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Tips for Care and Use of Centrifuges

Jill Driscoll, Scientific Support Specialist


Centrifuges
are essential instruments used in biology and chemistry laboratories for isolating and separating components of micro and macromolecules. To sustain peak performance and minimize repair costs, you should handle them carefully and perform routine maintenance. By applying the following simple tips, you can keep your centrifuges working properly for a long time. 

Proper Use

  • Centrifuges spin at high speeds, so it is important to place them on flat, level and stable surfaces to support the weight. 
  • Using the right rotor for the desired speed is crucial. The correct rotor needs to be securely placed in the centrifuge. Make sure that you use the correct size and shape tubes for the rotor.
  • Balancing centrifuge tubes in the rotor is extremely important, especially at higher speeds. Balance your tubes by position and mass. Tubes of the same mass should be 180° opposite each other. If you only have one sample tube, balance it with another tube containing the same mass of water and place it in the hole opposite your sample tube.
  • When the centrifuge starts, observe it to verify that it reaches the desired speed and works properly. If it moves or makes noises, turn it off and unplug the power immediately to inspect the centrifuge. If the issue cannot be resolved, contact the manufacturer.
  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when you work with or near centrifuges. This includes safety goggles or glasses, gloves, a lab coat, and closed-toe shoes.
  • Before taking your samples out of the centrifuge, wait until the rotor stops spinning. The rotor will spin for a while even though the centrifuge is off.
  • When working with biohazardous chemicals, load and unload the rotor inside a biosafety cabinet. Use gasketed safety tubes with biohazardous materials. 

Cleaning, Inspection and Lubrication

  • Check the centrifuge before using to make sure that the inside is clean and free of dirt, dust and spills. After each use, unplug the unit and wipe the inside, rotor chamber and other accessories with a soft, moist cloth and mild cleaning solution such as 70% ethanol. Wait until it is completely dry before closing the lid.
  • Specific cleaning agents or autoclaving is recommended when using biohazardous samples. Radioactive decontamination is required if you use radioactive isotopes.
  • Periodically inspect the critical centrifuge parts that are subject to wear, such as O-rings and gaskets, to ensure that they are clean and not damaged.
  • Lubricating parts of your centrifuge is very important. O-rings, buckets, and drive shafts must be kept lubricated to prevent leaks and malfunctions. Evenly lubricate these parts periodically using the manufacturer’s suggested lubricant.
  • Check the rotor for scratches and wear. Also check the tubes for cracks since broken tubes could cause spills and imbalanced operation.

Maintenance and Service Agreement

  • It is beneficial to keep a maintenance log book of cleaning, repairs and services done on the centrifuge. Getting a Service Agreement is recommended as it will cover a variety of issues such as preventive maintenance and inspection services. Keep a copy of the Service Agreement handy so malfunctions can be quickly addressed.

I hope you find this information helpful. These basic tips will protect your equipment and extend its life. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions. I am happy to help!

Sincerely,

Jill Driscoll
Scientific Support Specialist
Flinn Scientific