A method based on the treatment of sludge with beef extract recovered, with similar efficiency, the three groups of bacteriophages studied from different kinds of sludges. The three groups of bacteriophages were found in high numbers in the different sludge types, the highest value being that of somatic coliphages in primary sludge of a biological treatment plant (1·1 × 105 pfu g−1) and the lowest being that of Bacteroides fragilis phages (110 pfu g−1) in de-watered, anaerobically, mesophilically-digested sludge. All phages studied accumulated in the sludges. In primary and activated sludges, all three types accumulated similarly but in lime-treated sludge and de-watered, anaerobically, mesophilically-digested sludge, the relative proportion of F-specific bacteriophages decreased significantly with respect to somatic coliphages and bacteriophages infecting B. fragilis. All phages survived successfully in stored sludge, depending on the temperature, and again, F-specific bacteriophages survived less successfully than the others.