[Histonet] Cleaning of microtomes and accessories

Jan.Minshew <@t> leica-microsystems.com Jan.Minshew <@t> leica-microsystems.com
Mon Dec 12 11:31:14 CST 2005

Hello to all,

Not long ago, I responded to the originator of a question about how to
clean disposable blade holders on microtomes. Since there was a great deal
of  conversation afterwards, I decided to consult my colleagues at the
factory and respond to the whole group.  The following information is what
Leica recommends, but the advice should be safe to use on any microtome.  I
hope that other manufacturers who monitor the Histonet will feel free to
jump in with additional comments too.

   Microtomes should always be cleaned after use (don't forget to remove
   blades/knives before starting).
   Brush away any loose, easily removed debris and disposed of it according
   to the regulations in your facility.
   Debris that is stuck to a surface should be removed with a soft cloth or
   gauze and "elbow grease".  Baby oil (or other light oils like mineral
   oil) work wonders for removing paraffin.  Be sure to wipe well with a
   clean cloth to remove residues.
   Using xylene is not generally recommended for cleaning for a variety of
   reasons (i.e. absorbtion through the skin, potential damage to the
   housing and locking mechanisms on some models, etc.).
   If, occasionally, you wish to clean more thoroughly, place the blade
   holder on paper towels in a paraffin oven.  After it has had time to
   heat, use the "elbow grease" method again.  Be sure to follow with the
   lubricant recommended by the manufacturer.  This is also a great way to
   clean block holders that have their jaw openings caked with paraffin.
   As a general rule, older model disposable blade holders should not be
   taken apart by individuals who have not been trained.  Newer models are
   a little more forgiving, but it would still be wise to ask your sales or
   service representative for their recommendation for the model you are
   If you take the clamping plate off the disposable blade holder, treat it
   with extreme care.  Damage to the clamping surface will cause sectioning
   difficulties and could require replacement.
   Lubricate according to the instructions received with the instrument.
   Use the lubricant recommended by the manufacturer on the areas
   recommended by the manufacturer.  Do not exceed the recommended amount
   of lubricant.  If a little is good, a lot is NOT better.
   Last, but not least, if you have soaked a block in decal solution, rinse
   it in water before sectioning.  This will prolong the appearance and
   integrity of the accessories.  Be sure to remove any water from rinsing
   or cooling with ice, too.

These are just a few tips.  Cleanliness and proper maintenance are
extremely important for these precision instruments.  The blade holder is
one of the most important parts of the microtome and it has a great deal of
influence on the quality of sections that can be obtained.  Some blade
holders are more delicate and finiky than others.  If you have any
questions about the ones in your lab, I'm sure the manufacturer would be
happy to offer advice on the proper way to maintain them.

Warm wishes to all and Happy Holidays (a little early),

Jan Minshew HT(ASCP)HTL
Marketing Manager
Leica Microsystems, Inc.
2345 Waukegan Rd.
Bannockburn, IL 60015
800.248.0123 x7015 (toll free)
847.405.7051 (direct)
847.405.7041 (fax)

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