Keeping your lab equipment in peak condition is vital if the results of your experiments are going to be accurate and reliable. Precise measurements are the foundation of most science experiments, so failing to maintain your equipment could derail your entire study. Contamination can also completely invalidate your lab results, so thorough housekeeping is just as important as the more glamorous parts of working in a lab.
Labs rely on the ability to deliver accurate results in minimal turnaround time, and efficient equipment is essential to make sure that these goals can be met. In addition to this, equipment is often one of the most significant outlays in labs, where limited funding often means that expenditure must be carefully controlled.
From aiding your research to keeping your lab costs within budget, there are plenty of reasons why equipment maintenance is essential for your lab. That’s why we’ve put together a comprehensive guide on lab equipment
One of the simplest ways to maintain your lab equipment is to clean it, but surprisingly this is something that many labs often overlook. Wiping down all the exteriors of your equipment every day and giving them a full clean once a week is sufficient to keep them in tip top condition.
Some lab equipment has to be cleaned using a specific process, so be sure to consult the manual or your lab manager if you’re unsure how to go about it. Things like microscopes, for example, must be cleaned with a 70:30 mixture of ether and alcohol to ensure they are sufficiently clean to be accurate. If a piece of equipment requires a more thorough clean, this can often be done by a qualified professional.
It’s vitally important not to put off having your equipment regularly calibrated. If you fail to do this often enough, you may find your data becomes corrupted due to lack of accuracy. There are various services available for calibration, depending on the level of maintenance your equipment needs to ensure it’s accurate. This could range from a basic preventative maintenance to an advanced accuracy verification. If you regularly keep up the calibration of your equipment, there should be no need for anything more than a quick preventative maintenance.
While it is sometimes necessary to replace equipment that is faulty or has stopped working, you shouldn’t jump to this conclusion every time something breaks down. Lots of lab equipment can be salvaged by simply replacing parts or performing other repair work. When it comes to larger equipment, this can be a really effective way to increase the functional life of machinery in your lab. Some parts will wear quicker than others and, if managed correctly, these can be replaced as a preventative measure, before they cause problems that put a stop to work in your lab. Centrifuges, for example, require a lot more maintenance to keep them in safe working condition than equipment that receives less daily wear.
Refurbishment is a great option for equipment that is not running as smoothly as it once did. This involves taking the entire piece of equipment apart and fully cleaning each component. All pieces of the equipment are then polished and any moveable parts are re-lubricated. Parts that are faulty or showing signs of wear can also be identified and replaced during this process. Once this has been completed, the equipment is put back together and often works as well as a new item would.
Sometimes, in spite of proper maintenance and repairs, equipment will reach the end of its workable life and need to be replaced. When this happens, it can be tempting to economise on equipment by choosing a less expensive model. However, you might find that this offers a false economy, especially if it is an important part of your lab that is regularly used. Choosing high-quality equipment ensures it has the durability to stand up to regular use in the lab.
Often, higher quality equipment is also easier to find parts for, and can be cleaned and refurbished more easily. If you are only using equipment for a short time or your budget is very tight, it might be worth looking into hiring good quality equipment, rather than covering the entire cost of a new item.