When working with chemicals, all it takes a single misstep for cross contamination to occur. Not only does cross contamination affect the results of your experiment, but it can result in financial losses. For example, if the water for your research peptides is not sterile due to contamination, this changes the outcome of your experiment. Contaminated chemicals are no longer acceptable to use, and experiments have to be repeated. Follow these simple tips to prevent cross contamination in the lab.
1. Use the smallest container possible
As you progress through your experiment, try to use the smallest possible container for your substance. Not only does this cut down on waste, but most workers have better control of a smaller container. This prevents accidental drops and spills that can contaminate other chemicals and materials in the lab;
2. Never skip cleaning duty
Proper housekeeping is one of the most important steps to cut down on cross contamination. At the end of the day (or experiment, depending on your equipment needs), wash your glassware according to the current recommendations for the chemical you are using. Recommendations often vary depending on whether you are using powder or liquid, so make sure you are using the correct protocol.
It may not be practical to wash glassware during or even right after an experiment. However, don't just set dirty glassware aside; this makes it easy to mistake it for clean equipment. Instead take a moment to fill it with soapy water so that you know it is dirty and requires proper cleaning.
3. Examine your equipment before using it
Even if the workers in your lab are supposed to always follow proper cleaning protocol, this doesn't mean that equipment will always be clean and ready for use 100 percent of the time. Take a moment to inspect the equipment and see that it actually is clean before you use it.
4. Keep your materials covered
It doesn't matter if your materials are waiting for use or if you have to step away from an experiment, it is important to keep your materials covered. This provides a layer of physical protection against contamination. Not only are open materials subject to being knocked over (thus contaminating more items in the lab), but spills and drips from other chemicals can contaminate the contents of the container.
5. Retire old equipment at the first sign of damage
Even if your lab is on a budget, it is essential to dispose of damaged equipment as soon as your notice the imperfection. Keeping old equipment around can cost your lab more money in the long run thanks to worthless experiments. Damaged equipment is prone to breakage that results in contamination. It can also leak or drip the contents.