Biological Safety Cabinets (BSCs) serve two main purposes: preventing contamination to protect your samples, and to protect yourself and your surroundings from your samples. Most BSCs employ filters and uniform airflows to create an invisible barrier between the outside and inside of the cabinet. When properly functioning, this will protect samples from contaminants such as microorganisms and nucleases.
Go with the flow
When using a BSC, it’s crucial to ensure that your samples only encounter contaminant-free air. In addition to using filters, you can achieve this by minimizing your interference with the BSC. Ensure everything you need is inside the BSC before you start, and avoid fast arm movements as this could cause turbulence that alters the airflow inside.
While bleach is a highly effective germicide, it’ is corrosive to the steel – which is what most BSC surfaces are made of. Try to limit your use of bleach to emergencies, such as an accidental spill. For routine cleaning, ethanol is effective and has no negative effect on steel. Ethanol, however, can damage some plastics, so make sure you regularly check your non-disposable plasticware for any signs of deteriorating or damage. An easy maintenance trick is to leave cleaning solutions on the surface for around 30 minutes before wiping them away.
The use of UV for BSC sterilization has been a hot topic in laboratories for the last several years. UV light can kill most microorganisms – in about 12 minutes. What’s more, it can reach areas of the BSC that are often difficult to reach with your arm, taking some manual labor out of the sterilization process. Though UV makes sterilization much easier, you must ensure that you are safely behind glass while using UV, or you could risk burning your skin. In addition to taking safety precautions, the bulb requires some routine maintenance to ensure that it is functional.
Keeping Contamination at Bay
If your work is being contaminated when using a BSC, evaluate your aseptic techniques and make sure you’re using the most effective ones for your lab. If you still have contamination problems, consider any changes in the lab that could disturb your BSC’s airflow – such factors may seem insignificant, but could influence the functioning of your cabinet.
To learn more about preventing contamination in the lab, explore our on-demand webinar in the Cell Culture Cafe: Cleaning and Contamination in your Biological Safety Cabinet.