Abstract During in vivo experiments to evaluate the biocompatibility and biostability of alternative biomaterials, the ideal protocol for the handling and preservation of the explanted material is often compromised in order to meet the needs of both the pathologist and the materials scientist. Expiants surrounded by tissue are often fixed in formalin or glutaraldehyde to facilitate later pathological and histological analysis, but the subsequent removal of such fixed tissue from thermally sensitive and less chemically stable polymers, such as polyurethanes, poses major problems for the materials scientist, who does not wish to modify the chemical, physical or morphological characteristics of the underlying biomaterial. The present study has attempted to find a solution to this problem by exposing virgin specimens of the microporous polyurethane Vascugraft ® vascular prosthesis to six different cleaning conditions, all known to be effective in removing fixed tissue. These conditions included the use of 20% aqueous potassium hydroxide solution for 48 h at room temperature, 5% sodium bicarbonate solution for 5 min at the boil, and 9, 10, 11 and 12 n hydrochloric acid for 48 h at room temperature. The appearance and chemical properties of the virgin and treated specimens were compared using electron spectroscopy for chemical analysis, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, gel permeation chromatography for molecular weight and differential scanning calorimetry techniques. The use of temperatures close to the boil resulted in the formation of a translucent, rubbery material with gross changes in the microporous and microfibrous structure. The strongly acidic and alkaline conditions caused a loss in the surface carbonate group content. In addition, 12 n hydrochloric acid reduced the molecular weight and urethane content. Consequently, 9 n hydrochloric acid is recommended as the cleaning agent of choice for removing fixed tissue from this type of microporous polyurethane. Control experiments on virgin material should also be included in any cleaning protocol.