Survival of enveloped and non-enveloped viruses was compared with that of bacteria, yeasts and mycobacteria when dried on the surface of polyvinyl chloride test carriers in the presence or absence of an organic matrix. The efficacy of glutaraldehyde and accelerated hydrogen peroxide (AHP) disinfectants was evaluated. Reovirus, a non-enveloped virus, persisted and had a RF of 2 after 30 days whereas Enterococcus faecalis had an RF of 4 over the same time period. The other test organisms (Sindbis virus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Mycobacterium chelonae and Candida albicans) had variable survivals but none survived as long as 30 days. Both glutaraldehyde and AHP were effective at manufactures' recommended dilutions for high-level disinfection. However, only 7% AHP eliminated a glutaraldehyde-resistant strain of M. chelonae. Breakthrough survival was detected at 0.1% glutaraldehyde and 0.05% AHP for all organisms tested. Our data emphasise the need for effective cleaning and disinfection in nosocomial settings to prevent pathogen transmission.