Is Benzalkonium Chloride Safe?

Person applying hand sanitizer on their hands

Benzalkonium Chloride is a synthetic quaternary ammonium salt with antimicrobial properties and is used as a preservative, antiseptic, and disinfectant. It is found in many cleaning and hygiene products, including hand sanitizers, wipes, shampoos, and multi-purpose cleaners. Before using it, you need to ask yourself, is benzalkonium chloride safe?

Is Benzalkonium Chloride Safe?

Yes, Benzalkonium Chloride is safe. It is a non-toxic compound and has a long history of safe use. The EPA has classified it as a Group IIB – Slightly Hazardous substance, and it is on the FDA’s GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) list.

However, as with any chemical compound, you need to take precautions when handling and using it. Always read the label and follow the instructions carefully. If you have any concerns, consult with a medical professional.

Allergic persons should also avoid contact with this compound. If you experience any irritation or allergic reaction, stop using the product as this would indicate that you are allergic to this compound and should avoid using products containing it.Person applying hand sanitizer on their hands

How Does Benzalkonium Chloride Work?

It works by disrupting the cell membranes of bacteria and other microbes. This action causes the cells to leak and eventually die. The time it takes for this to happen depends on the concentration of the chemical, how much of it is in contact with the cells, and the type of microbe.

If you are using it for the first time, it is important to know how it works and what the possible side effects are. The FDA requires that the manufacturer include these in the product information. This will help you make an informed decision about whether or not to use it.

What Are the Possible Side Effects of Benzalkonium Chloride?

Though it is considered safe for most people, some potential side effects are associated with this compound. These include:

Dryness and Irritation of the Skin

Some people may sometimes experience dryness and irritation of the skin after using these ingredient products. This is more likely to occur if the product is used frequently or for long periods. If you experience these symptoms, it is important to consult your doctor.

Allergic Reactions

In rare cases, people may have an allergic reaction to benzalkonium products. This can cause symptoms such as hives, difficulty breathing, and swelling of the face, lips, or tongue. Avoid the product whenever possible if you are allergic to it, and seek medical help right away if you experience any symptoms.

Eye Irritation

Benzalkonium chloride can also cause eye irritation. This is more likely to occur if the product gets in your eyes. If this happens, rinse the area with water for 15 minutes. Also, avoid rubbing your eyes, as this can make the irritation worse.

Side Effects in Children

There is limited information on the safety of this compound in children. However, it is generally considered safe for use in children over the age of two years.

These products are always found on baby wipes. If you notice any side effects in your child after using a product that contains this ingredient, consult your doctor and avoid it completely unless your doctor gives you the okay to use it again.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Women who are expecting are always delicate, and it is prudent to be careful with the products they use. Benzalkonium is considered safe for use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, taking precautions is better than any regrets. Getting directives from your physician will ensure that you are on the safe side.Woman cleaning her counter surface

Things to Consider Before Using Benzalkonium Chloride

Before using a product that contains this ingredient, you should consider a few things.

  • Talk to Your Doctor-If you are not sure about the product, ensure you seek clarification from your physician. This is particularly important if you have skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis. Your doctor will help you make an informed decision about whether or not to use the product.
  • Do a Patch Test-If you have never used the product before; it is advisable to do a patch test. For example regarding the use of hand sanitizers, make sure to apply the product to a small skin area and wait to see if there is any reaction. If you experience any irritation, discontinue the use of the product.
  • Choose a Product With a Lower Concentration-If you are concerned about the possible side effects of benzalkonium chloride. You can choose a product with a lower concentration. This will reduce the risk of any adverse reactions.
  • Ensure the product is approved by the FDA-When buying any over-the-counter products, always check if the FDA has approved it. This ensures that the product is safe for use.
  • Check the Product Label-When using any product, always check the label for instructions on how to use it and any warnings. This will help you avoid any possible side effects.
  • Use the product for the intended purpose-Avoid using the product for any other purposes apart from what is intended. For example, don’t use a hand sanitizer that contains this ingredient as a mouthwash. It can have serious side effects.

Benefits of Benzalkonium Chloride

Powerful Disinfectant

It helps kill germs and bacteria, making it a great choice for disinfecting surfaces. This is particularly important in hospital settings where there is a need to prevent the spread of infection.

Effective Against a Wide Range of Germs

Most disinfectants only work against a limited number of germs. Benzalkonium chloride is effective against a wide range of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Therefore, it can be used both at home and in commercial settings.

Safe for Use Around Children

This ingredient is generally considered safe for use around children. If you follow the instructions on the label, you can use it without any worry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Benzalkonium Chloride Cancerous?

If used wrongly, benzalkonium chloride can exaggerate the growth of cancerous cells. However, more research is needed to determine the long-term effects of this ingredient on human health.

Is Benzalkonium Chloride an Antibiotic?

No, benzalkonium chloride is not an antibiotic. It is a disinfectant and a preservative. You should not use it to treat infections.


Benzalkonium Chloride is safe and effective for sanitizing skin and surfaces when used as directed. However, it is always advisable to talk to your doctor before using any products that contain this ingredient, particularly if you have sensitive skin. Read the usage instructions of your choice hand sanitizers and all purpose surface cleaners to ensure you are using the product correctly.