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The principles of effective vial washing

The principles of effective vial washing

Before looking at vial washer products and applications in further detail, it’s worth pausing to recap on what we want vial washers to do and how they can achieve it most effectively.

In industries such as pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and animal health, contamination of vials and – in turn – contamination of their contents can be disastrous. The presence and potential effects of living micro-organisms are a particular concern, but many other contaminant substances are also able to react with or spoil the vial contents.

Even brand-new vials, manufactured to the highest quality standards, can become ‘polluted’ by contaminants encountered in the environments where they are stored or used. So whether the vials are new or re-used, washing is necessary to guarantee cleanliness before each use.

To remove the contamination, some sort of ‘scrubbing’ is necessary – but not with traditional soap and water. In fact, the best cleaner is highly purified water, which is usually blasted at the vials through high-pressure jets. The term WFI (water for injection) is commonly given to the pure water used in this process.

The most obvious factors involved in increasing the effectiveness of washing will be easily understood by anyone who is used to washing anything.

Just as in washing dishes, hot water is more effective than colder water. A temperature of between 80 and 90 degrees C is typically recommended. As in washing a car, a high-pressure jet will remove contamination more effectively than a low pressure one. Something like 5 to 6 bar is needed. And as in washing clothes, the amount of water used, and the duration of the washing cycle, will also have an effect.

However, even if these factors are approximately equal when two vial washers are compared, there is also the issue of how well the machine does its job. In short, some vial washers are simply more effective than others. We will look at the reasons for that in a future post.