Heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) filters have the potential to serve as long-term integrated samplers for biological particles that may be released intentionally or unintentionally into a public building. Methods for eluting bacteria that are surrogates for potential bioterrorism agents from HVAC filters were tested for their ability to recover as high a percentage of culturable bacteria as possible. A solution of 0. 02% Tween-80 in water was an effective eluent for Bacillus globigii (BG) spores whereas phosphate-buffered saline was the most effective eluent for vegetative bacteria. Hand shaking was a more effective agitation method for high recovery rates than vortexing or mechanical shaking. The results indicate that BG spores can be eluted successfully while maintaining essentially 100% culturability. The recovery of the vegetative bacteria Mannheimia haemolytica and Yersinia ruckeri was 80% or higher under optimal conditions. The culturability of the vegetative bacteria eluted from HVAC filters declined substantially within as little as 2 h after the bacteria were loaded onto the filter. The culturability of the BG spores eluted from filters exhibited an exponential decay subsequent to loading with a half-life of 8-9 days.