A Better Way to Do Dishes

“I’m so tired of doing dishes!”

Between the dishes I wash at home and those I wash in the lab, that phrase leaves my lips no fewer than 3 times a day.  If I were to add up the number of hours I’ve spent washing dishes over the past year, I’d….well…it’s too upsetting, so I try not to do that calculation.  Let’s just say I’d have had time to become a seasoned marathon runner and to backpack across both Europe and parts of Australia.

From a laboratory perspective, the hours spent washing glassware, are hours that could be spent prepping and analyzing more samples, processing additional data and ordering additional laboratory supplies.  You might even be able to sneak in an extra cup of coffee!

We extract a handful of samples every week and some of our sample matrices are quite challenging to work with – sand, sludge, slime and all kinds of other adventurous components that leave you with an array of messy lab glassware and disk holders.

We switched over from liquid-liquid extraction (LLE) to solid phase extraction (SPE) a year ago. I’ve been thrilled with how much faster and more reproducible my extractions are.  I also use a lot less solvent, which reduces my reagent purchase and hazardous waste disposal costs.

Do you know which challenge did not get solved for me in moving from LLE to SPE?

Yep, you guessed it.  Washing the dishes!

I thought to myself “Isn’t there a way to utilize the benefits of SPE – or even better, fully automated SPE – without ending up buried in a pile of dishes at the end of the day?”

As I wallowed in my tragic situation, a colleague of mine happened to share his recent experience with a new line of SPE disks in disposable holders.  Check out a preview!

He raved about their performance and insisted I give them a try.  He can be a bit dramatic – a crisp, new lab notebook will have him skipping for joy – so I didn’t set my expectations too high.  But my curiosity had been peaked, so I grabbed a box of disks and processed a batch of samples.  Boy was I impressed!

I couldn’t get over the convenience in being able to dispose of the disk along with the holder after each sample extraction.  I thought the grab ‘n’ go style would surely force me to sacrifice elsewhere in my sample preparation process – poor data quality?  I wasn’t sure.  After collecting my first set of data, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that skepticism was baseless.  My quality control checks look just as good and my data is as accurate and reliable as it was with my reusable disk holders.  If you want to see an example of some typical drinking water data, check out this app note which follows the requirements for EPA Method 525.3.

So the “downside” in switching to a disposable disk holder is that I don’t have to wash as many dishes?  I’ll take it!

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