Laboratory Disinfectants

Updated March 17, 2015

Decontamination reduces the microbial contamination of materials or surfaces.  Sterilization refers to the destruction of all microbial life.  At MIT, Sterilization is accomplished with heat and steam by autoclaving.  Disinfection refers to the elimination of virtually all pathogenic organisms on inanimate objects and surfaces thereby reducing the level of microbial contamination to an acceptably safe level.  Choosing a chemical disinfectant may depend on a number of factors.  You should consider the organism, the item to be disinfected, and the cost and ease of use of the disinfectant.

For example, are you working with mycobacteria or lipid viruses?  Will you be using the disinfectant in a biosafety cabinet or to treat waste?  Is the disinfectant also an irritant or otherwise harmful to humans?  Is it safe to go down the drain?

At MIT, there are several types of disinfectants in our laboratories.  The MIT EHS office has developed a disinfectant chart based on disinfectants we have found in MIT laboratories.  Please note that effective dilution, efficacy and other characteristics have been compiled from product information sheets, SDS’s, and other sources cited below.

Contact time for disinfection is not listed on the chart.  There is a wide range of recommended contact time based on the type and concentration of the biological material to be inactivated and the type of chemical disinfectant.  The MIT Biosafety Program recommends the following contact times for disinfection.

  • Disinfecting spills, porous surfaces or through organic matter:  15-20 minutes
  • Hard surface disinfection:  1-5 minutes
  • Treating liquid waste prior to sink disposal:  15-20 minutes


MIT EHS recommends the use of Clorox Germicidal Bleach for all biological spill clean-up and many other disinfection applications.  This bleach product is mercury-free and meets MIT requirements for sink disposal.  It can be ordered via eCAT or through the VWR stockroom using the catalog number VWR 89501-620.


Click here for Disinfectant Table


The information on this page and in the attached disinfectant table was compiled from the individual product sheets and the references listed below.

Block S.  Disinfection, Sterilization, and Preservation, 4th Ed.  Philadelphia: Lea and Febiger, 1991
McDonnell G.  Antisepsis, Disinfection, and Sterilization: Types, Action and Resistance.  Washington, DC: ASM Press, 2007
Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Insitutues of Health, 5th Ed. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  Washington, DC: 2009
U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.  NIH Laboratory Safety Monograph: A Supplement to hte NIH Guidelines for Recombinant DNA Research. National Institutes of Health, 1978. 


Disinfectant Table47.17 KB