🇺🇸 Retired veteran, father, rock-climbing expert & rosin connoisseur.
It's the new year and a great opportunity to take inventory of everything that you have in preparation for the coming months of production. It’s also wise to make sure all your equipment is clean. Of all the equipment you have in your extraction lab, a freeze dryer for drying bubble hash is likely one of the most valuable. Keeping up with cleaning and maintenance of your Harvest Right freeze dryer is key to setting yourself up for success.
Harvest Right is a popular brand of freeze dryers that’s great for drying loose resin, or bubble hash, made through the process of ice water extraction. Freeze dryers remove the water content in loose resin through the process of lyophilization, also known as freeze drying. This process involves freezing the hash, then using a vacuum pump to remove the water from the frozen hash through sublimation, which is the process of changing from a solid to a gas. The result is dry bubble hash that’s maintained its color and terpene profile, which is otherwise diminished if the loose resin air dries.
Learn how to use a freeze dryer in our article How to Use a Harvest Right Freeze Dryer to Make Bubble Hash.
Why Is It Important to Keep Your Freeze Dryer Clean?
Cleanliness is king of all things regarding bubble hash production. It’s a good practice to use the same level of cleanliness as you would for handling food (if not even more!). It’s easy for contaminants to make their way into the final product if loose resin is exposed to a sloppy or dirty environment. It’s a bad habit to let gunk build up in your freeze dryer. Furthermore, it can actually lead to slower operating times and even damage your equipment.
Without proper maintenance, dry times will start getting longer by hours, so it's important to stay on top of maintenance. In addition to longer drying times, letting your freeze dryer get dirty can cause clogs, leaks, and irreversible damage.
Mold can also readily grow inside if you're not cleaning or at least wiping down the inside of the machine after each use.
Standard vs Oil-Free Pumps
Pumps that are sold with both the home and pharmaceutical versions of the Harvest Right freeze dryers create the vacuum environment inside the chamber, which is necessary for the freeze drying process. Standard pumps use oil to operate properly. Oil serves as a lubricant inside the pump, minimizing grinding down of the metal components over time.
But the oil gets dirty and increases friction, which will destroy the pump if left to persist. So, if you use a standard pump with oil, the oil needs to be changed every so often.
Changing the oil after every use is overkill, but aim to change it every 3-4 runs.
However, you can also upgrade to oil-less pumps, which don’t require this maintenance, and they also run much more quietly. If this makes sense with your budget, this vacuum pump upgrade is definitely recommended.
How Often Should You Clean Your Harvest Right Freeze Dryer?
The vacuum phase of the freeze drying process can cause loose resin to float around the inside of the chamber, which easily sticks to the surfaces inside. A thorough wide-down should be done on your freeze dryer after every run, using clean water and microfiber cloths. A deeper clean should be done at least once every other week, including removing the track rack system.
Also, never allow standing water inside the freeze dryer. This is an invitation for mold to quickly takeover inside the machine.
Anytime you see smeared resin or any other substance left inside the freeze dryer, wipe it out immediately. And even when the inside of the machine appears clean, you should still do a thorough cleaning once every couple of weeks.
Tools and supplies for Cleaning Your Freeze Dryer
Here are the tools and supplies that make it easy to clean your Harvest Right freeze dryer:
- Clean microfiber cloths or towels
- Clean water
- 91% Isopropyl alcohol
- Long bottle cleaning brush
- White vinegar or bleach (if using bleach, dilute it to 1 tablespoon per gallon of water)
- Spray bottle
Avoid using abrasive cleaners like windex or bleach on the the clear plexiglass door, which can damage the finish of the door.
Steps to Cleaning Your Harvest Right Freeze Dryer
Here are some general guidelines for doing a thorough cleaning of your freeze dryer:
1. Turn off the machine and unplug it.
2. Fill your spray bottle with white vinegar or bleach.
3. Spray the door with white vinegar and wipe down thoroughly inside and out.
4. Remove the black rubber gasket that goes around the circumference of the chamber.
5. Remove the trays and rack system inside by unplugging it from the back and taking it out of the chamber.
6. Remove any debris from the chamber and the condenser area.
7. Thoroughly clean the inside of the chamber by spraying it with white vinegar or bleach and scrubbing with a microfiber cloth. Use isopropyl alcohol and a toothbrush to remove any stubborn resin that’s smeared inside the chamber.
8. Wipe down the interior of the chamber and the condenser area with a clean cloth and clean water. Then dry inside with a clean dry cloth.
9. Now move onto the rack system and trays. Spray the surfaces with white vinegar or bleach, and scrub every surface with the microfiber cloths.
Use caution not to directly spray the heating elements within the tray setup to avoid damaging them. Air dusters work well to clean out these heating elements.
Use the long bottle cleaning brush to work in between the various levels of the rack system. Use isopropyl alcohol to target any stubborn resin. Wipe down the rack system and trays with clean water.
10. Wipe down the exterior of the machine with a dry cloth.
11. Ensure the drain line doesn't have any hash or debris inside. Replace the drain line as needed.
12. Install the rack system back into the chamber and place the trays back in the rack. Replace the rubber gasket around the chamber, ensuring the seal is completely flat.
13. Plug in the machine and you’re all set. Remember to leave the door open in case there's any trace moisture left in the chamber, to minimize the chances of mold growth inside.
It's a best practice to leave the door open while the machine is defrosting and/or not in use. Keeping the door closed helps to invite mold growth if there’s any remaining moisture inside.
It is important to keep your freeze dryer clean and well-maintained to ensure that it is working properly and producing high-quality freeze-dried products.
Your Harvest Right Freeze Dryer is one of the most important pieces of equipment in your extraction lab, so it’s important to keep it cleaned and well-maintained. From wiping it down with water after every use, to changing the oil in the pump, to giving it a deep cleaning every couple of weeks, this proactive care is critical to the proper functioning of the machine. If you’re not cleaning and maintaining the freeze dryer, it’s liable to perform less efficiently and possibly even sustain irreparable damage (namely within the pump if you’re not changing the oil).
As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure.
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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Can you use vinegar to clean a Harvest Right freeze dryer?
Yes, white vinegar is good for cleaning a Harvest Right freeze dryer. Just wipe the residue out with clean water when you're finished cleaning with white vinegar.
Can you use bleach to clean a Harvest Right freeze dryer?
Yes, it's okay to use bleach to clean a Harvest Right freeze dryer. Dilute 1 tablespoon of bleach in 1 gallon of water for cleaning.
How often should you clean a Harvest Right freeze dryer?
Wipe the freeze dryer out after every use, and give the freeze dryer a thorough cleaning every two weeks.
Should you keep the door closed on a Harvest Right freeze dryer?
Keep the freeze dryer door open when defrosting and/or not in use, to minimize the chances of mold growth inside the machine.
How often should you change the oil in the vacuum pump of a Harvest Right freeze dryer?
It's a good practice to change the oil in the pump once every month.