The occurrence of resistance to antiseptics and disinfectants in clinical isolates of coagulase-negative staphylococci (CNS) was examined. Of 164 clinical strains of CNS isolated in the early 1980s, 65 were resistant to cationic antimicrobial compounds such as cetyltrimethylammonium bromide. Further characterisation of 40 resistant isolates by DNA-DNA hybridisation analysis and phenotypic resistance studies revealed that this resistance was mediated by the multidrug export genes qacA and qacC, characterised previously in Staphylococcus aureus. Of the resistant CNS isolates, 50% contained only qacA, 10% contained only qacC, and the remaining 40% contained both qacA and qacC. Both qacA and qacC genes resided on plasmids in all cases, with qacA located on plasmids of > 10 kb, whereas qacC was located primarily on plasmids of 2-3 kb. Representative qacA and qacC plasmids were characterised by restriction endonuclease mapping, and were found to be similar in some cases, but different in others, to those plasmids on which these genes are found in S. aureus.