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Disinfection Efficacy Studies

Disinfectant tests are used to validate sanitizing agents for effectiveness against organisms, which is an increasing area of concern to manufacturers and regulatory agencies.  Disinfectant efficacy must be established before a new disinfectant can be put on the market. The goal of a disinfectant efficacy study , also known as a coupon test, is to provide evidence that internal cleaning and disinfecting procedures result in a clean and safe manufacturing environment. These studies support cleaning tests by demonstrating that the application of the disinfectant diminishes or eradicates microorganisms, however they should not be considered a substitute for validating that cleaning agents are acceptable. Additionally, manufacturers must validate disinfectant regimens for cleanrooms and other controlled areas.

Materials tested typically include household and industrial disinfectant agents, sporicides, fungicides, and hand sanitizers.  Disinfectant testing is conducted per many different standards including The Official Methods of Analysis of AOAC International and USP General Chapter 1072. We are highly experienced in performing general disinfectant efficacy tests to establish kinetic kill curves for a large variety of organisms. We additionally provide Virus and Virucidal testing, which measures the efficacy of disinfectant claims on virus killing. This virus testing is done in compliance with ASTM E 1052 and ASTM E 1053.

BioSafety Level – 3 and Biofilm Efficacy Testing

Our Bozeman, MT facility offers specialized micro-organism validations for disinfectant efficacy validations. The facility hosts a state-of-the-art, Biosafety Level – 3 lab (BSL-3) providing disinfectant efficacy evaluations against the most relevant emerging pathogens. From resistant bacterial strains to viral pathogens (such as SARS-CoV-2), the micro-organism portfolio available at the Nelson Labs Bozeman BSL-3 lab provide you access to product validation against the most relevant micro-organisms today.

Our Bozeman, MT facility also offers a comprehensive Biofilm efficacy testing service to support your process and contamination control strategy. Our team of biofilm experts, lead by Margaret Butler Ph,D, have worked on some of the most complex biofilm efficacy evaluations and are prepared to offer this expertise to you. Using ASTM methods, customized experiments, and regulatory insight, Nelson Labs Bozeman can help you generate the data needed to support your anti-biofilm claims, such as biofilm kill, removal, and prevention.

For Viral, BSL-3, or Biofilm efficacy evaluations, please contact our team at Nelson Labs Bozeman here.

Applicable Standards

  • The Official Methods of Analysis of AOAC International
  • USP General Chapter 1072

Study Outline

The disinfectant validation test is to ensure that the cleaning and disinfectant procedure conducted for a controlled room is sufficient to prevent the microbial contamination on objects or surfaces. The USP chapter <1072> provides guidance on a disinfectant regimen in relation to the reduction of viable microorganisms and spores. Environmental isolates are commonly used to validate the disinfectant program used by the sponsor at their site. A validation verifies that the cleaning and disinfectant program used by the sponsor and followed during the validation is effective and appropriate for the surfaces and controlled environment. The risk of a manufacturer not conducting a cleaning and disinfection validation may lead to an FDA 483, warning letter, or the possible release of unsafe product. Nelson Labs has the capability to customize protocols to meet sponsor’s hard-surface disinfectant validation needs.

In the Disinfectant test procedure, representative surfaces that are scaled down for laboratory testing are referred to as “coupons.” The test coupons must allow for sterilization.

The sterile coupons are challenged with 10 – 30 µL of culture or spore suspension. The suspension is spread evenly over a 1-square-inch area and then dried. Upon request the challenge culture may include an organic soil, such as 5% blood serum, to further challenge the disinfection process.

The validation test is intended to validate the actual disinfection process that the sponsor uses in their facility. Nelson Labs is well versed in many application methods and can adjust to suit the sponsor’s testing needs. Examples of disinfectant-application methods include the following: spraying directly; wiping with a sterile towel that has been saturated with disinfectant; using sponsor-provided application tools, such as mops or sponges, that have been saturated with disinfectant. The exposure time during which the disinfectant is in contact with the inoculated coupons can also be adjusted to meet the sponsor’s methods.

Following the disinfection procedure, the treated coupons are aseptically transferred to neutralizing media and extracted to remove any surviving microorganisms. The number of surviving organisms are assayed and enumerated and percent and log reduction values are calculated. The panel of organisms selected for this test may also vary. Best industry practice is to perform the test using environmental isolates. It is recommended that a spectrum of representative organisms be selected for the test, including, but not limited to, the following: Gram-positive bacteria, Gram-negative bacteria, fungi, mold spores, and Gram-positive spore-forming bacteria. Best industry practice is to perform the test using environmental isolates.

Neutralization validation of the test disinfectants and extraction efficiency testing are included in every test for each organism/disinfectant/coupon combination tested, as well as positive and negative controls. Neutralization testing validates that any antimicrobial agent in the product is adequately neutralized to support acceptable organism recovery.


If you would like to learn more about disinfectant efficacy as well as the detailed methodology that assists in designing coupon studies, watch our on-demand webinar hosted by Aaron Zahne and Adam Staples.

Testing Locations

  • Salt Lake City, UT, USA
  • Bozeman, MT, USA
  • Somercotes, England

Learn more about our locations and their certifications.

Contact Us

If you have additional questions about Disinfection Efficacy Studies, or would like to consult with the experts at Nelson Labs, just send us a request or call us at +1 (801) 290-7500.