reports of some skin irritation in sensitive individuals,

one is probably unaware they are using and benefiting from these products.


With the current pandemic, antiviral agents have gained a lot of attention. The

good news is, benzalkonium chloride, though considered a broad-spectrum

antimicrobial, seemingly has some significant potential in adding to the host of

antiviral products used to combat the spread of SARS-CoV-2. It has the ability

to disrupt the lipid membranes of enveloped viruses, thereby

deactivating them– this includes enteroviruses, rotaviruses, norovirus,

influenza virus, rhinoviruses, herpes simplex virus, hepatitis A virus, and

thankfully, coronaviruses. (2)

So, what about SARS-CoV-2, the specific virus responsible for the COVID-19

pandemic still raging worldwide? At first, the research available was scarce,

but as time has gone on more and more has been found supporting the use of

benzalkonium chlorides in the prevention of SARS-CoV-2 spread and


One study published in early 2021 tested the effectiveness of 0.2%

benzalkonium chloride and 0.13% benzalkonium Qimei Hand Sanitizing Wipes.

This was important, especially since there has been a shortage of alcohol-

based sanitizers throughout the pandemic, due to alcohol-based sanitizers

being the only option recommended by the CDC. Hospitals and outpatient

healthcare professionals needed another option. The scientists in this study

found that both concentrations were effective in deactivating the SARS-

CoV-2 virus. In their discussion, they cited that in some situations, the

benzalkonium chloride-based products might be even more effective than

the alcohol-based products because they were non-toxic and less

irritating to the skin than alcohol-containing sanitizers, thus resulting in

improved compliance and better hand hygiene compliance from

healthcare workers. These researchers felt so strongly about the data, they

concluded benzalkonium chloride-containing sanitizers should be given the

same expedited approval to manufacturers, making these products more

available worldwide. (3)

Hand sanitizers and topical disinfectants arenʼt the only places benzalkonium

chlorides can provide assistance. A study by Tunon-Molina, et al in late 2021

decided to look into whether these chemicals could be used in personal

protective equipment used by healthcare providers, specifically facial

protection. Their goal was to develop a transparent face shield with intrinsic

antimicrobial activity, thereby reducing surface transmission of disease and

the production of infectious waste, another source of potential transmission

to healthy individuals. They found that their single-use face shields, made

by coating a transparent polyethylene terephthalate product with

benzalkonium chloride, were successful at inactivating enveloped

viruses, including coronaviruses. Their hope is that this novel idea can be

translated for use in goggles, helmets, and other forms of personal

protective equipment in the healthcare setting. (4)

At HCD Anti-Aging Laboratories, benzalkonium chloride is added to

manicure and pedicure formulas for its antimicrobial actions, but it is

obvious there is more to the story when it comes to these compounds.

Though more research needs to be done in the personal-care product realm,

it is likely that its presence is preventing the spread of not only bacterial or

fungal infections but also of viral infections, specifically against our biggest

current adversary, the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Dr. Mary Hall, ND, LAc

Medical Writer and Medical Advisory Board


Beatriz Merchel Piovesan Pereira and Ilias Tagkopoulos. 2019.

Benzalkonium chloride: uses, regulatory status, and microbial resistance.

Appl Environ Microbiol: 85(13):e00377-19.

"Exploring whether Benzalkonium Chloride could be effective against

SARS-CoV-2”. 2021. Pharmaceutical Technology.


Ogilvie, B.H., Solis-Leal, A., Lopez, J.B., Poole, B.D., Robison, R.A., Berges,

B.K. 2021.Alcohol-free hand sanitizer and other quaternary ammonium

disinfectants quickly and effectively inactivate SARS-CoV-2. J Hosp Infect:

108: 142-145.

Tunon-Molina, A., Marti, M., Muramoto, Y., Noda, T., Takayama, K.,

Serrano-Aroca, A. 2021. Antimicrobial face shield: next generation of facial

protective equipment against SARS-CoV-2 and multidrug-resistant bacteria.

Int J Mol Sci: 22(17): 9518.


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