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How to Use a Water Bath in a Laboratory – Everything You need to Know

Jun 22,2021 by Edulab

Water baths are found in all kinds of laboratories and are often used in education settings such as schools and universities. They have a wide range of uses and are a very useful piece of equipment to have on hand. Whether you have never used a water bath before or are looking to purchase a new one for use in an academic facility, it is essential you understand what they are and how to use them. In this guide, we are sharing everything you need to know about this important piece of lab equipment.

What Is A Water Bath?

A water bath is a piece of equipment that works as a heated water container. Scientists use them to incubate samples and keep them at a constant temperature. Almost all laboratories will have a water bath of some kind, and they are a useful heat source for many different devices. As the water circulates in the bath, the temperature is maintained and constant throughout use. They’re made up of a heating unit, a water chamber and a control interface.

What Are Water Baths Used For?

Having many different uses, but primarily being used to heat up samples in a laboratory, they are commonly used to heat flammable chemicals, which are at risk of combusting if exposed to an open flame, as well as for maintaining cell lines. There are different types of water baths that are suited to different applications; for example, a circulating water bath keeps the temperature constant, while a shaking water bath can keep samples in consistent motion during heating. Most water baths can heat samples to between 5 degrees and 99 degrees; anything that needs heating higher than 100 degrees will need to use an alternative such as an oil, sand or silicone bath.

What is the Working Principle of a Water Bath?

In a laboratory the unit is fitted with a temperature sensor, which works by transferring the water temperature to the resistance value and amplifying and comparing with an integrated amplifier. The output is the control signal which efficiently controls the average heat power for the heating tube. This works to maintain the constant temperature within the water bath.

How Do You Prepare A Water Bath?

To prepare a water bath, you need to fill the container to the desired level with distilled water. You can then switch the water bath on and set your required temperature on the temperature controller. Wait until the water has reached the set temperature; the length of time this takes will depend on the temperature you need the water to be. You can use the thermometer to monitor the water temperature. Once it has reached the temperature, you are ready to start using the water bath.

How Do You Use A Water Bath?

Using a water bath is straightforward, but it is crucial you get it right to avoid damaging or compromising your samples. The basic steps for a hot water bath are:

  1. Ensure the surrounding area is dry and clean.
  2. Connect the power supply.
  3. Make sure the water is at the desired level and high enough to cover the heating element.
  4. Switch the water bath on.
  5. Set the temperature controls to the desired temperature and wait until the thermostat shows it has heated enough.
  6. When heating, insert your samples carefully. The temperature sensor will maintain the temperature during use.
  7. After use, remove the samples and switch off the water bath.

How to Maintain A Water Bath?

No matter the type of water bath you are using, proper maintenance is essential for a prolonged life.

Firstly, you must consider the type of water you are going to be using. Distilled water works best because tap water can contain minerals that build up over time.

Secondly, make sure you drain the water bath each time to keep it in good condition. You need to take the time to clean this equipment regularly. To clean a water bath, make sure it is switched off and remove the container. Wipe down the seal to clear any debris and be very careful not to spill water into the unit, as it can damage electrical components. Never use corrosive cleaning agents on a water bath, and only clean with a damp cloth and mild detergent.


For more information feel free to get in touch with our helpful and friendly team today. You can also find the perfect water bath for you by exploring our extensive range on the EduLab website.