The equipment used in a laboratory is essential to any projects, experiments, and activities being performed there. This equipment must be properly maintained and cared for, which is the focus of this lesson.
Laboratory Equipment Needs Care
You know that your car is a machine that requires maintenance and care. You have to change the oil, top off fluids, tighten bolts, and keep it clean in order for it to run well and last a long time. Laboratory equipment is no different! In order for your equipment to work, you need to properly care for and maintain it as well. So, in this lesson we're going to talk about how to do just this, specifically for microscopes, thermometers, and pH meters because they are so common in the laboratory. This proper care and maintenance will help you keep your lab equipment up and running as long as possible.
Care & Maintenance of Microscopes
One of the most common pieces of laboratory equipment is the microscope, so it makes sense to start there. Microscopes are very useful, but they are also very expensive, so it's in everyone's best interest to properly care for them. Here are some basic tips to keep in mind for the microscopes in your lab:
- Cover the microscope when not in use to prevent it from getting dirty or damaged.
- Only clean the microscope with approved materials to prevent scratching the lenses (such as Kimwipes or optical wipes).
- Inspect the microscope periodically; this will ensure that repairs are made in a timely matter and prevent any damages from getting worse.
- Keep the microscope away from any extreme heat or cold sources, and avoid using hazardous chemicals around the microscope.
- If the microscope must be moved, carry it with two hands to prevent dropping it or hitting another object.
- Replace any damaged parts on the microscope using only the correct parts from an approved supplier.
A lot of these tips may sound like common sense and, in general, they are. But these tips will help keep your microscope from being damaged over either the short- or long-term and keep you working happily away!
Care & Maintenance of Thermometers
Let's next move to thermometers, another very common piece of laboratory equipment. You may not think that thermometers require a lot of care, but because they are glass and many are filled with mercury, they can quickly turn from a basic and useful tool to a dangerous one. In general, some rules to follow for proper care and use of thermometers involve the following:
- Store thermometers in a proper location; don't leave them sitting on the edge of a counter where they can be knocked off and broken.
- Do not use a thermometer as a stirring device - instead use a stirrer!
- Keep thermometers away from open flames.
- When inserting a thermometer into a container or stopper hole, do so carefully to avoid breaking it.
- Keep the thermometer away from any extreme heat or cold sources to avoid damage or breakage.
- Wash thermometers after each use to avoid contamination and dirt buildup.
Thermometers in general don't require a lot of maintenance, but they do need to be used properly to prevent them from damage or breaking.
Care & Maintenance of pH Meters
Finally we come to pH meters which measure the pH of a solution and indicate how acidic or basic it is. These are a bit trickier than thermometers because they can be affected by different chemicals, solvents, detergents, and more. In general, basic care and maintenance of a pH meter includes the following:
- Keep the pH meter and electrode clean; this can be achieved with a mild detergent and water.
- Never wipe the electrode with anything (especially a cloth) as this can create static, which will harm your equipment; instead you should rinse it with purified water.
- Do not allow salts to remain on the pH meter because this can lead to corrosion.
- Store the pH meter away from extreme temperatures.
- Cover the pH meter when not in use.
- Avoid storing the pH meter in a humid environment.
- While you should rinse the electrode with purified water, the electrode should never be stored in it because this will greatly reduce the life of the electrode; only store the pH meter electrode in an approved storage solution.
- Calibrate your equipment frequently to ensure accurate data measurements. This simply means you adjust it to a known set point to ensure that it provides accurate data.
A pH meter is a very useful tool in the laboratory but, like all other equipment, it needs to be properly cared for and maintained in order to serve you well.
Like driving a car, working in the laboratory can be a fun and rewarding experience. But like with a car, lab equipment needs to be cared for and maintained in order to last a long time and perform well.
Proper care and maintenance of lab equipment such as microscopes, thermometers, and pH meters involves using appropriate cleaning materials, handling equipment the right way, storing equipment in appropriate places, and covering equipment when not in use.
Care of most lab equipment involves a lot of common sense, but sometimes you also need to know the specifics. When in doubt, ask the lab supervisor for help. They'll appreciate you putting in the extra care!