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Maintenance Matters: Mills & Grinders

Using mills and grinders can be a messy business, which is why cleaning and inspecting units’ parts is so important to keeping this lab equipment in top shape.

Rachel Muenz

Rachel Muenz, managing editor for G2 Intelligence, can be reached at

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Regular checks and proper cleaning are critical

“Mills have to be cleaned thoroughly after every sample run,” says Oliver Vogelsang, product manager at IKA (Staufen, Germany). He adds that users should also check regularly for wear and tear on items such as seals and blades/beaters.

Michael Gordon, senior service technician at Verder Scientific (Haan, Germany) adds that several things can go wrong if users don’t clean their units properly, or don’t clean them at all.

“Improper or no clean-up after sample grinding can lead to seal failure as well as corrosion to the mill and accessories,” Gordon says. “It is always advised to follow the procedures in the operating manuals for maintaining and cleaning the equipment and to discuss proper procedures with the product manager to answer any outstanding questions or unclear points.”

The environment the mill or grinder is kept in is also an important factor in maintenance, Gordon says. A particularly dusty or dirty work area means users will have to put in more effort to keep their mills and grinders running smoothly, taking such steps as replacing dust filters and cleaning the unit with a vacuum and wiping it down.

In general, Vogelsang says users should be checking for worn out parts at least once a week. “If the mill makes unpleasant or loud noises during the grinding process, it has to be serviced thoroughly,” he adds regarding signs that users should do maintenance.

Gordon says following the manual is important to get users started on making a maintenance schedule for their mills and grinders.

“Since operating conditions and parameters vary so widely upon customer usage and application, it is not possible to provide a strict, regimented maintenance schedule as it always depends on use,” he explains. “The operating manuals provide service interval alarms after so many hours of use, which then should be referenced in the operating manuals to check certain parts and components of the mill.”

Ignoring such service interval checks and not cleaning the unit until the machine displays an error are the main mistakes Gordon sees customers making in maintaining their mills and grinders. In addition to those, Vogelsang says users often don’t fully disassemble the grinding comb, allowing samples to build up over time into a mass; or they don’t correctly reassemble the unit after cleaning. Other common errors are users wet cleaning their mills or putting them into dishwashers to clean them, resulting in damage to the unit, Vogelsang says.

Both Vogelsang and Gordon agree that reading the manual and following the instructions inside are the best ways to avoid such mistakes. Experienced colleagues and the manufacturer’s service department are also important resources in keeping mills and grinders well maintained.

“The operating manual is always the first line,” Gordon says. “If the question is not addressed in the operating manual, then contacting [the vendor’s] service department is the next step.”

He adds that while those who use their mills and grinders can expect to replace components more often, they can still extend the lifetime of their units through proper care and cleaning.

Vogelsang agrees.

“A mill is a piece of lab equipment which is subject to natural wear and aging,” he says. “The more care that is applied towards the use of the mill, the longer it will be serving its true purpose.”

Next month will see a break from our Maintenance Matters column as we release our annual Product Resource Guide. But be sure to check back in September when we cover CO2 incubators.