Every piece of equipment in a medical lab has an important role to play. When something breaks down, malfunctions, or simply doesn’t work as efficiently as it could, it can throw off every part of your routine. This is particularly true for laboratory refrigerators and freezers. Without a functioning, efficient cold storage unit, your lab’s samples, vaccines, and other materials are in danger of degradation or contamination. One of the best ways to ensure your refrigerator or freezer stays in its best shape is to perform proper routine maintenance and cleaning. By keeping an eye on the unit, cleaning it thoroughly, and creating a manageable, accessible inventory system, you help protect both your equipment and the vital materials within. This also helps save your laboratory time, money, and the hassle of having to buy new equipment. To help you improve your lab’s productivity—and the lifetime of your cold storage units—here are our tips for maintaining a laboratory refrigerator or freezer.
Ensure All Alarms Are Working
The alarm system on your laboratory refrigerator or freezer is an incredibly useful feature. It helps regulate the unit’s temperature and warns you of inconsistencies, power outages, doors left open, and other complications that could ruin your delicate materials. As a result, your refrigerator’s built-in alarm is one of your most useful tools when it comes to the unit’s maintenance. However, it can only fulfill its purpose if you pay attention and make it a part of your routine maintenance. Ensure that the alarm system is always working. If you mute any alerts, make a note of it and notify all of the lab’s workers so they can continue to keep an eye on the system. Your refrigerator’s alarm acts as a first line of defense against any malfunctions or mistakes. When it’s working properly, you already have an upper hand in keeping the unit running efficiently and effectively.
Keep a Strict Inventory
One of the best ways to monitor your cold storage unit is to keep a close eye on your inventory. Make sure you log the temperatures of every refrigerator or freezer at the beginning and end of every day. Create and maintain a clear, thorough labeling system to help you keep track of materials in and out of the refrigerator. There are plenty of resources to help you with inventory management in your laboratory. You can use online spreadsheets and cloud storage to store your data. There are also various applications or software that can help keep your materials and information in order. As you create a reliable inventory system, it’s also important to train everyone in your lab on how to use and follow it. Make sure both new and old hires know how to access and read the inventory, label materials, and catch mistakes or errors in the data. A reliable laboratory inventory makes it easier to monitor the materials in your refrigerator and therefore the effectiveness of your cold storage units.
Keep the Interior Organized
If the interior of your cold storage unit is messy and unorganized, it’s harder to find the materials you need. One of the most important tips for maintaining a laboratory refrigerator is to keep the materials within organized, clearly labeled, and easily accessible. When you know exactly what is inside your cold storage unit—as well as where it is—you can get in and out as quickly as possible. This keeps you from spending a lot of time moving things around or reorganizing because you can’t find the material you need. It also helps with temperature control, as you won’t have to remove materials or spend as much time with the door open. Additionally, a well-organized interior can also improve the effectiveness of your cold storage unit. Make sure you keep your refrigerator or freezer full enough that it isn’t wasting energy. At the same time, do your best to not overfill it and block the circulation of cold air.
Clean the Unit Regularly
It’s important to keep your cold storage unit clean so it can continue to work as effectively as possible. This will also help preserve the materials within. Pay attention to both the interior and the exterior of your refrigerator or freezer. Be sure to inspect and clean them both regularly. This routine maintenance will help prevent major issues and extend the life of your units.
A clean interior makes it easier to organize your materials and work within your cold storage unit. Try to clean as you work, taking care to clean up any spills, crumbs, or other messes as they occur. When you perform regular inventory within your unit, move shelf by shelf and wipe down the area with a cleaning cloth. Additionally, keep an eye out for a buildup of frost or ice inside your cold storage unit. Opening the door regularly or having it open for a prolonged period of time can lead to excess frost, which can prevent the door from sealing properly and cause eventual damage to your unit. Scrape any accumulation off the door when you notice it. If frost or ice does build up over time, defrost the unit as quickly as possible. The sooner you address the problem, the sooner you can get your unit running as efficiently as possible again.
The exterior of your cold storage unit is just as important as the interior. Check the door seals, vents, and coils during your regular cleaning routine. Make sure the seals are intact and free of ice or frost buildup. Wipe them down with a soft cloth to get rid of any stains or dust that might ruin the seal’s integrity. You should also pay extra attention to your unit’s condenser coils. Keep them free of dust and grime so they can continue to work as effectively as possible. This will also help improve the energy efficiency of your unit. In addition to keeping the unit itself clean, you should also keep the area surrounding it clear of obstructions. Make sure nothing blocks the vents of your unit and prevents circulation. You should also keep the area clear so you and others can work in and around the refrigerator without a problem.
When you keep your medical lab refrigerators and freezers clean, organized, and well maintained, you help improve productivity and efficiency for your entire laboratory. Make these maintenance tips a part of your regular lab routine and set yourself and your work up for success.