Stanford University

Comparing Different Disinfectants

How to use this tool

Consult manufacturer directions to determine the efficacy of the disinfectant against the biohazards in your lab and be sure to allow for sufficient contact time. Some disinfectants appropriate for lab use include: household bleach (5-10% solution), quaternary ammonium compounds, and phenolic compounds.

When choosing a disinfectant consider the following:

  • The microorganisms present
  • The item to be disinfected or surface(s)
  • Corrosivity or hazards associated with the chemicals in the disinfectant
  • Ease of use

70% Ethanol
Aqueous alcohol solutions are not appropriate for surface decontamination because of the evaporative nature of the solution; a contact time of ten minutes or more is necessary and not achievable using a 70% (v/v) aqueous solution of ethanol. 70% ethanol can be used to soak small pieces of surgical instruments and for wipe downs following a disinfectant (e.g., 10% bleach) that might leave a corrosive residue.


Chlorine compounds such as bleach are commonly used in the lab because of the relative ease in accessibility and low cost. Chlorine (hypochlorite) compounds are effective in inactivating vegetative bacteria, fungi, lipid and non-lipid viruses, Coxiella burnetii and TB.

  • Chlorine compounds have some effect in inactivating bacterial spores.
  • Recommended contact time: 10 minutes
  • Recommended Working Dilution: 5000 ppm (1:10 dilution of household bleach, 5% hypochlorite ion)

Recommended for: floors, spills (inactivating liquid specimens), bench tops and contaminated clothing. Undiluted bleach and other disinfectants must not go down the drain.

Difficult organisms
Some agents such as Cryptosporidium, Bacillus spores and prions are very resistant to the usual disinfectants. EHS Biosafety is available to assist you in determining the appropriate disinfectant and provides guidance on use of appropriate disinfection techniques and materials for researchers.

This information was provided to the University of Virginia by:

Barbara Fox Nellis
Johnson & Johnson
Clinical Diagnostics
1999 Lake Avenue
Bldg. 83, KRL
Rochester, NY 14650-2209
phone: (716) 453-5697
fax: (716) 453-5696

70% Isopropyl Alcohol Solution

Chlorine Compounds


Iodophors (Iodine with carrier)

Phenolic Compounds

Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QUATS)

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