I am working with RNA samples, and I'm trying to be very careful about RNAse contamination.

I have some questions about bleach, though. Some people say that a solution of bleach is enough to destroy RNAse activity, but is it really? How does it do it?

I'm not sure if wiping the surface using a solution of bleach would be enough to kill RNAse activity, or if it is necessary to use products such as RNAseZap or RNAseAway.


2 Answers 2


RNAses are enzymes, and there are various ways to inactivate them. Unfortunately, RNAses are rather stable proteins and autoclaving doesn't completely kill their activity. The common methods to inactivate are unspecific methods that will destroy any enzymes, either through covalent modification or degradation.

The most common methods for RNAse inactivation are:

  • Treatment with DEPC. This covalently modifies histidine and a few other amino acids, which will inactivate RNAses.

  • Heating to 200-250 °C for at least an hour, this is most commonly used for metal and glass equipment

  • Incubation with 1M NaOH for an hour at 37 °C, which will hydrolyze proteins

Using bleach is not a method I've used, but it should work in principle as hypochlorite will react with proteins.


I think they are asking how to clean surfaces like benchtops.

Bleach might work. But a better solution would be to get a box of aluminum foil. The processes for making the foil are very harsh, so it's doubtful any protein would survive the process, not to mention that there are no proteins involved in aluminum manufacture to contaminate the process. Just be sure to always use gloves when handling the foil or you'll contaminate it.


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