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How to dispose of bacteria in a science lab

Updated April 17, 2017

According to the Woodrow Wilson Biology Institute, bacteria can be stored at room temperature as an agar slant or stab, but sealed plates containing bacteria must be refrigerated. It also is important to dispose of bacterial cultures properly. When cleaning a laboratory of bacteria, be sure to properly dispose of materials in specially-marked biohazard containers. If the materials containing the bacteria are nondisposable and are to be used again, you can use a solution of water and bleach or an autoclave to kill bacteria and prevent infection.

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  1. Add 1 to 2 millilitres of bleach to each test tube. Allow the bleach to contact the test tube for 15 minutes, then pour the liquid down a drain.

  2. Make a water bath containing 10 per cent bleach, and soak the instruments for at least one hour.

  3. Pour the solution down a drain and allow the instruments to dry completely before reusing.

  4. Place the contaminated instruments in unsealed biohazard bags so the bacteria doesn't leak into the autoclave. Make sure the bags are open so steam can escape.

  5. Turn on the autoclave to 6.8 Kilogram per square inch (psi) at 121 degrees C for 30 minutes.

  6. Allow the biohazard bags to cool. Seal the bags and place in a tightly secured garbage bag. Dispose of the garbage bag.

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Things You'll Need

  • Bleach
  • Water
  • Biohazard bags
  • Autoclave

About the Author

Pamela Henman

Based in Atlanta, Pamela Henman has been writing marketing- and advertising-related articles since 2006. Previously, she covered arts and entertainment news for "AUC Magazine," "The Signal" and "The Urbanite." She received a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Georgia State University.

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