Proper sanitation of labware is one of the most important aspects of running a pharmaceutical laboratory. Labware is used in a wide variety of sensitive analytical lab equipment and must be completely clean in order to ensure test results are free of error and contamination. Specialized laboratory dishwashers, however, can be extremely costly to purchase and maintain. Some pharmaceutical labs may be tempted to simply opt for a consumer-grade dishwasher to clean labware instead. After all, how different can a dishwasher really be, right?
As it turns out, there are some vital differences between laboratory-grade and consumer-grade dishwashers that cannot be ignored. Consumer-grade dishwashers are not designed for laboratory applications. Therefore, they lack the features, rigor, and quality standards that laboratory dishwashers have in order to make sure labware is cleaned properly for later analytical use. If you’re not already convinced, here are five reasons why you should never use consumer-grade dishwashers in a lab.
Greater Risk Of Cross-Contamination
A traditional consumer-grade dishwasher works by using a single pump to circulate water through the machine, essentially delivering clean water and removing dirty water through the same pump. While this is fine when the contaminant you’re removing is leftover gravy, labware is used to contain potentially dangerous materials that cannot be cross-contaminated between labware and research applications. By employing a single pump in a dishwasher, the risk of cross-contamination is significantly increased.
A proper laboratory dishwasher uses a separate pump to wash and drain loads, minimizing the chance for residual contaminants to remain on the washed labware. This ensures that the labware is properly cleaned and ready for use in different research or experiments in the future without the chance that other substances may affect the validity or safety of the procedure and results.
Lower Maximum Heating Temperature
Another reason why consumer-grade dishwashers aren’t suitable for laboratory applications is the lack of sanitization-level heating. A standard dishwasher intended for kitchens will generally heat up to between 55-75 degrees centigrade, which is sufficient for removing grease and food from kitchenware. Labware, however, must be properly sanitized to completely remove any microbes or other contaminants from containers.
Standards for thermal sanitization generally require temperatures of up to 121 degrees Centigrade. At this temperature, labware can be properly sanitized after being exposed for a sufficient amount of time. The high heat removes all potential microbial contaminants, ensuring the safe use of the labware later on.
Lack of Direct Injection Washing
While dishes used as kitchenware tend to have fairly simple shapes to allow for ease of dining, labware is often made in more complex shapes, with narrow necks or intricate tubing. Consumer-grade dishwashers are not designed to clean dishes in abnormal shapes, leading to imperfect washing, with potential contaminants still remaining in small nooks and crannies afterward.
To compensate for the complicated shapes of labware, laboratory dishwashers employ direct injection spindles for washing and drying labware such as volumetric, Erlenmeyer, and distilling flasks. These injection spindles eliminate the hurdles of tight necks and tubing in labware, making sure that every part of the labware being washed is cleaned properly. Direct spindles for drying also make sure that abnormally shaped labware is ready to use the next day, since narrow necks and other tight shapes in labware can result in pockets of water leftover from the normal drying process.
Single Water Inlet
Consumer-grade dishwashers almost always support only a single water source to draw water from to rinse dishes. This is to be expected, as most residential households only have a single water source to draw the water that feeds all the taps and pipes in the house. When washing labware, however, pure distilled water has to be fed through multiple inlets to ensure proper standards of safety and cleanliness. Regular dishwashers are simply not made to accommodate the needs of laboratory cleaning. Laboratory dishwashers are able to utilize multiple inlets of pure water to properly clean labware, without leaving behind any traces of contaminants present in undistilled water.
Finally, professional laboratory dishwashers are simply made to a much higher quality standard than consumer dishwashers, because laboratory dishwashers are exposed to significantly harsher substances than you would ever find in a kitchen. Ordinary dishwashers are made from lower-grade steel and molded plastic, which will degrade quickly under exposure to solvents and chemicals used in a pharmaceutical lab. Laboratory dishwashers are made using high-quality stainless steel to ensure they do not degrade or break down when exposed to dangerous chemical solvents and substances.
Additionally, laboratory dishwashers come with a wide range of specialized features intended for lab applications that consumer-grade dishwashers lack. From filtered air chambers to sensors and data collection, laboratory dishwashers are able to provide all sorts of relevant abilities to ensure standard procedures and protocols are followed when washing labware.
Maintaining Proper Sanitation
While consumer-grade dishwashers may be much more cost-competitive compared to their laboratory counterparts, the difference in price is clearly commensurate with a difference in ability, intended application, and features. Consumer-grade dishwashers simply cannot replace a laboratory dishwasher, and the price reflects that. Laboratory dishwashers offer vital advantages over consumer-grade dishwashers that cannot be ignored or replaced. By investing in a high-quality laboratory dishwasher, you can make sure your labware is always ready and safe to use.