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Ask a biosafety officer

How can I decontaminate electrical equipment used in a wetlab?


When developing new DIY lab equipment, we typically work on the electronics and hardware outside of the wetlab. We would like to bring the equipment into the lab, do some (BSL-1) experiments to test it, and then disinfect it to take it out of the wetlab again and continue hacking the electronics/hardware. Is is sufficient to only disinfect exposed surfaces, so we won't need to squirt any bleach on the sensitive electronics as long as we put them in an enclosure? Are there any published guidelines for how to decontaminate electrical equipment in general (which might also be useful for donated equipment)? Or guidelines for how to design lab equipment for ease of decontamination?

Answer from a Biosafety Officer:

March 25, 2014

Unfortunately, there is not a standardized procedure for disinfecting/decontaminating electrical equipment.  However, we can provide some general advice; when disinfecting any equipment, it should be sufficient to only decontaminate/disinfect the surfaces/parts of the equipment that were exposed to the biological agents.  The exception to this would be if any splashes occurred that may have exposed other components to the agent(s).


A 10% bleach solution is recommended for disinfecting surfaces and equipment in a DIY Bio lab setting.  If liquid-based disinfection is not possible due to sensitive components, a disinfecting wipe such as Metrex CaviWipes Disinfecting Towelettes, would be an option and have been shown to be safe for some electronics.(1)


When designing equipment for use with biological materials it would be best to separate the sensitive components from the operational components, those that may contact the biological materials, in order to avoid contamination of those components that are difficult to decontaminate or are incompatible with disinfecting agents.



1. Bacterial Contamination of Keyboards: Efficacy and Functional Impact of Disinfectants. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol* 2006;27:372-377