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For some reason the lab seems to have a problem with contamination every so often. It's virtually impossible to prevent bacteria, viruses, fungi, etc. from getting into the incubator every time you open the door. Our incubator is pretty old, we don't have one of the new fancier versions that's made with pure copper inside, which effectively kills microorganisms.

Would it be a good idea to buy a copper plate and place it on the shelf, on which we could put our culture flasks? Or would it disrupt the flow of heat/CO2 too much? Would it be better to buy copper foil and wrap the shelves in it, then poke holes into it where all the holes are in the shelf?

We use good cell culturing practices; I don't contamination is happening because people don't know what they're doing. It just happens over time with enough people working in a cell culture room. Could copper in the incubator help? We probably don't have the money to buy a brand new incubator that's made out of copper, so would this be a viable, economic alternative?

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First thing I'd do is replace the HEPA filter. A copper plate/foil may help, and it certainly won't disrupt the flow of heat, as copper is incredibly conductive (that's why they make electrical wires out of it), and poking holes would help with the airflow, but a new filter will probably make the most difference. I've never used a full-copper incubator, and the few serious contaminations I've had to deal with were related to the HEPA filter and poor TC practices.

If you haven't already, I'd institute a good routine cleaning program as well. Change the water bath each week (make sure you're adding fungicide to the water), and wipe down the whole incubator with bleach followed by an alcohol rinse each month. Make sure you clean all the bleach off, as it corrodes metal if left on very long. At the same time, clean and autoclave all of the removable components like shelves, rails, and water pans.

Good luck!

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