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EtBr decontamination of gel doc system - (Jun/09/2014 )


We are going to change our electrophoresis system from Etbr to a safe dye, I have read several protocols for decontamination and I think the method with hypophosphorous acid /sodium nitrate is more effective. The problem is that the pH of the solution is less than 3 and I am worried that it might damage the device especially the glassy surface which we put the gels on it. I can not find any one who has done that before and I really need help.




Hydrofluoric acid is the only acid that I am aware of that will etch glass, so I would guess that hypophosphorus acid will be fine.  However, it would pay to test on a glass slide before you do the cleaning.


Another possibility is to use a UV lamp to find the contaminated zones. Then use wet paper towels with soap water and wipe these zones several times. You can also use commercial decontamination solutions that inactivate or destroy EtBr (no idea how good they are). Then check again with the UV lamp and clean again if necessary. Put all the used paper towels and gloves in hazardous waste.

With such corrosive chemicals I'd be careful as they might react with EtBr to other dangerous chemicals (?) or with surfaces, and even a slide test might not help, when it's a different glass type or the coating of the UV transilluminator might suffer. And finally you have to wipe these chemicals too.


And don't forget that there are not really safe dyes that interact with DNA, therefore you have to be careful with all of them.