Pump it up: clean vacuum pump in six easy steps

Welcome to this post of pimp your vacuum pump in six simple steps. I won’t be attaching any speakers to your vacuum pump just yet, but I will tell you how to give it a deep clean to make it the envy of all vacuum pump owners everywhere. Read on to find the telltale signs your pump needs a cleaning and how to obtain a clean vacuum pump quickly and efficiently.

We had some guests over the weekend and since the weather was poor, we spent most of the time lounging on the sofa. After they left, I had the task of cleaning the carpet from chips, crumbs and all kinds of leftovers from the carpet. I plugged in the vacuum cleaner, but the suction was beyond weak. Well, I disassembled it, cleaned the pipes and washed the filters. It then worked like new!

Isn’t it funny how a bit of maintenance can get your equipment to work miracles? Not just your household items, your lab equipment too!

I can give you examples with any lab instrument, but I’m somewhat on a cleaning spree with the rotary evaporator. I already gave you tips on how to clean your glassware and how to clean the heating bath. But here is one system device that shares half of its name the vacuum cleaner and that is the vacuum pump. And while my vacuum cleaner needs maintenance to maintain suction power, you need a clean vacuum pump to maintain pressure during rotary evaporation.

It’s easy for me to tell my vacuum cleaner needs a cleaning when I can’t pick up the crumbs off the floor. But how can you tell it’s time to clean the vacuum pump of your rotary evaporator? Any of these symptoms can be a good indication you need to grab the ethanol:

  • You’ve been using aggressive solvents
  • You see solvent in your pump, coloring or deposits on the pump membranes
  • You fail to reach end vacuum

Now how do you go about the end goal of a clean vacuum pump? Easy, just follow these straightforward steps.

1. Clean your vacuum pump in a fume hood to protect yourself from any harmful vapors
2. Disconnect all accessories and cables, except for the power plug
3. Clean the entire outside housing with ethanol and a damp paper towel
4. Place a paper towel under the outlet to collect any particulate or solvent before it can spill out on the benchtop. Be careful not to block the outlet, as air must flow freely throughout the vacuum pump
5. Switch on the pump in continuous mode
6. Use a squirting bottle to inject a few ml of ethanol or acetone directly into the inlet to obtain a clean vacuum pump
7. Throughout the process, use your finger to open and close the inlet several times. This helps to drive solvent out of the vacuum pump and to thoroughly clean the valves.
8. Leave the pump running for about 5 minutes to remove residual vapors.

And there you have it, a clean vacuum pump in 2 minutes or less. Don’t believe me it is really that quick? Then watch this video:


What can you do in the 5 minutes while the vacuum pump is running? I’ve got a great suggestion. Check if you know all the tips on this rotary evaporation poster with suggestions on how to save time. Now could you be any more efficient? Fist pump to that.

Till next time,

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