Water For The Lab

Finding the Right Water for Your Lab

Water is used in every type of lab for everything from hand and glassware washing to some of the most complex biochemical assays.  But in my experience, very few lab managers are knowledgeable about reagent grade water and only very few lab managers can provide a correct explanation of the differences between Type I, II and III water.

Take for example the lab manager I will call Terry.  Terry knew he needed purified water but, like many lab managers he didn’t want to spend a lot of money.  So he purchased a cartridge system for $400 like the one shown below.


Terry soon learned two lessons.  First, he was using expensive cartridges at an alarmingly fast rate.  And worst of all, there were still contaminants in his water!  What went wrong?  What did Terry do about it?

Most of us know by now that a single cartridge system should ONLY be used to further purify already purified water and should NEVER have tap water as its feedstock.  Many lab managers also do what Terry did.  He read that he needed Type II water and that this was distilled water and they sold this for very low prices at the local Wal-Mart.  So he has been running to Wal-Mart weekly to pick up bottles of distilled water in plastic jugs.

Everything seemed to be going smoothly with this plan until a sample went to an independent lab for assay and Terry found out that it had very high levels of Total Organic Carbon which could only have come as an external contaminant?

At this point, Terry did what many lab managers do.  He “bit the bullet” and went out and bought a Type I high purity water system.  After board approval, he spent $17,000 and bought the number one best seller EMD Millipore Milli-Q system shown below:  

But Terry’s problems didn’t end here.  He was burning through Labpak’s at the rate of one a month for $460 per pack and he was required to buy a service contract on this water system that added another $200 per month.  And to make matters worse, he was frequently out of water because this system couldn’t make enough to keep up with his demand!  So he was forced to buy a reservoir system and run the Milli-Q 24/7.

Could this nightmare have been avoided?

If Terry had the knowledge he learned after all the money he wasted, he would have made far better choices and avoided these huge expenses.  Here are some of the key lessons Terry learned:

  • Tap water should be analyzed for quality BEFORE you attach it to a system of any kind.  If you don’t know what is in your tap water, you cannot predict what cartridges you will need nor can you predict cartridge life.
  •  A single cartridge system or even a multi-cartridge system are almost always used to “polish” water after it has been pre-purified.
  • If your assays call for Type II water, avoid buying it in a plastic container as most of these contain plasticizers and other contaminants.  And while Wal-Mart may sell distilled water, Wal-Mart could care less what the plasticizers, antioxidants, UVblockers, mold lubricants and/or metal contaminants. Plasticizers used may be listed as potential endocrine disruptor substances that could interfere with biotech applications.
  • A single water system is seldom the right choice for labs complete water needs.
  • The initial cost of the system should be factored in to the overall costs of the life of the system.  The costs of the consumables and service contracts is going to be many multiples of times higher than the cost of the water system.
  • Know the type water you need for your lab and the tests you perform.
  • Are you capable of servicing your own water system and is the system designed to be self-serviced?  Then don’t buy a water system that requires a service contract!

How can LPS help you?

At LPS, we have helped many customers like Terry find the right water system(s).  As authorized distributors for LabStrong and many other water systems we will help you avoid the mistakes that Terry made.  And we will put you in touch with industry experts that can further assist you.

Want to learn more about water?  Take the first step.  Download this LabStrong guide to reagent water and begin by understanding the differences between Type I, II, III and IV water are.

LT-015 (ASTM Type II Reagent Grade Water An Analysis Of Distillation).pdf

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