Answer to Question #11727 Submitted to "Ask the Experts"
Category: Radiation Basics — Radionuclides
The following question was answered by an expert in the appropriate field:
Bleach and acidic cleaning solutions should not be used for decontamination of iodine-131 (131I) because they can make radioactive iodine volatile. What do you recommend I use for decontamination that can also be purchased over the counter?
Since most detergents are alkaline, not acidic, the best approach is to use an off-the-shelf cleaning solution that doesn't include bleach. Dishwashing liquids, automatic dishwashing detergents, laundry detergents, hand soaps, bar soaps, and general-purpose cleaning products (like 409®, Simple Green®, etc.) fall into this category. Even Tilex® shower cleaner, which contains chlorine bleach but also sodium hydroxide and has a pH of 12.4–12.8, can be used. Agents like Scrubbing Bubbles® add a mechanical "lift" to the cleaning action. Some specialty products add a chelating agent so the iodine doesn't recombine with the surface.
Kent Lambert, CHP
Kennith "Duke" Lovins, CHP