Recently a blogger on LabSpaces confessed her biggest lab mistake. No, she didn’t set fire to anything, spill a chemical, or release any noxious fumes into the environment. As a young lab technician, she simply loaded up a plastic tray with glass beakers and flasks and pressed “Dry Cycle” on her laboratory’s brand new autoclave.
Of course, she discovered her oversight when she returned. The tub had melted and there was hot plastic oozing from the rack and the walls so that it was pooling at the bottom. It was such a mess that the autoclave was out of commission for two weeks, and when it was returned it was never the same.
Based on the blog article’s comments, she had her sympathizers out there. It’s a fairly common story. 99% of autoclaves have their sterilization temperature presets at 121 degrees, but the new autoclave’s presets were at 134 degrees. Plasticware should be autoclaved at 121 degrees, otherwise you’re left in the position of this embarrassed laboratory tech.
Now a lab manager herself, the lesson she hopes to pass on is that lab personnel should always check the cycle conditions on the autoclave before running it. She also made the decision to switch over to stainless steel baskets.
For a great laugh and some hard earned wisdom, check out the article My biggest lab mistake: Autoclaving 101.