Centrifuge Care and Maintenance
If you work in an industry that requires centrifuges, the chances are you can't imagine doing your job without one. They're vital equipment for various industries, including the medical and scientific fields. The care and maintenance of a centrifuge are critical to ensure it continues to perform optimally.

Knowing how to maintain a centrifuge can prolong its life and protect laboratory staff from injuries. Centrifuges have many moving parts and operate at high speeds, so they need daily cleaning and comprehensive maintenance throughout their useful lives. By taking proper care of your equipment, you can ensure it works correctly and save money in the long run.

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Understanding Centrifuges

As the name suggests, a centrifuge uses high speeds and centripetal force to separate liquids, spinning them at high revolutions per minute. The resulting gravitational pull causes the substances inside to move outward and split, from the densest at the bottom to the least dense at the top.

The centrifuge was first invented in the 19th century when Antonin Prandtl used a rudimentary hand-operated version to separate cream and milk. Over the years, various types of centrifuges appeared for different applications. They can separate white and red blood cells or cells and tissue samples. From slow to fast spinning capabilities and refrigerated to gas centrifuges, they're essential equipment for many medical and scientific research uses.

As centrifuges are important for diagnostic and research applications, even the slightest miscalibration can affect the results. Sourcing quality equipment from the outset is vital for the best results, and proper cleaning, care and maintenance of the equipment increases its accuracy and longevity.

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Common Issues from Lack of Centrifuge Maintenance

Knowing how to maintain a centrifuge correctly is essential to increase durability and functionality. Modern centrifuges have relatively low maintenance requirements, but meeting these requirements is critical for safety and achieving the best possible results. Neglecting centrifuge maintenance can result in the following:

  • Impacting the performance and life span: Small miscalibrations or lack of maintenance can cause substantial and expensive damage to a centrifuge, which leads to wear and tear over time.
  • Risking injury: The centrifugal field, which accelerates the separation process, exerts a significant force on the rotor of your centrifuge. If any part of the mechanism fails, materials spinning at high speeds can damage the equipment and pose a risk to anyone in the area.

Many common centrifuge incidents involve tube breakage, often from an imbalance that causes the centrifuge to move. Serious incidents can cause centrifuge explosions, resulting in extensive damage.

Centrifuge Cleaning and Maintenance

Knowing how to clean your centrifuge is one of the most essential aspects of centrifuge care. Keep the following tips in mind for correct maintenance and cleaning practices.

1. Cleaning Your Centrifuge

Neglecting to clean your centrifuge could result in corrosion and imbalances, leading to more dangerous equipment failures. Clean your centrifuge daily, or at least once a week, for the best results. Follow these simple steps to clean your centrifuge correctly:

  • Wipe it down after every use, especially around the test tube area.
  • Remove the rotor and any container holders while cleaning.
  • Clean it thoroughly, including the interior mechanisms.
  • Use a mild detergent and warm water to clean and dry it thoroughly.
  • Wipe any spills immediately.
  • Avoid caustic detergents, and don't pour water into the bucket.
  • Use a centrifuge lubricant for the bucket grooves and seals after cleaning.
  • Disinfect the equipment regularly with an approved disinfectant.

2. Inspecting Your Centrifuge

Inspect your centrifuge often for signs of damage. Pay specific attention to the rotor for any cracks or corrosion. Damage to the rotor could cause your centrifuge to be uneven, resulting in breakage when rotating at high speeds.

3. Balancing Your Centrifuge

When using a centrifuge, ensuring it's balanced is critical. Imbalances can cause unnecessary movement and vibration in the machine, leading to wear and tear over time. For example, if you're spinning two test tubes, ensure they're opposite and equal in weight.

4. Loading and Unloading Your Centrifuge

Rough handling can damage the rotor or tubes. Always load and unload tubes gently.

5. Servicing Your Centrifuge

Just like any other complex equipment, your centrifuge needs regular tune-ups. Get a trained technician to check your unit regularly. Some signs of damage are only visible to professionals. A trained eye can discern and repair any minor issues before they become large and expensive, ensuring your unit is safe to operate.

Depending on the frequency of use, you should aim to have your unit checked and calibrated every six to 12 months.

Centrifuge Maintenance Checklist

A regular maintenance schedule can increase the longevity and functionality of your centrifuge. Ensure you have a checklist for yourself and your team to ensure no steps are committed. Your centrifuge maintenance checklist could resemble the following:

Daily or Weekly Checklist

Go through the following steps every time you use your centrifuge:

  • Check the rotor lid for scratches, spills and dust before and after every use.
  • Check the seals of the lid if using an aerosol-tight rotor.
  • Clean your centrifuge and wipe it down after every use.
  • Check for corrosion and residue on the motors.
  • Relubricate seals and bucket grooves.
  • Let the centrifuge dry fully before plugging it in.

Monthly Checklist

Here's what to do monthly:

  • Keep a monthly maintenance log.
  • Remove the rotor from the centrifuge and conduct a detailed inspection. Include the rotor, lid and buckets, and look for any signs of corrosion.
  • Check for scratches or gouges — any gouges or cracks mean you need to replace your rotor.

Annual Checklist

Every year, do the following:

  • Get a trusted technician to check your centrifuge and conduct preventive maintenance. 
  • If you're using a refrigerated centrifuge, clean the refrigeration mesh with a brush at least twice a year. 

Download the Centrifuge Maintenance Checklist

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The Role of Professional Services for Centrifuge Preventive Maintenance

While taking the proper steps to care for and maintain your centrifuge yourself is a key element of its longevity, professional maintenance is just as necessary. Regular servicing by professionals gives your equipment the best chance to last the entire length of its useful life, as they're trained to see minor discrepancies and correct them in their infancy.

If you see something concerning during your routine maintenance, it's best to consult a professional to ensure your centrifuge is still safe to use. In addition, scheduled maintenance every six to 12 months is vital, especially if you use your centrifuge regularly.

Invest in Quality Centrifuges at New Life Scientific

A quality centrifuge is one of your lab's most useful and valuable equipment. Regular care and maintenance are vital to keeping it working correctly to ensure lab safety and the best possible results. Maintenance is always necessary, but purchasing quality equipment from the outset often means fewer maintenance requirements.

New Life Scientific provides quality used laboratory equipment with a 120-day warranty and knowledgeable customer support after your purchase to ensure you can keep your equipment working as it should. We have a wide selection of centrifuges and other laboratory equipment to suit any application. Contact us today to learn more about our quality equipment, and let New Life Scientific equip your lab with integrity and expertise.