Just as it is vital to clean your kitchen after cooking a meal, laboratory workbenches need to be cleaned between uses. Keeping your lab bench clean ensures leftover dirt or other materials do not contaminate future projects. You can also ensure dangerous substances don’t end up in the wrong places, possibly damaging equipment or cause a colleague harm.
Lab directors should check their departments for cleanliness, but everyone is in charge of keeping work stations clean. A basic check does not need to impact lab processes but should be done every so often.
- Aisles should be clear of boxes, supplies, or other obstructions.
- Loose wires, cables, and computer cords should be tied and organized.
- Lab floors should be mopped at least daily
- Anti-fatigue mats should be replaced regularly to avoid dangerous ware.
- Emergency areas like eyewash stations, showers, and fire extinguishers should remain unobstructed at all times.
- Lab areas should be dusted and de-cluttered regularly.
- Clean items that may not be part of regular testing or experiments. Wipe down chairs, telephones, computers, timers, pens, etc. daily to make sure contagions aren’t accidentally left behind.
Due to the use of chemicals and other hazardous materials used in laboratories, work stations should be more than organized; they should be disinfected. Disinfection needs to happen after any spill as well as after every work shift. The CDC recommends the use of a ten percent bleach solution as the standard for disinfection, but other products might be preferred for your lab.
While some manufacturers of laboratory equipment may recommend specific cleaners on their gear, make sure the recommended cleaners are effective for the materials and chemicals that you use. You should also be aware that bleach can cause damage to some lab instruments. Ultimately, you want to use the correct product for the environment in which you are working.
1. Always use the appropriate protective gear. At a minimum, wear latex gloves and goggles. If you have longer hair, tie it up out of the way.
2. Remove loose items from the laboratory work station. Beakers, test tubes, pipettes, etc. should be relocated and washed appropriately.
3. To meet the minimum, 10 percent bleach, mix one-part bleach with nine parts water. This should be sufficient for most lab surfaces. Research your specific station material in case a different solution is required.
4. Dip a paper towel in the mixture and wipe the workbench surface thoroughly. Don’t forget to clean corners, edges, and undersides. You may need to use a wire brush or other device to remove some residue.
- Caked-on material such as solidified agar or other gelatin-like products can be removed by boiling purified water in the equipment.
- Organic materials, including soap residue, can be removed by rinsing with acetone.
- An ethanol rinse is useful to sterilize lab equipment that requires all microorganisms to be removed before use.
- RNAse Displace works well for equipment used in DNA research.
Keeping a clean, disinfected, and tidy workstation will ensure that your experiments and projects are accurate while protecting you and your colleagues from harmful chemicals. It is always better to over-clean than to under-clean. While most surfaces can be cleaned with a bleach solution, check with your specific equipment for requirements and recommendations.
Do you have tips for keeping your lab bench clean? Share them in the comments below.