Laboratory Equipment Maintenance 101Ryan White
Whether you’re looking to stay within your budgets or you’re hoping to ensure that experiments run effectively and without a hitch, your first step should always be equipment maintenance.
Without a spotless lab in which to work, the risk of cross-contamination is likely making good housekeeping almost as important to your work as the study itself. And, the benefits of good lab maintenance don’t end there. Equipment is often one of the biggest outlays in a lab so taking adequate care of what you have (therefore preventing unnecessary re-purchases) is an added bonus.
If you know that you’ve been putting less time and consideration into lab maintenance than you should then take a look at our Lab Maintenance 101 checklist and download our useful guide.
Lab cleanliness is one of the easiest, most affordable and most obvious ways to keep your lab in great shape but surprisingly is often overlooked.
It’s advisable to:
- Carry out a daily wipe down of all equipment exteriors
- Carry out a weekly deep clean of all equipment
- Carry out a regular deep clean of microscopes using a 70:30 mixture of ether and alcohol – this ensures that they are sufficiently clean to yield most accurate results
- Consult the manual or lab manager on any specific processes for cleaning demanding equipment
- Consider outsourcing cleaning of challenging items to a qualified professional
Following these simple cleaning procedures will keep equipment in peak condition so that your lab runs without a hitch
Failure to regularly calibrate equipment can lead to a lack of accuracy with your data which could end up disrupting entire experiments. There are various services available to ensure your equipment is regularly calibrated and done so to the right standard.
It’s advisable to:
- Carry out an inventory of your equipment and decide which is most suitable for each item – from basic preventative maintenance to more advanced accuracy verification.
- Regularly calibrate equipment for ongoing preventative maintenance that will keep your lab sharp.
From time to time, lab items will wear out and stop working. But, rather than immediately disposing of faulty equipment, take the time to see if parts could be replaced or items can be repaired instead.
It’s likely that equipment can be updated and maintained rather than simply disposed of.
Particularly with larger items, repairing and replacing parts can be an effective way to increase lifespan and keep down costs. Due to the nature of the items, some parts will wear quicker than others but, when adequately managed, these can be replaced in time to prevent problems or burnout. Consider centrifuges, filtration systems and microscope lenses, each of these can be simply replaced without the need to dispose of the entire machine.
- Don’t immediately dispose of any faulty or outmoded equipment, first see if there’s a way to repair or replace parts to increase the lifespan
For faulty equipment, repairing can be invaluable but if your items still work, just not as smoothly as before, refurbishment could hold the key. If you’re looking to refurbish older items of equipment, then consider carrying out the following process:
- Take the entire piece of equipment apart
- Fully clean each component
- Where necessary polish components
- Re-lubricate any moving parts
- If parts are showing signs of wear and tear, consider replacing them at this preventative stage
- Put the equipment back together
Of course, you’ll need to know a thing or two about the items you’re working with to carry out the above procedure, but this can help items return to good as new.
There will undoubtedly be times when no matter how well you’ve completed your daily cleans, or carried out regular calibration or even repaired and refurbished older items, you will need to purchase replacements.
It can be tempting to take what initially looks like the economical route and scrimp on equipment by choosing the less expensive model. Unfortunately, this offers a false economy. The parts in cheaper items of equipment are often more prone to wear and tear and therefore less likely to go the distance. Choosing high-quality lab equipment usually offers enhanced durability, particularly for items of equipment that are used regularly.
Consider the following:
- High-quality lab equipment is often easier to find parts for
- It’s usually a more straightforward process to clean and refurbish high-quality items
- If you only intend to use the item for a short period of time or your budget is very tight, it could be worth looking into hiring good-quality equipment rather than purchasing the cheaper equivalents