As we’ve previously discussed, incubator contamination is an unfortunate reality of cell culture work. The ideal conditions for growth the incubator creates aren’t selective, and contaminants will take as much advantage of them as your cultures.
So how do you best care for your incubators to ensure your cultures thrive but mold, mycoplasma, and other undesirables stay out?
Want to learn more? Explore our on-demand webinar: Nurture Your Incubator; Nurture Your Cells. Proper Care and “Feeding” of Your Cell Culture Incubator, in the Cell Culture Café
Location, location, location
What’s good for your house is also, in this case, ideal for your lab equipment. Before you bring in a new incubator, consider where it will go. Many of us stop once we find a precious square of empty floor space within arm’s reach, but, while accessibility is important, other factors will affect the incubator’s success.
You’ll want to avoid a spot near doorways or air vents, which can blow in contaminants and increase the likelihood of fungal growth. And avoid direct sunlight, which can cause temperature fluctuations and affect the functionality of anticondensation functions.
You’ll also want to ensure you have left adequate space around your incubator—three inches at least—to allow the venting of heat and provide access to cords and hook-ups. And be sure to use a stand; placing an incubator directly on the floor increases the risk of contaminants sweeping in when the door is opened.
Last, look for sources of vibration. Placing a CO2 incubator near a centrifuge can lead to vibrations that affect cell growth.
Plan for scheduled maintenance
Refer to your incubator’s manual for specific model details, but you can begin with these guidelines for scheduled maintenance:
- Replace HEPA and gas inlet filters every six months to one year.
- Clean the fan and fan wheels two to three times a year.
- Check CO2 levels every month.
- Keep water pans filled, and be sure to completely replace the water every week or two.
- Check the temperature once a year with an NIST-certified thermometer.
Find out more about cleaning and maintaining your incubators in our on-demand webinar, Nurture Your Incubator; Nurture Your Cells. Proper Care and “Feeding” of Your Cell Culture Incubator, in the Cell Culture Cafe.