laboratory labels and labelling

In laboratory best practices, careful labelling and the selection of suitable labels are crucial. Despite the apparent simplicity of this task, the impact on a project is can be significant when labels are not suitably chosen and aligned correctly with the end-use.

Choosing the Right Label for your Application

The continuous evolution of label technology has introduced a plethora of adhesive, material, and label printer ribbon combinations, posing a challenge for laboratories to determine the most suitable labels for their needs. Choosing an inadequately matched label for the end application has the potential to compromise the validity of a study or project.

Crucial considerations when selecting or testing laboratory labels include their performance on surfaces, visual clarity, durability against laboratory processes and environments, print quality, and longevity. Your labels must withstand a laboratory environment and their material must be resistant to chemicals, heat, and moisture. You also need to ensure the adhesive is strong enough to stay affixed to your containers and equipment.

To properly select a label for your application, examine the steps and environment of your laboratory—not only in your current process, but in any that you are planning to implement. Review this requirement with a trusted labelling company and then request a sample to test in your environment.

Hibiscus can provide Technical Specification Sheets for specific label materials. This will give you the ISO documentation for auditing, as well as the assurance that the label material had rigorous quality controls in place.

Using Handwritten Labels

Despite technological advancements, a considerable number of laboratories still rely on handwritten labels.  This method, while quick and accessible, comes with many downsides, including the difficulty of reading bad handwriting and the risk of the pen smearing.  Writing on small containers and tubes can be a challenge with a marker or pen and illegibility can complicate communication when other people in the lab need to share such items as samples and reagents, and must fully understand the contents of a container.

If labels must be written by hand then ensure they are written with a permanent marker that is durable and can withstand wet or humid environments. A fine-point tip is preferable, so you can more accurately write on smaller receptacles. There are specialty marker pens made specifically for writing on ink-resistant surfaces like plastic, glass, and metal. Cryo-markers are also ideal for writing on frozen tubes & vials, with ink that remains legible when exposed to water, frost, and even alcohol.  Proper testing of pens before use is beneficial.

Upgrading to computer-printable labels through labelling software and print systems can enhance efficiency, reduce errors, and improve overall labelling capabilities. In comparison to handwritten identification, printed labels offer significant improvements in legibility and data accuracy.  Printed labels allow you to fit more information into a small area and tend to be much more legible than handwriting. The use of specialty ribbons in thermal transfer printing can also make the text resistant to strong chemicals and stains, securing your data. Printed labels can also allow the addition of logos and QR-codes, which can easily identify a specimen and its source.

Proper Use and Handling of Labels

An often-overlooked challenge in laboratory labelling involves the correct application of labels to surfaces. Inadequate handling, especially when wearing powdered latex gloves, can render the adhesive ineffective, potentially causing labels to fall off and compromising the integrity of a project. Minimising contact with the adhesive side of the label, especially when peeling it off the release liner, is crucial for effective bonding to the desired surface. Grease and other substances on surfaces must be removed to enable effectiveness of the adhesive.

Don’t Take Shortcuts when Labelling (numbers, letters, symbols)

When faced with labelling many samples at once it can be tempting to cut time by quickly ascribing a letter or number. This is often a mistake that can cause a loss of data if not properly tracked elsewhere. Despite the time saved initially in the sample identification process, it ends up requiring more time to transcribe the shorthand meanings elsewhere, and this information will need to be located again by the researcher or lab colleague when this information has to be recalled.

How Can Hibiscus Help?

With over 40 years of labelling experience in the chemical and hazardous goods industries, Hibiscus specialises in producing labels that are durable and fit for purpose.

We also provide labelling and barcode software that can enhance identification and tracking solutions, reduce errors, and improve overall lab efficiency.

Hibiscus have gained an extensive knowledge of labels, adhesives and finishing processes that allow labels to meet very specific criteria.  This year, Hibiscus won the Chemicals North West award category for ‘Partnership 2023’ with their joint entry, alongside Catriona Dunn from the National Pathology Imaging Co-operative, Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust.  For over 5 years, we assisted their department to produce a slide label to help with the improvement of Quality Assurance in Digital Pathology. Full details of this project, and its success, have been published in various medical journals across the globe ResearchGate.

Contact Hibiscus today to see how we can assist with your laboratory labelling needs.

Tel: 0113 2424272

Categories: General