Quat binding, also known as quay absorption, is still a relatively new and misunderstood issue in the jan/san industry. It is garnering more attention, however, because of its potential to negatively impact cleaning results.
The phenomenon of quat binding occurs when the active ingredient (quaternary ammonium chloride) becomes attracted to and absorbed into fabrics. The science behind how this happens is simple: Quats are positively charged ions and cotton and other natural textiles are negatively charged; positive attracts negative.
The result is that at least a portion of the quat does not end up on the surface it is supposed to be cleaning. In fact, one study found that the quat level of a disinfectant remaining on a cotton cloth placed in a solution-filled pail was decreased by 50 percent after soaking for just 10 minutes. That means the solution applied to the surface would contain only half of the parts per million (ppm) listed on the label.