If you have ever worked in a lab, you may have had to use a lab desiccator. If so, you should have received proper instructions on how to use it, and what types of actions to avoid. However, if this is your first time and you haven’t been instructed yet, the following information may be of benefit to you.
What Is a Lab Desiccator?
Desiccators are tools used in which dried samples can be stored inside a dry atmosphere. What a desiccator is not, therefore, is a drying agent or a drying oven. Rather, it creates an environment in which an object that is already dry will remain so, avoiding contamination with hydrogen or other wetting agents.
How Desiccators Are Used
Depending on the manufacturer of your desiccator, the usage instructions may vary slightly. However, they are usually quite uniform and include:
- That in order to open the desiccator, you must slide the lid horizontally in one direction until it completely come off. You must hold the bottom of the tool with one hand, and the other hand to hold on to the knob.
- That in order to close the desiccator, you should place the lid partly over the machine’s top and then slide it until it has closed completely. The lid should then be rotated gently in both directions.
- That you should never try to lift the lid in a vertical direction.
- That you should always ensure sufficient grease has been placed around the glass rim. Should it look dry, regular Vaseline can be used to lubricate it. This should lead to a clear rim.
- That should your desiccator seem clumpy or wet, it is likely to be broken. A new desiccant will then be needed. This is why you should always some indicating desiccant with you. If this changes to a pink color, then you must replace it.
- That you should only handle a desiccant inside the hood, and that it should be added very carefully. You must, at all times, wear a lab coat and safety googles. Furthermore, the desiccant should never coat the desiccator’s plate or sides.
With these instructions, you should be able to properly use a desiccant. This is quite a high tech device, although it looks very simplistic, that is an important tool for lab workers. When water contaminates certain samples, experiments can be ruined, which is very costly. A desiccator helps to prevent this, which is why they are so important. Unfortunately, water particles can be microscopically small, which means it is all too easy to miss them. This is why it is so important that you always check the desiccant levels to make sure it is still functioning properly.
Any good laboratory will have extensive policies and procedures in place that you must familiarize yourself with before you can work in the environment. While it is the lab owner’s duty to make sure tools, procedures, and strategies are in place to keep you safe, it is your responsibility to adhere to those.