PCR: how to kill unwanted DNA

Biotechniques. 1992 Mar;12(3):358-60.


Avoidance of contamination in the PCR laboratory requires the use of strict precautions. Among these, chemical decontamination of surfaces and equipment is desirable to prevent inadvertent contamination of samples by the gloved hand and by pipettors. We have investigated the use of sodium hypochloride (Clorox), in comparison to concentrated HCl, for PCR sterilization. Ten percent Clorox was found to eliminate all ethidium bromide-stainable DNA and to prevent PCR amplification of a 600-bp DNA segment within one minute of template treatment. RNA was similarly destroyed. By contrast, even 2.0 N HCl did not destroy DNA detectable by PCR within five minutes. Because of its high efficacy, low cost and relatively low corrosiveness, we recommend the use of ten percent Clorox as a decontaminant for elimination of DNA templates in the PCR laboratory.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Biotechnology
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / isolation & purification*
  • Drug Contamination
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Onchocerca / genetics
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods*
  • Sodium Hypochlorite
  • Sterilization / methods


  • DNA
  • Sodium Hypochlorite