Laboratory Clean Up

Laboratory Clean Up


Machine spindles or saw blades are to be completely stopped before cleanup begins. For your safety, push in the E-Stop. Someone could inadvertently bump the machine control and cause the machine to move suddenly, possibly endangering you or others.

Clean up your Mess

Clean-up is easier if you clean as you go – it also contributes to greater efficiency and safety for all users of the shop.

Before you move on to the next machining operation:

  • If you cut material at a bandsaw, clean up the chips
  • If you drill or tap a hole at a drill press or benchtop, clean up the chips
  • If you machine at a lathe, clean up the chips
  • If you machine at a mill, clean up the chips
  • If you grind or file your workpiece, clean up the filings

When you’ve finished building your sand-cast mold, clean All of the residual sand off of the workbench and the floor under and around it.  Clean out the bins; clean off the tools.

Clean every surface you affect. Look around, under and behind your machine or workstation. Check nearby surfaces, such as tops of tool cabinets. Look underneath tool cabinets and tool carts.

Clean the Tools when You’ve Finished with Them

Clean each tool – be it drill bit, milling cutter, lathe tool, hammer, bucket, mop, whatever – and put it back where it belongs when you are finished with it.  Where it belongs is usually, but not always, where you got it in the first place.

Tools must be cleared of chips and any liquid or oil residue before stowing.  Do not allow chips or liquid or oil residue or any other debris to get into tool cabinet drawers.  Preventing these from getting into the drawers is a simple matter of closing the drawers before machining and cleaning the tools before returning them.  Allowing chips to get into tool drawers or containers will subsequently risk someone being cut while trying to pick up a tool.

Clean up Order of Operations

In general, the optimal steps in cleaning away your pile of chips after machining are:

  1. Brush and Scoop
  2. Vacuum
  3. Compressed Air
  4. If 3, repeat 1 and 2


If a large amount of chips has been generated, use a brush and scoop to transfer the bulk of the non-metals chips to the regular trash or the metal chips to the scrap metal bins — wear gloves if you handle the metal cuttings.  Use a chip brush or a T-slot cleaner to remove most of the material from the T-slots on the milling machine.  The volume of the trash and metal bins far exceeds the volume of the vacuum cleaners, so use the brush as a first step.


Do not vacuum long chips. Metal or polymer – they will clog the hose.  Don’t vacuum chips which are larger than a nail paring.

After the amount of material on and around the machine has been reduced sufficiently using the brush/broom and scoop, the vacuum cleaner may be used.  Be advised that vacuuming a large number of chips at one time, however small the chips are, will clog the hose in short order, and you will lose more time unclogging the hose than you thought to gain by vacuuming.

The aforesaid issues apply with metal chips – the metal chips will more readily clog a vacuum cleaner hose. Avoid wet-vacuuming. Coolant/oil and metal fines form a slurry which, when left in the vacuum hose, coagulates (especially if it’s further mixed with ButterBoard, Axson board or other polymers) and eventually reduces the inside diameter – the hoses get heavier and more unwieldy.   Moreover, and more importantly, the oil in the coolant degrades the polymer vacuum attachments, greatly reducing their useful life the connecting ends crumble.

Coolant on the floor, whether over-sprayed/leaked from a mill or dripped from a vacuum cleaner hose, is considered to be an oil spill and as such is subject to federal regulations because it is unsafe, as well as being unsightly.  Clean up all spills immediately.  Avoid spills dripped from a hose by placing a bucket or an absorbent cloth under the end of the hose when finished vacuuming.

Compressed Air

Use compressed air to finish cleaning your tools only after you’ve wiped off excess chips and liquid/oil residue with a rag or brush.  The pressure of the compressed air guns has been reduced to below 30 psi for cleaning, as required by OSHA.  Nevertheless, be sure to aim down and away from yourself and away from any bystanders.  Alert others around you that you are going to use compressed air.

Never use compressed air guns to clean clothing or hair.  Never aim the gun at another person.

Compressed air can be used to clean machines, provided that:

  1. There is a tool-holder in the spindle on the mill to keep chips out of the taper; and
  2. You don’t aim the gun at the spindles, tool changers or ways of the machines

The use of compressed air should be one of the last steps used in clean-up, because of the liability of scattering the chips over a wide area, making clean-up more difficult.  First use a brush, then vacuum as indicated above.


  • Do not put solid or semi-solid materials in the sink to be washed down the drain
  • Do not put powders down the drain
  • Do not put oil down the drain
  • Do not put hazardous substances down the drain
  • Do not leave anything in the sink

This includes rags, sponges, mops, buckets, tools, powder, residue — whatever. Leave the sink empty and clean when you are finished in the sink.

Do not touch the machine controls with dirty hands, dirty gloves, dirty anything.


Do not place any food or food containers or wrappers in any of the shop trash or recycle bins. Why not?

Do not place any liquids in any of the shop trash or recycle bins.