All You Need to Know about Vacuum Traps

All You Need to Know about Vacuum Traps

A Cell Culture Lifesaver You Need to Know About

Cell culture labs are some of the cleanest labs around. We all know cell culture scientists form elaborate rituals around setup and cleaning of culture workspaces.

Many labs still use the old school method of placing a beaker under the hood.

This means cleaning a new piece of glassware for every experiment.

See the full range of features offered by the Vactrap™ XL Trap system pictured above

While this is the tried and true method that many have worked with for years, you'll be pleased to know that affordable vacuum filtration systems exist and greatly speed the cleanup process.

What does Using a Vacuum Trap Offer, Exactly?

The laminar flow hood is a fickle beast. It’s there to keep cell culture work clean, but it is only as clean as the items you put under it.

The old school method risks introducing contamination as items are repeatedly removed and replaced. Traps help you keep all of the materials sterilized between uses.

Speed your workflow with a new approach…

Using a trap speeds your cell culture workflow up by reducing the number of steps. Systems require maintenance, but there are different options to simplify cleanup in any lab.

Concerned about transitioning to a new setup because you don’t like to change what works? Vactrap2™ Vacuum Traps come completely assembled, and all you have to do is attach a vacuum source.

Benchtop systems may be purchased for endpoint experiments that don’t require a sterile environment. The Benchmark Scientific Aspire V0020 Laboratory Aspirator is a compact way to clean up media and other biohazardous waste.

Worried about how much use you can get out of a benchtop option? We also offer accessories and replacement parts that can extend the life of your system.

How to Set Up a Vacuum Trap System

Most systems come pre-assembled and don’t require complicated setup. However, it is important to understand how the system works in case wear and tear from use leads to issues.

They usually consist of one or two large bottles in a secondary container. The bottles are capped with tubing connected to a vacuum source and fed through the system.

The opposite end of the tubing is open so that it can be connected to a sterile Pasteur or micropipette tip and used to aspirate fluids.

Here’s a Quick Breakdown of how the Typical System Works, from Pipette Tip to Vacuum Source:

  1. Your tip, connected to the open end of sterilized vacuum tubing underneath the hood.
  2. The tubing that connects to the stopper or lid of the bottle, which is designed using the same concept as a distillation flask.
  3. The vacuum branch connects to more tubing that will attach either to the second bottle or to the source.

Between the piece of vacuum tubing exiting the bottle and the source, you will find an inline filter of about 0.45 microns or less. 0.22 microns is the standard.

Vacuum tubes equipped with filters can be purchased in different lengths so that it’s easy to install regardless of your space.

How You’ll Use Your System

Before making the switch, decide how you’ll be using the system. Are you using a fast-paced protocol that will require continuous use of the vacuum source, or do you go through more waste than you do samples?

Consider one of the Vactrap™ XL systems if you need containers that can hold large volumes, or try one of the Vactrap™ G systems if what you need is a setup that resists wear and tear.

Some of the great bonus features these systems offer are versacaps that prevent tangles, clamps to restrict flow, and a design that allows containers to be angled at up to 35°.

Care and Cleaning

Depending on the research setting, you may or may not want to opt for a stricter protocol.

General Practices for Cleaning:

  • Sterilize all biohazardous fluids before aspiration– cultures containing viruses and human cells must be sterilized right away.
  • Make sure the bottles remain within a secondary container.
  • Keep the ends of the vacuum tubing under the laminar flow hood. Decontaminate tubing using ethanol or bleach after use, but do not remove for cleaning.
  • Plan for a final concentration of whatever the established working concentration of your lab’s biohazard cleaner is in all waste bottles.
  • You may be able to autoclave the bottles you use for your system. Plastics should not be autoclaved unless intended, however.

All in all, this makes the system faster than manual setup of waste containers every time you use the hood. You never have to disconnect tubing and autoclaving is optional.

Accessories and Other Applications

System accessories include tubing in different lengths, replacement bottles, and alternate containers.

Traps are not just for cell culture, you may use them for other types of waste cleanup; However, extended storage of most chemicals in polypropylene is not recommended.

Always check the chemical compatibility for your intended application first.


At Stellar Scientific, we want to help you upgrade your lab in a way that fits your budget. Contrary to what you might think, setting up a vacuum trap system can be very affordable.

We offer the Foxx Life Sciences line of Vactrap™ - Vacuum Trap Systems with (autoclavable) polypropylene, HDPE, or glass bottles.

Our systems come equipped with inline filtration and secondary containers, and you can get them in different sizes depending on how much waste you need them to hold.

We also offer replacement parts and alternative systems… just ask us if there’s something you don’t see.

Stellar Scientific is a trusted scientific supplier that carries all of your laboratory needs. View our entire catalog of lab safety products to see what else we have to offer for waste and biohazard containment.