8.3 General Procedures

The goal of decontamination is to protect personnel and the environment from exposure to biological agents and to prevent contamination of experimental materials.  Outlined below are several general guidelines that should be followed in the research laboratory.

  • Biohazardous materials and contaminated equipment originating from the lab should be sterilized before being washed and stored or discarded.  Autoclaving is the preferred method.  Each individual working with biohazardous material is responsible for its sterilization. 
  • Biohazardous materials should not be placed in autoclaves overnight in anticipation of autoclaving the next day.  To minimize hazard to firemen or disaster crews, all biohazardous materials should be placed in an appropriately marked refrigerator or incubator, sterilized or otherwise confined at the close of each work day. 
  • Special precautions should be taken to prevent accidental removal of material from an autoclave before it has been sterilized or the simultaneous opening of both doors on a double door autoclave.
  • Dry hypochlorites or any other strong oxidizing material must not be autoclaved with organic materials such as paper, cloth, or oil:
    • Oxidizer + organic material + heat = explosion potential. 
  • Laboratory rooms containing biohazardous materials should designate, where appropriate, separate areas or containers labeled: 


  • All floors, laboratory benches and other surfaces in buildings where biohazardous materials are handled should be disinfected as often as deemed necessary by the supervisor.  After completion of operations involving plating, pipetting, centrifuging and similar procedures with biohazardous materials, the surroundings should be disinfected. 
  • Floor drains should be flooded with water or disinfectant at least once each week in order to fill traps and prevent backflow of sewer gases. 
  • Floors should be wet mopped and a disinfectant added to the wash.  Vacuum cleaners equipped with HEPA filtration may be used.  
  • Stock solutions of suitable disinfectants should be maintained in each laboratory for disinfection purposes.