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Using biocides

Biocides can be used by people in their workplace or in their own homes, so it is important that these products can be used without causing harm to people, pets, the environment or wildlife.

Everyone who uses biocides is responsible for using them correctly. This guidance is to help you to  use, store and dispose of biocides safely.

Do you need to use a biocide?

Before buying or using biocides, always consider:

If you decide to buy a biocidal product, try to ensure you only buy what you need.

If you are not a professional, consider using a professional pest controller to deal with the problem. HSE cannot recommend any specific companies, but you could consider contacting:

Which biocidal products should you use?

HSE cannot recommend any specific products, but it is important to make sure that you are using a biocidal product that is suitable for what you want to use it for.

Details of products authorised or approved under the laws that regulate biocides in Great Britain (GB) can be found on the following pages:

If a product does not appear on our databases, this does not necessarily mean it should not be used. The active substance could still be undergoing review so products based on that active substance may not yet require HSE authorisation.

For example, ethanol, which is used in many hand sanitiser products, has not yet finished the review process. Ethanol products can therefore continue to be used but they will not appear on our database as HSE will not have assessed or authorised them yet. Companies supplying products remain responsible for ensuring their products are suitable, safe and effective.

You should determine what your needs are and find a product that meets this need. If you are unsure if a product is suitable, discuss your requirements with the product manufacturers or suppliers.

You can also take a look at the following pages for help in finding out if a product needs to be authorised or approved yet:

General public users

If you are a member of the public, you should only use biocidal products that are intended for the general public - sometimes the terms 'amateur' or 'non-professional' might be used instead.

You do not need to have specific training (in biocides or other specific topics or tasks) to be able to use products intended for use by the general public. Following the label instructions carefully should be enough to allow the product to be used safely and effectively.

Members of the general public should never use biocidal products that are only intended for professional users. This is because professional users are required to have had the appropriate information, instruction and training to be able to use such products. Additionally, professional users are required to hold specific certification for some professional use products.

Professional / industrial users

You are considered to be a professional user if you:

Professional users of biocides, such as professional pest controllers, do not need to have a 'certificate of competence' – this is required for users of professional plant protection products and does not apply to biocides. However, certain biocidal products (some rodenticides and metal phosphide products) can only be used by and sold to professional users with demonstrated competence. These are people who:

You are considered to be an industrial user if you:

The types of training that professional and industrial users are expected to have include topics such as:

There are numerous courses available in GB that cover the many different elements of using biocides. These are run by private consultants / firms, trade associations and training bodies and HSE is not able to recommend any specific training courses.

Reading biocidal product labels

Before using a biocidal product, you must make sure you read and understand the label. The information and instructions on the label are there to make sure that the biocidal product can be used safely and effectively so you must follow these instructions carefully.

Look for the following information on biocidal product labels:

Storing biocides

When storing biocides, you must always:

Guidance for professional users on the general principles of storing biocides can be found in HSE leaflet Guidance on storing pesticides for farmers and other professional users.

Disposing of biocides

Anyone who uses biocides is responsible for making sure that any biocidal waste, including empty containers, are properly disposed of. You should always check the product label for any product specific disposal instructions.

If you are not sure how to properly dispose of your biocidal waste, you should contact the waste disposal department of your local authority for advice.

Professional users may also need to contact a specialist waste contractor.

Accidents and emergencies

If you are following the label instructions and using biocides correctly, there should not be any harm to you, other people, animals or the environment. However, if you do feel ill after using a biocide, you should first seek medical advice and then report it.

Find out how to report exposure to biocides for people, animals and the environment

In case of an accident or emergency, you should note the authorisation or approval number of the biocide (where applicable) and the name(s) of the active substance(s) it contains.

Updated 2021-04-22