How to clean incubator

cleaning instrument

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As someone passionate about hatching eggs, I’ve learned that keeping my incubator spotless is a big deal. It mirrors sanitizing a baby’s nursery in anticipation of their arrival from the hospital. A spotless incubator successfully lays the groundwork for eggs to hatch into vigorous chicks. 

Neglecting cleanliness can invite a host of harmful microbes to infiltrate the eggs, jeopardizing their chances of hatching and the health of the potential chicks. Imagine tiny invaders crashing a party—they can cause sickness or even stop the chicks from hatching altogether. 

So, I make it my mission to keep everything tidy as possible because a clean incubator means a happy ending for these little eggs.

cleaning incubator

Importance of Regular Maintenance

Let me tell you, bacteria are sneaky little critters. Without proper cleaning, they can stomp your poultry setup, leading to diseases and, sadly, an increase in mortality rates among your birds. This impacts the current stock and can severely disrupt future egg production.

Cleanliness has a direct impact on egg viability and hatch rates. Imagine each egg as a potential life – its success heavily relies on the environment we provide. Regular cleaning ensures each egg has a fighting chance to develop into a healthy chick; maintaining consistent hatch rates is crucial for business.

Now, let’s talk about the nitty-gritty: the steps for cleaning. We start with removing all organic material because this stuff is a breeding ground for bacteria. Then, we bring out the big guns—disinfectants. They’re our best friends in the battle against unseen foes. And let’s not forget about the importance of airing out the place. Good ventilation reduces moisture and odor, which can also affect egg quality.

Regularly cleaning feeders, waterers, and nesting boxes isn’t just busy work; it’s about creating a sanctuary for your hens to lay quality eggs consistently. It means checking and repairing any equipment that could injure the birds or compromise the cleanliness of the eggs.

Investing time and resources into regular maintenance and cleaning leads to long-term gains. A clean coop means happy hens and happy hens are productive hens. Plus, fewer diseases equate to less spending on treatments and more profit in your pocket.

clean incubator in outdoor with water

Pre-Cleaning Preparation

Safety Precautions:

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): It is imperative to wear protective gear when handling chemicals—this includes safeguarding your hands with gloves, securing your breathing with masks, protecting your eyes with safety goggles, and wearing aprons to avoid any direct skin contact with dangerous substances.

Chemical Handling: Read and understand the labels of cleaning agents. Ensure proper ventilation when using chemicals to prevent inhaling fumes. If you’re mixing solutions, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Preventing Slips and Falls: Clean up any spills immediately to avoid slipping. Ensure that the area around the equipment is dry and free from clutter.

Heavy Lifting: If you need to move heavy items, use proper lifting techniques—lift with your legs, not your back—and get assistance if necessary.

Emergency Procedures: Know the location of the nearest first-aid kit and eyewash station. Familiarize yourself with the procedure to follow in case of an emergency.

Pre-Cleaning Steps and Tools


  • Soft cloths or sponges
  • Brushes (non-abrasive)
  • Approved disinfectant cleaner
  • Bucket with water
  • Waste bags for disposal

Clear the Area: Remove any objects and waste around the incubator to create a safe, unobstructed workspace.

Inventory Check: Ensure you have enough cleaning supplies to avoid mid-task interruptions.

Turning Off and Unplugging the Incubator:

  • Power Down: Locate the power switch on the incubator and turn it off.
  • Unplug the Equipment: Carefully unplug the device from the electrical outlet. This step prevents electrical shock and protects the equipment’s electrical components while cleaning.
  • Check the Temperature: Ensure the incubator has cooled down before cleaning, as some components might retain heat.

Why It’s Crucial

  • Electricity and Liquids: Water and electricity are a dangerous combination. Turning off and unplugging the incubator ensures you’re not at risk of electrocution.
  • Protecting the Equipment: Power surges can occur when plugging or unplugging devices. By ensuring the incubator is off, you are safeguarding its delicate electronic systems.
  • Complete Access: With the incubator turned off, you can safely access all parts, including electrical areas that would otherwise be hazardous.
incubator cleaner solution

Clean Incubator


  • Unplug the Incubator: Safety first. Always unplug the incubator before cleaning.
  • Remove Eggs and Hatchlings: Ensure all eggs and hatchlings are removed from the incubator.
  • Initial Cleaning
  • Explicit Organic Material: Remove any visible dirt, eggshells, and droppings using a paper towel or a soft brush.


  • Identify Removable Parts: Take out trays, racks, dividers, and any other components that can be detached.
  • Take Photos: If necessary, take pictures to remember how to reassemble the unit.

Soaking and Scrubbing

  • Prepare Cleaning Solution: Fill a bucket or sink with warm water and mild detergent.
  • Soak Components: Submerge the removable parts in the cleaning solution for at least 15-20 minutes.
  • Scrubbing: Remove any remaining debris and biofilm by scrubbing all surfaces with a soft sponge or brush after soaking.
  • Choose an Appropriate Disinfectant: Select a disinfectant that’s effective against a wide range of pathogens but safe for use in incubators.
  • Apply Disinfectant: Spray or wipe the disinfectant onto the incubator’s interior and the soaked components. Adhere to the recommended duration of exposure as specified by the manufacturer to guarantee effective sanitization.


  • Rinse Thoroughly: Use clean water to rinse all parts and surfaces to remove any residue from the cleaning agents.
  • Check Nozzles and Vents: Pay extra attention to nozzles, vents, or any narrow spaces that could harbor pathogens.


  • Air Dry: Allow all parts and the incubator’s interior to air dry completely. This is crucial to prevent mold growth.
  • Avoid Contaminants: Ensure the drying area is free from contaminants and dust.


  • Consult Photos: Refer to the photos you took earlier to aid in reassembling the incubator correctly.
  • Reassemble Parts: Once dry, put all the parts back together, ensuring everything fits.

Tips and Best Practices

  • Use Soft Tools: Use soft brushes and sponges to avoid scratching the surfaces.
  • Frequency of Cleaning: Clean the incubator after every hatch cycle to prevent disease buildup.
  • Selecting Detergents: Choose non-corrosive and non-toxic detergents designed for use in incubators.
  • Handling Disinfectants: Wear gloves and masks when handling disinfectants, and ensure the room is well-ventilated.

Potential Issues

  • Residue Buildup: Incomplete rinsing can leave residues that might be toxic to the next batch of eggs.
  • Moisture: Excess moisture from inadequate drying can lead to mold and bacteria proliferation.
  • Improper Reassembly: Incorrectly reassembled components can result in malfunction or uneven heating.
fresh incubator

Addressing Common Cleaning Challenges

Removing Hard-to-Remove Stains and Residues

  • Pre-treatment: Treat the stained area with a specialized stain removal solution or create a homemade paste by blending baking soda with water. Allow this mixture to penetrate the stain for a duration ranging between 5 to 15 minutes.
  • Scrubbing: Employ a soft-bristled brush to cleanse the surface delicately, ensuring you scrub lightly to avoid damaging the area.
  • Rinsing: Flush the area with plenty of water to wash away any residue and perform additional rinsing cycles if needed.
  • Enzyme Cleaners: For organic stains, consider using enzyme-based cleaners that effectively break down proteins and fats.

Maintaining Humidity Down Levels

  • Dehumidifiers: Use a dehumidifier to maintain humidity levels, especially in damp areas like basements.
  • Ventilation: Ensure air circulation by using exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Absorbent Products: Desiccants like silica gel can absorb excess moisture in small spaces.

Managing Negative Control

  • Isolation: Contain the area to eliminate cross-contamination.
  • Sterilization: Use autoclaves or UV light to sterilize equipment.
  • Routine Cleaning: Regular wiping down surfaces with appropriate disinfectants is vital.

Working with Viscous Liquids\Small Volumes

Handling viscous liquids and small volumes can be tricky, especially when ensuring complete removal from containers or surfaces.

  • Pre-soaking: Soak the container with warm water and detergent to loosen the residue.
  • Non-Abrasive Tools: Use non-abrasive tools like rubber spatulas to remove the liquids without scratching the surface.
  • Pipettes: A pipette can be used to aspirate and dispense the liquid in tiny volumes accurately.

Choosing the Right Cleaning Products and Tools

  • Microfiber Cloths: They trap dirt and reduce the risk of scratching.
  • pH-Neutral Cleaners: These are safe for most surfaces and materials.
  • Specialized Solutions: Certain surfaces may require specialized cleaners, like vinegar for glass or wood-specific polishes.

When to Seek Professional Cleaning Services

  • Deep Cleaning: For extensive cleaning beyond regular maintenance, such as after-construction work or end-of-tenancy cleaning.
  • Specialized Cleaning: Professionals have the right tools and expertise if the texture or material is delicate or requires specialized care.
  • Hazardous Situations: Cleaning up after a flood or fire or dealing with biohazards should be left to professionals.

How to Choose the Right Professional Cleaning Service

  • References and Reviews: Look for services with positive feedback and good references.
  • Insurance and Bonding: Ensure they are insured and bonded to protect against damages.
  • Experience with Specific Challenges: Make sure they have experience with the specific challenges you’re facing, whether it’s humidity down control or dealing with viscous liquids/small volumes.
cleaning incubator parts

Preventative Measures for Incubator Maintenance

Scheduled Cleaning Sessions:


  • Perform a thorough cleaning of the incubator’s interior surfaces every month using an approved disinfectant.
  • Surface wipe-downs with 70% ethanol or similar should be conducted weekly.


  • Remove all contents before cleaning.
  • Use non-abrasive materials to prevent scratches where bacteria can grow.
  • Ensure proper drying before resuming use to avoid moisture build-up.

Post-Contamination Action:

Immediate Response:

  • In the event of spillage, wear protective gloves and clean up immediately using appropriate disinfectants to prevent microbial growth.
  • Remove any items affected by the spillage for separate decontamination.


  • Conduct an extra entire cleaning session after any spillage or suspected contamination event.
  • Inspect for any recurring growth and repeat cleaning if necessary.

Maintenance Tasks and Frequency:

Temperature Monitoring:

  • Check daily to ensure readings are within the recommended range.
  • Calibrate sensors every six months or as per manufacturer guidelines.

Humidity Management:

  • Refill the water tray with distilled water weekly.
  • Clean the humidity reservoir during monthly maintenance to prevent mold.

CO2/O2 Levels:

  • Verify CO2 and O2 levels daily (for tri-gas incubators).
  • Calibrate gas sensors according to the manufacturer’s schedule, usually every six months.

Filter Replacement:

  • Inspect the filters monthly and replace them as the manufacturer suggests, typically every three months.

Parts Replacement:

  • Regularly check for wear and tear on parts like door gaskets and hinges.
  • Replace any worn parts immediately to maintain the integrity of the incubator environment.

Emergency Guidelines:

Power Outages:

  • Have a backup power source or plan to transfer cultures to another operational incubator.
  • Monitor temperature and CO2 levels when power is restored to ensure stability.

Temperature Spikes:

  • Investigate and rectify the source of the spike promptly, such as malfunctioning heating elements or sensors.
  • If a spike occurs, evaluate the impact on the cultures and document any incidents.
how to clean incubator

Last words

Maintaining an incubator requires diligence in routine cleaning, immediate spillage response, and systematic maintenance. Regular cleaning sessions should be conducted weekly and monthly with a focus on preventing contamination. 

Immediate action is crucial after any spillage to avoid microbial growth. Scheduled maintenance involving temperature, humidity, gas level checks, filter replacements, and part inspections is essential for optimal incubator functioning. 

Adhering to these best practices ensures your equipment’s longevity and your research’s integrity. Remember, a well-maintained incubator is critical to achieving reliable and reproducible results in your scientific endeavors.

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