The University of Iowa

Biological Spills

Spill Kits (Spill Response Supplies)

Have spill kits (supplies) on hand in areas where biohazardous materials are used.  Preparation of a spill kit consolidates spill control materials and personal protective equipment in one location. Tailor each spill kit to meet the needs of each work area.  PPE must be selected based on the hazardous materials used.  Store kits in a location where individuals can quickly gain access to items needed in the event of a spill.  Hazardous materials users should know where to locate the spill kit and how to use the spill response materials contained in the kit.


Risk Assessment

  • What was spilled? (i.e. Bacteria, yeast, pathogen, fungus)
  • Type of spill: Liquid, aerosol, solid
  • Amount that was spilled
  • Location of the spill
  • Is there a potential for release into the environment?
  • Risk Group (RG) Assessment: 
    • RG1: Agents that are not associated with disease in healthy adult humans.
    • RG2: Agents that are associated with human disease which is rarely serious and for which preventive or therapeutic interventions are often available
    • RG3: Agents that are associated with serious or lethal human disease for which preventive or therapeutic interventions may be available (high individual risk but low community risk).

If you have any questions regarding the Risk Assessment, please email the EHS Biosafety Team at 


Basic Biological Spill Kit Supplies


Obtain a container to hold the kit contents such as a 5-gallon plastic bucket or Rubbermaid™ tub.    If a sharps container is not readily available in the lab, it is recommended that one be added to the spill kit.


Personal Protective Equipment (minimum)

  • 2 pairs splash goggles.
  • 2 pairs Nitrile gloves. 
  • 2 pairs plastic, vinyl or rubber shoe covers.
  • 2 disposable lab coats, aprons, or coveralls.

Absorption Materials

Include universal absorbents such as paper towels, commercial spill pads, pillows, spill socks, and loose absorbents.


Cleanup Tools and Materials

  • 3-5 red biohazard waste bags for biohazard spill debris.
  • EHS hazardous waste labels.
  • Forceps or tongs for picking up broken glass or other sharps.
  • Concentrated Bleach and empty bottle (for making fresh preparation of 10% bleach) or another appropriate disinfectant (make sure it is not expired) for final cleanup.

NOTE: Use disposable supplies when possible because contaminated cleanup tools are considered bio-hazardous waste.


Additional Spill Response Items as Necessary for your Work Area

  • Additional PPE such as face shields, face masks, disposable lab coats and disposable gloves.

Biohazardous Spill Procedures

General guide for ALL biological spills

  • Wash hands/face with soap and water before and after cleanup.
  • Put on fresh pair of disposable gloves, lab coat and goggles before starting cleanup.
  • A fresh 10% household bleach solution is commonly used as a disinfectant; allow 20-30 minutes’ contact time (however, use the recommended disinfectant and contact time for the material you are handling).
  • Dispose of cleanup materials as biohazard waste in the red Rubbermaid containers.
  • Report all spills to the supervisor.

Spills inside a Biological Safety Cabinet (BSC) 

  1. Follow general guidance above.
  2. Keep cleanup materials inside BSCs (removing hands from inside cabinet disperses aerosols outside cabinet).
  3. Leave BSC running during cleanup and at least 10 minutes after completion.
  4. Work cautiously and thoroughly, taking care not to spread the spill area and not to disturb the air at the face of the BSC.
  5. Use clean cloth and disinfectant solution to wash interior surfaces; follow with 70% ethanol to remove any corrosive residue from the BSC interior.
  6. For moderate to high-risk spills, flood catch basins (tray under the work surface) with disinfectant and wipe up.

Spills outside a Biological Safety Cabinet (BSC)

Spills outside a biological safety cabinet (BSC) generate aerosols, creating a greater hazard than spills inside a BSC. The spilled organism’s biohazard risk group determines the cleanup method and level of containment [e.g., RG 2 requires Biosafety Level 2 (BSL2) procedures].


BSL1 containment required

  1. Soak paper towels in disinfectant and place over the spill area (do not spray disinfectant, as that may create aerosols).
  2. Pick up any broken glass with forceps and place in a sharps container.
  3. Clean up with disposable towels or other absorbent pads (use forceps if sharps are present)
  4. Disinfect/clean area again.

BSL2 containment required

  1. Alert people in spill area.
  2. If biological safety cabinet or fume hood is in the room, leave it on and immediately exit the room.  Close and lock the door.
  3. Post a "Biohazard" and "Do Not Enter" sign on the door to keep people out of the area and to prevent the spread of the contaminant.
  4. Notify your supervisor and EHS’s Biosafety Section, 335-8501.
  5. Remove all contaminated clothing, and decontaminate (autoclave, if necessary). If necessary, use an emergency shower in the immediate area.
  6. Allow at least 30 minutes for droplets to settle and aerosols to be reduced before reentering.
  7. Don protective equipment (long sleeved lab coat, disposable gloves, safety goggles and face shield and disposable shoe covers, if needed).
  8. Isolate spill area and any equipment that may have been contaminated by splash during the spill.
  9. Apply absorbent to prevent spreading.
  10. Pour disinfectant slowly around spill edges.
  11. Cover with disinfectant-soaked paper towels and allow for the appropriate contact time.
  12. Work from edges inward.
  13. Clean area and equipment again with disinfectant, allowing 20-30 minutes’ contact time.
  14. If necessary, wipe the area and equipment with 70% ethanol to remove any corrosive residue.