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Cleaning up equipment and supplies used in lab (Click to enlarge).
Cleaning up equipment and supplies used in lab (Click to enlarge).
Cleaning equipment and supplies are essential for the efficient operation of the modern research lab. Other than the after hours work done by the normal cleaning crew, cleaning is done on a regular basis by the researchers to maintain the safety of the lab environment, restore the lab after accidental spills, protect the lab equipment and instruments, and to prevent the contamination of on-going experiments from each other.
A range of materials and tools are used in these clean-up operations, many specifically designed to collect and dispose of specific chemicals. Actual use and dispensing of the clean-up materials often has to be done with care and special equipment to protect the user and the lab from being contaminated by the cleaning materials themselves.

The most common types of materials that are cleaned up are general, non-hazardous chemicals, according to a recent reader survey performed by the editors of Laboratory Equipment. These are followed, in order of respondent selection, by acids and bases, reagents, solvents, powders, hazardous chemicals, bacteria, and flammable materials.

Materials cleaned up in lab (Click to enlarge).
Materials cleaned up in lab (Click to enlarge).
The most common supplies used for clean-up are paper towels, gloves, and detergents and soaps (about 80% of the survey respondents indicated using these materials). Depending upon the type of ongoing research in the lab, appropriate clean-up supplies should be readily available and regular training provided to maintain the integrity and safety of the lab environment and personnel.
Commercially available spill control stations are available from suppliers, like Lab Safety Supply, Inc., that contain universal or general purpose sorbents for acids, bases, solvents, coolants, lubricants, and water-based chemicals. Researchers should be aware that, in addition to “standard” experiment problems, clean-up operations may also be required for their instruments, equipment, and ancillary systems like oil-filled pumps, refrigerant cooling systems, and other systems that are part of the lab environment. Spill kits and their associated personal protective equipment (PPE) will vary depending upon the type of material that's been spilled and the size of the spill. To control the spread of a chemical spill, retention systems, such as berms, neutralizing and solidification materials, and solid, powder, or liquid sorbents may also be made available in labs, again depending upon the type of on-going research.

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What criterial are used to purchase cleaning supplies?(Click to enlarge).
While cost is the dominant criteria when purchasing cleaning supplies and materials, safety, performance, ease-of-use, and availability are closely aligned criteria considered by product specifiers and purchasers—the clean-up materials must do the job that's expected of them quickly, efficiently, and effectively. There are numerous suppliers of these materials, they're certified for specific situations, and they generally have long shelf lives so cost often becomes the primary product definer.

An important characteristic associated with research lab clean-up that's often overlooked is the air, aerosols, and particulate matter that might be involved in an accident or clean-up situation. Again, materials and supplies are readily available for these types of situations, which if suspected, however, are usually entrusted for clean-up to trained safety personnel or public safety responders, since the hazard and level of the gases involved are generally unknown.

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