Maintenance Matters: Lab Washers

For something so instrumental to keeping glassware clean, it only makes sense that maintaining the cleanliness of your lab washer is one of the keys to keeping it running properly.

By Rachel Muenz

Cleaning a cleaning machine

"The most important thing about maintaining a glassware washer is to keep the inside clean,” says Odette Nolan, product manager at Labconco (Kansas City, MO). “That includes the filter screen for any debris that’s collected or anything that’s falling off because that will cause pump problems if it’s not clean.” She adds the tank itself should also be cleaned.

John Lubas, professional service manager at Miele (Gütersloh, Germany) adds users should inspect sump filters on a daily or weekly basis and remove any debris, make sure they load the washer in such a way that the spray arm isn’t blocked, and make sure they perform routine preventive maintenance on the machine to avoid costly repairs and downtime. Having the proper training is also critical to prevent problems with your lab washer.

“You need to get the proper training to operate the machine and consult the machine operating manual,” Lubas says. “It’s also important to use the proper chemistry or detergent for the application. There are different detergents available to wash items that are soiled differently. Using the right detergent is key to getting the glassware clean and preventing problems.”

Nolan adds that using too much detergent is one of the most common errors people make when using their lab washers.

“What that ends up doing is leaving residue on the glassware as well as on the tank,” she says. “We all tend to have a ‘more is better’ type of mentality where we think if we add more soap, there’s going to be a cleaner result. Unfortunately, that’s not always true. It’ll end up leaving spots and white film.”

Users can avoid this mistake simply by reading their manual, taking into account the hardness of their water and their application, and getting help from their manufacturer.

Lubas adds that using in-house personnel or outside contractors who don’t have the proper training to do advanced work on the machine is another common mistake in the lab washer world.

“The improper use of ‘non-approved’ chemistry inside the washer can cause damage to seals, pumps and the stainless chamber,” he says, adding that failure to clean broken glass, labels and other foreign objects from sump filters is another error he sees often. Like Nolan, Lubas recommends talking to the manufacturer to get maintenance advice, along with only using OEM parts to service the machine and ensuring the product’s safety and operating guidelines are followed.

Each manufacturer also has its own recommendations for how often users should do maintenance on their machines.

“Generally, if the lab is using the machine four to six times per day, one PM [preventive maintenance] per year is fine,” Lubas says. “If the machine is being run during double shifts—more than an eight hour span—then I would recommend two per year or every six months. It’s also a good idea to have a preventive maintenance visit if you are washing petroleum, oils, perfumes, etc.—glassware that is coated with solvents.”

Benefits of a maintenance plan:

  • Specific inspection, maintenance and servicing guarantees full machine performance and machine uptime
  • Reduced downtimes and avoidance of unnecessary repairs
  • Increased productivity and uptime
  • Safeguarding of investments
  • Comprehensive information on technical condition of machines

Nolan recommends users do maintenance on their washers as needed or at least monthly, on average.

While some vendors offer service plans of various levels with their washers, not all do, as most of the maintenance can be done by the user. For example, Miele offers preventive maintenance and inspection and evaluation plans as well as a full-maintenance service contract while Labconco does not.

“Glassware washers are pretty easy to maintain,” Nolan explains. “Because they’re a cleaning unit, don’t put anything in there that’s going to degrade the gaskets— the rubber parts—and it’ll last you a long time.”

Be sure to check out next month’s Maintenance Matters, which will focus on mills and grinders.

Categories: Maintenance Matters

Published In

Safe Enough? Magazine Issue Cover
Safe Enough?

Published: June 12, 2014

Cover Story

Safe Enough?

According to a recent OSHA publication, there are more than 500,000 workers employed in laboratories in the United States.1 And as lab managers, you know that laboratories can be potentially dangerous places to work.

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