Solutions of chlorine-releasing agents (CRAs) show varying activity against Bacillus subtilis spores; sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) shows higher activity than sodium dichloroisocyanurate (NaDCC) which is more active than chloramine-T. Investigations with coat- and cortex-extracted spores indicate that resistance to CRAs depends not only on the spore coat but also the cortex. Whereas extraction of alkali-soluble coat protein increased sensitivity to NaOCl and NaDCC, degradation of coat and cortex material was required to achieve significant activity with chloramine-T. NaOCl (in the presence and absence of NaOH) and NaDCC (in the presence of NaOH only) produced degradation of spore coat and cortex material which may be related to their rapid sporicidal action at low concentrations under these conditions. By contrast, chloramine-T produced no degradation of cortex peptidoglycan and was only effective against normal and alkali-treated spores at high concentrations, requiring extraction of peptidoglycan with urea/dithiothreitol/sodium lauryl sulphate (UDS) or UDS/lysozyme to achieve significant activity at low concentrations. Results suggest that the sporicidal action of CRAs is associated with spore coat and cortex degradation causing rehydration of the protoplast allowing diffusion to the site of action on the underlying protoplast.