Multi-walled carbon nanotubes (MWC NTs) were dispersed in water and in a Pluronic F108 solution by four different dispersion methods (stirring, bath sonication, stirring followed by bath sonication, and sonication probe). The effect of the dispersion methods were evaluated in terms of the particle size distribution, the agglomerates size, and the exfoliated fraction produced, as well as in terms of the surface and bulk chemical composition. Energy dispersive X-ray, X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy, and centrifugal liquid sedimentation techniques were used to characterize pristine MWCNTs and their dispersion. It is shown that, irrespective of the dispersion methods used, the MWCNTs are strongly wrapped with the biocompatible surfactant Pluronic F108, thereby modifying the external surface of the MWCNTs. Some shortening of MWCNTs and more wrapping are also observed when sonication methods are used. These observations raise questions as to the validity of results obtained in toxicology tests, in vitro and in vivo, were such methods of dispersion procedures are used. © Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010.