The Orchid Seedbank Project
PO Box 7042
Chandler, AZ 85246

Technical Tips for Flaskers

Sterilizing disinfection tubes

Between flasking runs, autoclave your seed disinfection tubes and  stoppers. This serves two purposes: the first is that it destroys any  seed that may have remained behind, greatly reducing the chances of cross-contaminating your flasks with different seed. The second is that it reduces the  chance of bacterial or fungal contamination by destroying stray  spores, etc.

Cleaning Glassware

The use of calcium hypochlorite often causes glass to be stained with  white calcium depostis. The best way to remove these is to soak the  glassware in dilute vinegar solution, or to use "CLR"  commercial cleaner to remove it. Using either of these acidic  solutions will quickly remove any white buildup, allowing you to  clean glassware quickly and efficiently.

Aluminum Foil

Aluminum foil is your friend. Use it to wrap tools for autoclaving,  use it to cover the lids of your flasks, use it for sterile  workspaces. Replate forks can be wrapped in aluminum foil  individually, and then wrapped in large numbers to form a single  "burrito" of replate forks. Razor blades, for opening green  capsules, can be wrapped in foil for autoclaving. Tubes of water can  be capped with foil and held upright in the autoclave with balls of  foil so they can be used for the sterile wash of seeds. Wads of  sterile aluminum foil, left over from other functions during  flasking, can be used to support funnels for filtration techniques  for washing seeds. A large square of aluminum foil can be wrapped up  or rolled, autoclaved, and then put into the flasking workspace to be  unfolded. This sheet of foil can be used for many things, including  holding a large number of seedlings from a mother flask so they can  be put into replate flasks. The foil provides a large, clean, sterile  workspace for while you proceed with your work. Best of all, aluminum  foil is recyclable; simply ball it up and throw it in the bin for  recycling when you're done.

Surface Disinfection

In order to disinfect your working surfaces, you may use either  chlorine solutions, or alcohol. I prefer not to use alcohol, due to  the fumes, expense, and flammability. It is much easier to make a  disinfection solution in the following manner using chlorine bleach.

Using a measuring cup, take 2 parts (by volume) of 5.25% sodium  hypochlorite bleach. Add to this 24 parts of distilled water. Mix  thoroughly. Add to this 2 parts of household vinegar (5% acetic  acid). Do NOT add the vinegar until the bleach has been diluted by  the addition of the water! This solution is then added to a spray  bottle. The solution is applied liberally to all surfaces that  require disinfection; use of hand towels (inexpensive white dish  towels from a discount store are perfect) to mop up the excess and  wipe down surfaces is recommended.

When finished with the solution, unscrew the spray head, and pump  clean water through the sprayer. There is no reason to clean the  reservoir; as long as the bottle is tightly sealed and refrigerated  while not in use, the solution remains stable for at least two  months. However, the solution will corrode the working parts of the  sprayer if left inside the pump, so flush it by pumping plenty of  water through it.


Labeling flasks can be a problem. There are several markers that  write on glass and metal ("Sharpie" markers in particular);  some fade with time. Be careful to make sure the writing is still  legible after applying disinfectants, or writing on surfaces that  aren't clean.

Recently, we have started using black "Painters"  markers, made by Hunt Manufacturing Company. The label reads  "Painters Opaque Paint Marker," and it's the type with a  shaker ball in it for mixing. Although long-term tests have yet to be  completed, they seem like they resist disinfection, washing, and wear  with good results. Art supply stores and hobby stores should have these.


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The Orchid Seedbank Project
PO Box 7042
Chandler, AZ 85246