Two tests for assessing the virucidal activity of antiseptics are proposed. These involve applying either poliovirus (vaccine strain Sabin 1 an) or Escherichia coli bacteriophage (MS2 or K1-5) to the fingertips. Both test viruses are considered safe although poliovirus may be unacceptably tolerant to antiseptics. The use of bacteriophages as test organisms precludes the need for sophisticated recovery systems and can be undertaken readily by any bacteriology laboratory. The virucidal activity of 70%, 80% and 90% ethanol, 7.5% povidone-iodine, and soap and water was assessed using these tests. Thorough cleansing, followed by disinfection with 90% ethanol, was the most effective treatment. Removal of viruses from the gloved hand was also assessed and this was found to be more easily achieved than cleaning and disinfecting the ungloved hand. Wearing gloves protects the hands from viral contamination but changing them after each patient or contact is expensive.