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How to Autoclave Pipette Tips: Quickly Racking Tips for Sterilization

research lab micropipette clip art

At one time, many labs considered autoclaving and reusing plastic pipette tips an enormous waste of time. But with the recent revelation that only 4% of the world’s largest publicly-traded biotech and pharmaceutical research labs have made even minimal climate commitments, many labs are taking a fresh look at their lab practices. This increased interest in reducing single-use plastic waste—coupled with ongoing supply chain issues delaying pipette tip deliveries—has breathed new life into an age-old question: 

Does anyone know how to autoclave pipette tips efficiently? Is there any decent way to load loose pipette tips into tip boxes prior to autoclaving? 

Tips for Racking Pipette Tips

Several manual tip racking hacks have been floating around for years. These include:plastic pipette tips pose unique challenges

Working in Quads

Start by gloving up. Hold a loose handful of tips in your cupped palm. Grab a clutch of four that are pointed in the same direction and rack them into a quadrant of the box. Grab another four and repeat. (With some tip sizes a clutch of three tips works better, but the fundamental concept is the same.)  

Column Sorting

Alternatively, glove up and grab a small handful at tips. Grip them so they form a column down the base of your fingers. Ignore the ones pointing up and quickly rack those pointing down with your free hand. Dump the remainder back into the bin. Then grab a new handful, align them down the base of your fingers, and repeat.

Speed-Loading Pipette Tip Boxes

As with any tedious task, the time is guaranteed to fly if you make a game of it!  

If you finish the box off with the exact number of tips you grabbed, you get 10 points! Seriously has anyone else noticed how much this happens??? OR IS IT JUST ME *sigh [source

But however you slice it, it’s still a tedious manual task. (And one unlikely to ever justify the $37,000 cost of automating it.) 

Thankfully, the folks over at easylabsolutions have developed an extremely simple machine for quickly sorting and racking pipette tips:

If you have access to a 3D printer, you can make your own pipette tip sorter.  Easylabsolutions has published the files for both the 10 µL pipette tip and 200 µL pipette tip models. There are also a couple good remixes and expansions of this design available on Thingiverse. Our favorite is this upgraded version with interchangeable plates. The design files can be readily adapted to sorting a variety of tips from different manufacturers.

Now that your tips are all boxed up, make sure you know how to autoclave pipette tips with minimal hassle.