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  • Writer's pictureMark Beaven

The Right Chemistry – The Ideal Disinfectant for Farm Settings

A longstanding myth in the world of biosecurity is that harsh chemicals are required to disinfect surfaces and equipment to prevent the spread of pathogens. When considering the chemicals that have historically been available, it is easy to understand why this misconception is so pervasive. In the past, producers had no choice but to rely on hazardous solutions to clean and disinfect their facilities, but thankfully, newer technologies offer broad-spectrum antimicrobial efficacy without trading off on human, animal or environmental safety.

The Old Guard

Although many different disinfectant products exist in the marketplace, these products can be classified based on their active ingredient. Commonly-used active ingredients in agricultural disinfectants include quaternary ammonium compounds, glutaraldehyde, phenolics, and peroxygen compounds such as potassium peroxymonosulfate and peracetic acid. These disinfectant classes have been around for several decades, and may not offer the ideal balance of product performance and safety. Below is a summary of the key disinfectant actives used on farms:

Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (Quats)

Quaternary ammonium compounds, commonly known as “quats”, are the mainstay of household disinfectants, but are also found in professional-grade products. While quat-based products are often less acutely hazardous compared to some other disinfectant classes, this comes at the cost of efficacy – quats are known to have deficiencies against some categories of pathogens, including Gram-negative bacteria and harder-to-kill non-enveloped viruses. As a result, quats are often blended with other active ingredients, such as glutaraldehyde, to boost antimicrobial efficacy. Despite the relatively low toxicity of quats compared to some other formulations, concerns exist related to the development of occupational asthma and dermatitis among users. Recent media attention has highlighted potential long-term risks associated with the use of quat disinfectants. Furthermore, quats are known to be poor cleaners, and are readily inactivated by soils in the environment, so disinfection may not be effective without a thorough pre-cleaning process.


As mentioned previously, glutaraldehyde is often added to quat-based formulations to bridge gaps in antimicrobial efficacy. However, this has negative implications for the formulation’s safety profile, as glutaraldehyde is a known respiratory sensitizer, and glutaraldehyde-based disinfectants are often associated with skin, eye and respiratory irritation. As with quats, glutaraldehyde-based formulations are poor cleaners, as this active ingredient affixes soils to surfaces rather than suspending and removing them. In the absence of a thorough pre-cleaning step, proteins and other organic material would become stuck onto surfaces during disinfection, increasing the risk of improper removal. Both glutaraldehyde and quats are also associated with environmental hazards, with a tendency to persist in the environment upon disposal.


While phenolic-based disinfectants have been largely phased out of human healthcare settings, they continue to be actively marketed and used within farm environments. These solutions are associated with high toxicity and irritancy, and some phenols are even classified as suspected carcinogens. As a result, many facilities are opting for the use of less hazardous solutions as part of their biosecurity program.

Peroxygen Compounds

Disinfectants formulated with peroxygen compounds tend to have broad-spectrum efficacy against a wide range of pathogens, though certain formulas with higher concentrations may be associated with irritation. Among the most common peroxygen compounds used on farm environments is potassium peroxymonosulfate, which delivers broad spectrum efficacy and is formulated with surfactants to provide cleaning capabilities. However, these solutions release chlorine compounds, which can cause irritation and produce hazardous byproducts as a result of contact with organic material.

Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide®- Changing the Game

Accelerated Hydrogen Peroxide® (AHP®), a patented technology formulated with low levels of hydrogen peroxide, has emerged as an alternative to other formulations due to its broad-spectrum efficacy in the presence of soils, while remaining non-irritating to eyes and non-corrosive to skin at in-use concentrations. Its fast contact times and excellent detergency properties make AHP a practical solution for cleaning and disinfecting a wide range of farm surfaces and equipment. With its strong detergency properties, AHP can be used for pre-cleaning as well as disinfection, streamlining protocols by eliminating the need for multiple products. In the quest for better biosecurity, AHP offers producers a leg up in keeping pathogens out and animals healthy.

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EthoGuard is the Proud Master Distributor of Prevail™ for the Canadian Agricultural Sector.

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