The antiviral action of chloroxylenol, benzalkonium chloride and cetrimide/chlorhexidine was assessed against a range of enveloped and non-enveloped human viruses using a suspension test method. Viral suspensions of 10(6)-10(7) pfu/TCID50 or sfu were prepared in each of the antiseptic/disinfectant solutions in the presence of a bovine serum/yeast extract mixture to simulate 'dirty conditions'. During incubation, aliquots were removed at predetermined timepoints up to 10 min to assess the kinetics of inactivation. Results indicate that all products were effective in inactivating the enveloped viruses herpes simplex virus type 1 and human immunodeficiency virus type 1, whilst being ineffective in inactivating human coronavirus, also enveloped, and the non-enveloped viruses. The exception to this was the benzalkonium chloride-based product (Dettol Hospital Concentrate) which was active against the non-enveloped human coxsackie virus. Four antiseptic/disinfectant solutions with chloroxylenol, benzalkonium chloride, cetrimide/chlorhexidine and povidone-iodine were also assessed for antiviral effect against human immunodeficiency virus in the presence of whole human blood. All four solutions proved to be effective within 1 min despite the cytotoxic nature of the compounds to the detection system.