The alkaline comet assay is now the method of choice for measuring different kinds of DNA damage in cells. Several attempts have been made to identify and evaluate the critical points affecting the comet assay outcome, highlighting the requirement of arriving at a standardised protocol in order to be able to compare the results obtained in different laboratories. However, reports on the effect of modifying the time of lysis are lacking. Here we tested different times of lysis (from no lysis to 1 week) in control HeLa cells and HeLa cells treated with different concentrations of methyl methanesulfonate (MMS) or H2O2. We also tested different times of lysis in the comet assay combined with formamidopyrimidine DNA glycosylase (FPG) in untreated and Ro 19-8022 plus light-treated HeLa cells. The same DNA damage levels were detected in the absence of lysis or after 1h of lysis when the standard comet assay was used to detect the MMS- and H2O2-induced lesions; the response increased when longer lysis was used, up to at least 1 week. When FPG was used, a minimum lysis period of 5 min was necessary to allow the enzyme to reach the DNA; the same DNA damage levels were detected after 5 min or 1h of lysis and the response increased up to 24h. In conclusion, the time of lysis can be varied depending on the sensitivity needed in both versions of the assay, and a constant time of lysis should be used if results from different experiments or laboratories are to be compared.