Cleaning a laboratory is a challenging part of the job for a lab aid or student laboratory assistant. It's vital for ensuring the safety of other lab users, the integrity of scientific experiments and the economic well-being of the lab. Certain expectations are the same for all labs, but follow the standard for your institution. You may have to meet additional requirements, or be prohibited from cleaning up toxic and dangerous substances.
Before you begin cleaning, ensure that the lab has an eye wash station and safety shower, or that you know how to quickly access these emergency stations. If you're cleaning up items that are dangerous when they come into contact with skin, you may need a body suit, boots and thick rubber gloves for protection. Wear a mask when you're around chemicals that pose respiratory dangers, and use goggles to protect your eyes. In most cases, proper cleanup procedures depend on the chemicals and substances with which you're working. A paper towel is fine to clean up water but will quickly be eaten through by chemicals, so check the chemical guide for each product in the lab.
Tidy the Lab
Before you clean up spills or disinfect equipment, tidy up the lab to make sure that there is a clear path to the door and to emergency stations. A few seconds can make a big difference when there's a fire or dangerous chemical reaction, so something as mundane as pushing in chairs and removing debris from the floor can be a matter of life and death. Put laboratory supplies in their storage areas, making sure to clean them first if they've been used.
Clean Lab Equipment
Thoroughly clean equipment, such as glassware and burners, before you put it away. Use only chemicals that are marked as safe for the equipment you're using, and disinfect any areas that have been exposed to potential pathogens. Never use flammable cleaning products on burners, and be sure to check the label of each cleaning product you use to ensure that it's safe. Avoid putting away wet equipment, particularly glassware. Instead, dry it by hand or leave it out to air-dry first.
Remove Safety Hazards
Particularly when you're cleaning up after students or novices, check for hidden safety hazards. Look for paper hanging over a burner, for example, or a bacterial culture left on the floor. If you or lab users have worked with pathogens, disinfect all surfaces and any equipment that came into contact with the pathogens. Replace materials that are damaged or missing.