Dual-channel long oligonucleotide microarrays are in widespread use. Although much attention has been given to proper experimental design and analysis regarding long oligonucleotide microarrays, relatively little information is available concerning the optimization of protocols. We carried out a series of microarray experiments designed to investigate the effects of different levels of target concentration and hybridization times using a long oligonucleotide library. Based on principles developed from nucleic acid renaturation kinetics studies, we show that increasing the time of hybridization from 18 h to 42 h and 66 h, especially when lower than optimal concentrations of target were used, significantly improved the quality of the microarray results. Longer hybridization times significantly increased the number of spots detected, signal-to-noise ratios, and the number of differentially expressed genes and correlations among replicate arrays. We conclude that at 18 h of incubation, target-to-probe hybridization has not reached equilibrium and that a relatively high proportion of nonspecific hybridization occurs. This result is striking, given that most, if not all, published microarray protocols stipulate 8-24 h for hybridization. Using shorter than optimal hybridization times (i.e., not allowing hybridization to reach equilibrium) has the consequence of underestimating the fold change of differentially expressed genes and of missing less represented sequences.