How it works: Laboratory glassware washers protect your laboratory environment
I spend a good amount of time hand washing my lab glassware, which affects the amount of time I can spend on actual work. How do I justify the purchase of a laboratory glassware washer for my laboratory?
Hand washing glassware is common in the lab and is perceived as the more economical choice over investing in a laboratory glassware washer; however, when costs are broken out and compared, the reality is quite the opposite. The direct costs involved in hand washing glassware, (cost of water, volume used and cost of labor) are compelling evidence that an automated machine will save money in addition to providing consistently clean glassware.
Here’s a great tool to help you in the justification process: Glassware Washing Cost Calculator. By entering a few key elements of your lab’s workload, you get a report detailing how much water, energy and cost a laboratory glassware washer can actually save you.
While lab washers are great for energy and water savings, don’t overlook their many other benefits. Cross contamination that can be caused by inconsistent washing techniques between workers can be very costly to a laboratory. In many cases the laboratory work must halt until the source of contamination is confirmed, documented and all the necessary retesting completed. Automated equipment with preprogrammed cycles remove human error and personal washing preferences from the equation, providing you with glassware that can be validated as consistently clean.
Along these same lines of cross contamination, residential washers may seem like a viable solution to your washing problems; however, there are many issues they can pose. The most prominent of which is that it comes with only a single pump which brings in clean water through the same path from which the dirty water was just evacuated. Cross contamination risks become very high.
Most laboratory glassware washer manufacturers address this by installing two separate pumps to fill and drain the unit. The first pump will only handle incoming, clean water, and the second will only handle outgoing, dirty water. Removing the common path also removes the source of cross contamination. For more information on why residential dishwashers are not ideal for the laboratory, see these further glassware washing articles.
Hand washing obviously involves significant handling of laboratory glassware. This comes with an inherent risk to the user of breakage and injury. This also results in downtime in the lab, health care costs for the worker, and cost of glassware replacement.
By limiting the number of times glassware is handled (especially wet), the risk is decreased. For example, hand washing requires multiple manual contacts: wash, rinse, dry and return to storage. That is a minimum of four contacts that would be reduced through the use of an automated washer. Since the washer does all the washing and drying, the user would only be in contact once to load the washer and once to unload into the final storage cabinet. Always remember limiting the number of contacts with the glassware will greatly decrease that risk.