The Effect of pH and Chloride Concentration on the Stability and Antimicrobial Activity of Chlorine-Based Sanitizers



Chlorinated water and electrolyzed oxidizing (EO) water solutions were made to compare the free chlorine stability and microbicidal efficacy of chlorine-containing solutions with different properties. Reduction of Escherichia coli O157:H7 was greatest in fresh samples (approximately 9.0 log CFU/mL reduction). Chlorine loss in “aged” samples (samples left in open bottles) was greatest (approximately 40 mg/L free chlorine loss in 24 h) in low pH (approximately 2.5) and high chloride (Cl) concentrations (greater than 150 mg/L). Reduction of E. coli O157:H7 was also negatively impacted (<1.0 log CFU/mL reduction) in aged samples with a low pH and high Cl. Higher pH values (approximately 6.0) did not appear to have a significant effect on free chlorine loss or numbers of surviving microbial cells when fresh and aged samples were compared. This study found chloride levels in the chlorinated and EO water solutions had a reduced effect on both free chlorine stability and its microbicidal efficacy in the low pH solutions. Greater concentrations of chloride in pH 2.5 samples resulted in decreased free chlorine stability and lower microbicidal efficacy.

Practical Application

In working with chlorine-based sanitizers, both pH and Cl concentration are important properties. While pH directly affects the antimicrobial activity of free chlorine, Cl affects the chlorine stability and indirectly affects the antimicrobial activity. This study presents practical recommendations for storing chlorine-based sanitizers to maximize antimicrobial property.