Maintaining laboratory equipment during periods of inactivity: Washers & Water Purification Systems

A confident scientist at home in his environment

The pandemic of 2020 has taught us many things. We were all forced, very unexpectedly, to live and work in unconventional ways. During these times, many issues came up in laboratories that were previously of little concern. For most labs, equipment is used routinely or continuously, and not much thought is given to what would happen if the equipment were to sit idle for an extended period of time. This article series will explain what can happen if equipment is left idle for long periods, how to prepare equipment for an extended period of inactivity, and how to restart equipment. In this three-part series, we will cover water purification systems and glassware washers, ventilated enclosures and equipment requiring the use of vacuum pumps. 

See Part 2: Ventilated Enclosures, Fume Hoods & Biosafety Cabinets

Water Purification Systems

Labconco Water Purification Systems each consist of different types of filters that clean the supply water to the purity required for various applications. The two main classes of Labconco water purification systems are the WaterPro RO (reverse osmosis) System and the WaterPro PS Polishing Systems (PS). When water is left idle in a closed system, bacteria can start to grow, not only in the inlet pipes going to the laboratory, but also in the filters and tubing within the water purification unit. Normally, bacteria growth within filters is prevented by routine use, proper filter changes, and the unit’s ability to recirculate or flush water at regular intervals. Depending on which model you have, your Labconco WaterPro System will recirculate or flush water at regular intervals to maintain clean water. Thus, there is no need to shut-down the system, as long as power to the unit is maintained. If you want to fully shut down the unit, we recommend cleaning the filter bowls and reservoir (RO systems only) as listed in the user manual and storing the used filters at 4°C (take note to cover the open ends of the filter). 

Upon return, systems can be used as they were before, with one exception. If your polishing system contains an ultrafilter, the filter should be flushed by running the water to a drain for two hours. Next, the system should be set to recirculate the water for 24 hours before use. If power to any Labconco water purification unit is lost for more than 24-48 hours, we recommend sanitizing the unit as described in the user manual and replacing all the purification filters. When restarting a system that was fully shut down and cleaned, follow the manual for new system startup and insert either new filters or the filters that were stored at 4°C. Allow the cold filters to come to room temperature before use. If the entire plumbing system in the facility has not been used for an extended period, the supply water should be disconnected from the system and flushed. Failure to do so could result in very short life of the new filters. 

Glassware Washers

Just as bacteria can grow in water systems, it can also grow in the water sitting in the sump and tubing of a glassware washer. During regular use, Labconco washers open the inlet valve and run the drain for a short time at the very beginning of each run specifically to flush out any stagnant water in the bottom. Before a long period of inactivity, ensure the inside of the washer is dry, clean debris from the sump filter screen and remove any buildup as described in the user manual. Leave the door slightly ajar allowing for air circulation inside the unit to decrease the chance of microbial growth. Upon return, check the main gaskets and verify that the automatic detergent and rinse aid containers are full. Next, run one wash cycle without glassware. This cycle ensures the water is filling the washer and draining as expected. Should you notice the unit takes longer to fill, check the water fill valve and ensure the filter is debris free. If the glassware washer is draining slowly, check the air gap for build-up. Refer to the user manual for the fill valve and air gap locations and cleaning requirements for your specific model. Going forward, the glassware washer can be loaded and used as before. 

Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns regarding your Labconco Water Purification System or Glassware Washer.

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