Ask Cavers: What are Your Best Decontamination Tips?

May 29, 2013
Alaska National Guard's 103rd Civil Support Team Decontaminating.

Alaska National Guard’s 103rd Civil Support Team Decontaminating. Photo by The National Guard/flickr

With the spread of white-nose syndrome across the land, decontamination protocols will be a reality for North American cavers for the foreseeable future.

Although the protocols do a pretty decent job in explaining how to make sure your gear is clear of Geomyces destructans fungus spores, surely there is room for improvement.

For this week’s Ask Cavers question we want to hear what steps you’ve taken to make the decontamination procedures easier and more bearable.

Share your tips and suggestions in the discussion below.

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Comments (10)

  1. May 29, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Personally, I keep separate gear for WNS areas and non-WNS areas. Rubber boots, vs leather, are a big help. I use our bathtub for bleach soaking (good to have a caver wife).

  2. May 30, 2013 at 8:52 am

    For disinfection of most items, I use Lysol IC. It’s an industrial/hospital strength version of household Lysol that is used at a dilution of about 0.5%. A one-gallon jug goes a long way. I wash cave clothes, packs, etc. in a washing machine on hot. 50C water for 10 minutes kills the fungus. As an added measure, I use the Lysol IC in place of detergent.

  3. May 30, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    I do not do decontamination and never will. I think it’s a crock but to each his own. I also will not take anyone in a cave that’s used chemicals to decon. Cave elsewhere with someone else. Because I don’t decon I’m quite sure that keeps me out of certain caves. But I really could care less as I have many other caves that I can visit. 🙂

  4. Steve S
    May 30, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    I usually bring my gear to the local laundromat and bleach the snot out of it. Also the industrial washers get the water super hot. And it only costs about $7. Lol I’m sure if the owner of the laundromat knew what I was putting in his machines he wouldn’t be very happy about it im sure. And in response to Mud’s comment about decon, I can kinda see your point about not doing it only because it doesn’t seem to be having any effect on slowing the spread of WNS. But I will continue to do it because if it can save even a few bats its worth the trouble.

  5. Gene
    May 31, 2013 at 11:53 am

    Mud has it down, screw that! The bats are fine, that is nature, regardless if we are there or not!

  6. Gene
    May 31, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Really, Think about it!, if we all ignored the whole thing, it would not matter, the bats will bounce back, if not, nature was equalize everything out, as it has for a lot longer that our human minds can conceive, we are really not as proactive as we all think we are. Chemicals are more harmful to us than the minute percentage of humans that could ever do more spreading than the bats do themselves. I see all this as over-reaction, and a real soft spot for all environmental wacko’s to shout out!
    As I said Mud has it right! Which is sort of Ironic, clear as Mud!

  7. Steve S
    May 31, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    The bats are fine? Seriously? Have you ever actually seen what happens to them from WNS? You should check out the video from mt Aeolus cave in Vermont from a few years back. You might just change your mind.

    • Caving News
      May 31, 2013 at 4:13 pm

      Could this be the video?

      • Steve S
        June 1, 2013 at 6:22 am

        Yup that’s the one!! Thank you for posting it. Maybe it will open some people’s eyes.

  8. June 1, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Remember also the non-chemical alternative of hot water decontamination: 120 degrees F for 15 minutes. Al Hicks, formerly of NYDEC and now Vesper Consulting, cut the top off a small hot water heater and uses that for his submersibles while in the field doing bat research. Very handy item.


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