You Don’t Know Quat

A natural approach to sanitization finds timely success.

Waiter wearing protective face mask while disinfecting tables at outdoor cafe.
Clean Republic wants to school you on nontoxic cleansers. / svetlana15 ©

It’s a familiar scene: Employees, armed with spray bottles and rags, spritzing and wiping, spritzing and wiping, all day long. All that sanitation comes with a cost, as anyone who has spent a shift with a spray bottle knows all to well: skin irritation.

For that you can thank quaternary ammonium compounds, or quats for short. These sneaky toxins are found in most cleaning products and are certified by the Environmental Protection Agency as pesticides. While they have the ability to clean the heck out of everything, their unnecessary strength introduces health concerns. They are known lung and skin irritants, and research suggests they have negative impacts on fertility. So just what is a restaurant operator with a conscience to do?

Clear spray bottle labeled Clean Republic Disinfectant in front of out-of-focus menu board.
Kaytlyn Perez Photography

Clean Republic, which is based in Boulder and launched at the end of 2019, takes a greener approach. Its products harness hypochlorous acid, a substance consisting of water, salt, and electricity that’s naturally produced by the body to fight infection. In stabilizing that science (no easy feat!), Clean Republic created a safe, nontoxic alternative to chemical cleaners. Its Disinfectant & Sanitizer is registered with the EPA as a hospital-grade product and approved for use against COVID-19, MRSA, and HIV. High-end spas and hotels were the first to pick up the products, and Robin Vega, director of marketing and branding, says the company is now focused on getting its products where they are needed most: schools, hospitals, and restaurants. 

Although more expensive than cleaners containing quats, the cost of Clean Republic is right in line with other eco-friendly products like Seventh Generation. Corby Felsher, owner of Stanley Agile Management, which oversees sanitation at Stanley Marketplace in Aurora, says the higher price is well worth the peace of mind the products bring. (The Disinfectant & Sanitizer is used in common areas and sold to tenants throughout the facility.) Wesley & Rose, a bar and lounge in Buena Vista, adopted Clean Republic’s products after deciding to move to safer and more eco-friendly cleaners. “We want to keep toxins out of the hands of customers and employees alike,” says manager Tony Egan. 

The ultimate question, of course, is whether Clean Republic’s products actually work: Egan says they do, leaving behind nary a streak.

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