Fixation on Histology

Histology Jars: Your Questions Answered


Histology JarsToday’s post is all about jars, specifically the jars you encounter every day in your histology lab. We cover how to clean them when specific stains cause troublesome residue, how to open them quickly and painlessly, and what do to prevent the lids from wandering away after cleaning.


You may not realize it, but over time, the constant opening of specimen jars can contribute to the aches and pains histotechs feel from repeated motions. One way people have coped with this is to purchase a jar opener. These can be found at your regular stores, like Bed Bath and Beyond, or other places that sell cookware. You want to get one with a rubber area for best grip on the lid. Others recommend a strap wrench, which you can get at a hardware store.


Cleaning Coplin Jars After Silver Stains

For this histotechs recommend a few different methods of cleaning, one is an acid wash, 20% hydrochloric acid with distilled water. Another is to rinse the jars, soak them in diluted bleach, and then do a normal washing. If this method isn’t working for you try adding Alconox (a powder detergent) to the bleach/hot water mix.

If you’re a CAP accredited lab, GEN.41770 of the CAP checklist requires that CAP labs have “written procedures for handling and cleaning glassware, including methods for testing for detergent removal”. If you do implement a new cleaning procedure, it can’t hurt to document it, regardless of whether or not you’re CAP accredited, for the sake of consistency and record keeping. Check out this recent blog post specifically on meeting this CAP requirement.


Cleaning Plastic Coplin Jars with Oil Red O Residue

Oil Red O can be difficult to get out, and even glass jars will sometimes get some stain residue. Try soaking your plastic jars in acetone or filling them with acetone. It may take a couple of changes of acetone, but once the color is removed you can wash the jars as normal. If that fails you can also try using Liquinox cleaning detergent, xylene and ethanol.


If Oil Red O residue is a consistent issue, you may also want to consider your staining method. The propylene glycol method is commonly used, but there are alternate methods that can be a little cleaner, such as the “Churukian method”, published by the late Charles Churukian, in a 1999 article in the Journal of Histotechnology.


Jars with Missing Lids

Do you have glassware that mysteriously ends up missing its lid, or lids that don’t have their corresponding glassware? If you’re using a dishwasher, try putting the lids in an old processor basket and load that in the dishwasher.