It’s highly probable that you’re already acutely aware of the need for contamination-free cell cultures. To achieve this, you probably use water of a sufficient purity, wipe down surfaces with 70% ethanol and bleach, avoid cross-contamination with other cell types and have become adept at not breathing, coughing or touching your cultures! However, what about the CO2 incubators you entrust your cultures for environmental stability: is that as clean as the rest of you culture setup? If you want to ensure your cultures are clean and healthy, you need to take care of your CO2 incubator as well.
Location, location, location
Position your CO2 incubator away from areas of high traffic, but out of neglected corners that may be damp, humid and filled with fungal growth. Also, make sure it’s sheltered from ventilation and other airstreams that could deliver airborne contaminants directly to your cultures.
A clean solution
Giving it a good wipe down, inside and out, is always beneficial but avoid bleach and volatile organic chemicals like phenol, isoamyl alcohol and beta-mercaptoethanol – if it smells strong, it’s probably bad for your cells. Instead, make use of specialized, broadly effective solutions like Lysol No Rinse (formerly Roccall-D), Conflikt (North America) and Fermicidal-D (Europe). You can also add a 2% solution of a quaternary ammonium disinfectant to disinfect the incubator interior as well as a disinfection additive in the water pan.
Beyond the CO2 incubator
- Clean outside, clean inside: keeping your lab clean will contribute to keeping your incubator clean as well, as less contaminants outside will mean less contaminants potentially inside.
- Clean and disinfect the biological safety cabinet (BSC), the water bath, the centrifuge, and microscope – anything that might be used with your cultures.
- Try to refrain from storing cardboard or paper in or around refrigerators and freezers, as these materials can breed fungi when they get wet.
- It may be convenient, but don’t store items on top of the incubator; dust and dirt amongst other things can enter the chamber through the air currents created when opening the door.
Take care of your CO2 incubator and it’ll take care of you cells. Keeping your lab clean will also be of benefit, helping to minimize general contamination and reduce the possible risk of exposing lab staff and cultures alike to pathogens.
Want to learn more about keeping your CO2 incubator free from contamination? Watch our on-demand webinar in The Cell Culture Cafe: Nurture your incubator; nurture your cells. Proper care and “feeding” of your cell culture incubator.