Laboratory Equipment Care and Maintenance
Keeping your lab equipment in the best condition is necessary for the accuracy of your experiments as well as extending the life of the equipment.
Proper care and maintenance of lab equipment including microscopes, spectrophotometers, and centrifuges can be done by using the right cleaning procedures, routine calibration, handling the equipment correctly and appropriate storage.
Cleaning the lab equipment on a regular basis and using appropriate cleaning materials is very important. A soft microfiber cleaning cloth is ideal for removing dust and dirt that accumulates on the equipment over the time. Sometimes a soft paint brush can be used to remove the debris (for example dusting off microscope lenses). Kimwipes™ or optical wipes should be used to prevent scratching the equipment or its parts. Built-up residues and oils can be removed by using a gentle cleaning solution or agent. The frequency of cleaning depends on the equipment and how often it is used. This may change from daily or weekly to monthly. For example, an analytical balance that is used in a lab every day should be cleaned at least once a day. After cleaning, when equipment will not be used for a reasonable period of time, a protective dust cover can be used.
It is vital to perform necessary routine calibration or specification updates to maintain your equipment and ensure accuracy. There are a variety of calibration procedures and each depends on the equipment and the level of maintenance. The procedures could range from basic preventive maintenance to an advanced accuracy verification. For example, when a typical analytical balance is moved to a different location in the lab, it must be calibrated and adjusted.
If you have questions about calibration, you can refer to the manufacturer’s guide or directly contact the manufacturer. If the equipment is malfunctioning even if it is calibrated properly, a repair may be needed. Contacting the manufacturer for specific repair advice will resolve the issue.
Proper storage is essential to maintain and extend the life of your lab equipment. You need to ensure that lab equipment is stored in an area that is safe and secure. Storage area countertop surfaces need to be smooth, dry and level. When equipment is stored and used in the same area, you need to ensure that there is enough work space for you and your students to operate the equipment properly. For example, a UV-vis spectrophotometer should be located at a lab bench that has enough room for cuvette filling and rinsing. You also need to keep accessories near the equipment. For example, clean quartz cuvettes for UV-vis spectrophotometers should be kept close to the instrument.
Finally, you need to ensure that there are no flammables, corrosives or other harmful chemicals nearby. Temperature and ventilation need to be optimal for the storage of the equipment.
Keeping an inventory of the lab equipment is key to running your lab smoothly by providing a database of information including performance, repairs and life expectancy. There are different ways of keeping an efficient inventory. It could be an Excel spreadsheet or other data sheet that includes basic information such as the model numbers, manufacturer’s name, date of purchase, and a history of performance and repairs. You may want to include additional information such as an e-file of instructions and the link to manufacturer’s website.
Appropriate training in the use of lab equipment is extremely important. It eliminates damage and expensive repairs caused as a result of misuse of the equipment. It is necessary for both teachers and students to learn how to operate lab equipment.
Training could be as simple as incorporating a review of the operating manual with hands-on practice. It could also be formal that includes an exam and a hands-on training. Training needs to be done by a qualified member of staff and repeated as needed.
I hope you find these tips helpful and use them to increase the life of your lab equipment and maintain the accuracy of your experiments!