If the lab will have any of the following procedures down below then decontamination of surfaces and equipment is necessary.

  • Remodeling or demolition
  • Repair by either facilities or an outside contractor
  • Vacating rooms or areas during laboratory closeout
  • Disposal or recycling of unwanted equipment
  • Relocation of equipment
  • Returning faulty or damaged equipment for repair or replacement

Decontamination is necessary when hazardous chemical, biological, or radioactive materials are used in the laboratory. Decontamination is necessary to prevent cross contamination or accidental exposures. Consult the Radiation Safety Officer or Biological Safety Officer for decontamination procedures of radioactive or biological materials.

Hazardous Chemicals Decontamination

The area that is being worked on needs to be thoroughly cleaned of chemical residue, including surfaces and equipment. A common way to decontaminate surfaces and equipment with chemicals is to thoroughly wipe down the surfaces and equipment with soap and water using disposable towels. The resulting towels should be placed into a separate solid waste container and a hazardous waste pick-up should be submitted. It is best to review the chemical hazards you are working with to ensure you are wearing necessary PPE and to check for any chemical incompatibility. Some chemicals require special considerations.

  • Grease and oil: contamination with greasy residue can be wiped down with a surfactant capable of dissolving grease (i.e., soapy water) or an appropriate solvent or cleaner.
  • Solid chemical residue: contamination with solid chemical residue can be cleaned by sweeping or by wetting it with either water (if compatible) or a solvent and wiping the surface with a disposable towel. Take special care not to aerosolize the solid chemical while cleaning (do NOT spray the chemical directly with a squirt bottle and take care when sweeping).
  • Mercury: if there is a surface contaminated with mercury, please contact RMS for proper decontamination. Do NOT attempt to clean it.
  • Acids and bases: neutralize and/or dilute surfaces contaminated with residual corrosives. If possible, testing the pH of the surface or equipment will help ensure proper decontamination.
  • Chemicals in a glovebox: if a glovebox will undergo maintenance, all surfaces and equipment inside the glovebox needs to be cleaned. If there is use of pyrophoric chemicals, these surfaces, equipment, and glassware should be quenched prior to removal and exposure to oxygen. Improper decontamination may result in fires. Quench and decontaminate with solvents that are compatible. If there are solid chemicals, these can be cleaned up using a small broom and dustpan that can be brought into the glovebox (provided it does not react with your chemistry, be sure to pull vacuum on any plastic overnight in a port). Consult PI and senior lab members for proper lab specific protocols when cleaning inside a glovebox.
  • Highly toxic chemicals: for areas where use of highly toxic chemicals occurs, these areas should be decontaminated after every use to prevent accidental exposure. Choose a solvent that the material is compatible with and soluble in. Avoid solvents that enhance absorption through the skin like dimethyl sulfoxide. Wear appropriate and necessary PPE when decontaminating the surfaces including correct type of gloves, lab coat, and safety goggles or glasses. Dispose of all materials used to decontaminate the surfaces in the appropriate liquid or solid waste containers.

After decontaminating any surface or equipment, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly and any exposed areas of skin. When working with sensitizers and decontaminating after use, consider changing clothes as well.

Chemical Hygene Plan - Table of Contents