In a previous post, we talked about how to troubleshoot your lab’s air quality, with humidity being a common issue. Controlling humidity is important, because among other things, humidity has an impact on static in the lab.
If you’re experiencing static at the microtome, one solution may be to put a small humidifier above or behind the microtomes. If you do use a humidifier, make sure that you clean it regularly so as to avoid build up of bacteria. Another useful static reducer is the dryer sheet, placed behind the knife holder. You do have to be careful with the placement of your dryer sheets because you don’t want any particles falling off of it and contaminating your specimens.
You can also make use of wet gauze placed behind the blade holder or rubbed on the face of the block after trimming and before sectioning, or a wet paper towel in the trimmings catch tray in front of the microtome. You can also soak your blocks in a very weak ammonium hydroxide solution (.05 solution) for a couple of seconds and then dry them off.
Vendors also sell products specifically designed for reducing static. These include antistatic brushes, mats, even antistatic heel grounders for your shoes, and wristbands. Antistatic sprays can also be used on your shoes, the floor and the equipment. You will want to hold the spray a ways back from the target though, and don’t overdo it!
There are also products you can buy from Amazon, such as an anti-static gun. Originally designed for removing dust from vinyl records, anti-static guns can be used to reduce static at the microtome. Slowly pull the trigger of the gun and it will release ions.
Finally, do what you can to reduce static with your clothing. Wearing synthetic fabrics like nylon, polyester and spandex can create more static, while cotton will cause less. Adding dryer balls to your dryer can also help reduce static or try a ball of aluminum foil in the dryer for a similar effect.