Ensuring quality data collection is absolutely vital for the success of any science experiment, especially chemistry. Lab equipment such as Erlenmeyer flasks, test tubes, scientific balances, and beakers hold chemical reagents and the product of major reactions. Because the reactants and products in a chemical reaction must be carefully weighed and balanced for later analysis as well as the fact that certain reactions are difficult to instigate and maintain keeping glassware and other laboratory instruments free of contaminants is essential. Proper care of science lab equipment, especially chemistry lab equipment, is an essential skill for any modern day physical scientist.
The most basic essential step to ensure that lab equipment is free of contaminants is to rinse any item used, whether before or after the beginning of an experiment, with deionized water. Using DI water to clean chemistry lab equipment is important because it is free of electric charge and has a relatively neutral pH. Water that is not DI that clings to the side of glassware will likely alter the pH of added solutions and introduce systematic error into later calculations. Any lab instruments that have been rinsed should be carefully dried using a towel that will not shed or leave any other residue – just remove the excess water from the instrument.
Science laboratory equipment is broken all too often, but worse is when it is handled roughly or stored improperly and develops hidden cracks or chemical films. Many chemistry experiments require the use of strong acids and bases that must be contained in glassware. If they are exposed to skin they can cause serious burns. Glassware that has developed hidden cracks is prone to breaking when filled with a solution or bumped in the course of running an experiment and this breakage can lead to dangerous compounds spilling and splashing onto exposed skin. Science lab equipment improperly cleaned or stored can also be contaminated with chemicals that will undergo unwanted side reactions during an experiment, throwing off the validity of any results obtained.
Proper storage and maintenance of laboratory instruments is of utmost importance and fairly simple. When not in use, store all glassware and instruments in a sturdy closed cabinet. When handling them, use firm but gentle grips and move slowly and deliberately. Clean before and after experiments by rinsing with deionized water. And of course use the instrument that is best for the job. Trying to pour liquid into a buret without a funnel can lead to awkward movements, spilled chemicals, and broken laboratory instruments.