Washing laboratory glassware is a bit more complicated than using simple soap and water. Certain precautions must be taken in order to avoid destroying chemical solutions and experiments. Besides typical beakers, some other types of laboratory glassware include burets, pipets and volumetric flasks. These types of glassware all have special cleaning requirements. Often, standard soap and water can ruin a chemical solution. Detergent specifically designed for washing laboratory glassware should be used to clean glass beakers. Additionally, microfiber, lint free cloths and cotton tipped applicator sticks should be used in place of standard dish cloths.
When cleaning glass beakers and other laboratory glassware, it is generally recommended to use a proper detergent or solvent designed specifically for laboratory use. The following are just a few of the various detergents designed for the purpose of cleaning laboratory glassware:
These detergents are generally in a concentrated form and are often diluted to achieve the desired results. Lab glassware should be rinsed in the proper solvent, then rinsed a couple of times with distilled water, and finally, finished up with a couple of rinses with deionized water. Cotton tipped applicators in combination with microfiber cloths should be used to clean the inside of glass beakers.
Glass beakers and other laboratory glassware may require different cleaning methods depending upon the type of chemicals that were contained in the glassware. The following tips address methods of cleaning glass beakers that have contained various lab chemicals:
Water Soluble Solutions
Laboratory glassware that has contained water soluble solutions is perhaps the simplest to clean. Simply rinse the beakers or other containers 3 or 4 times in deionized water and allow them to dry.
Water Insoluble Solutions
For water insoluble solutions, the glassware should be rinsed 2 to 3 times with acetone or ethanol, followed by 3 to 4 rinses with deionized water. They should then be set aside and allowed to dry.
Acids and Bases
Beakers that have contained strong acids and bases should be cleaned under the fume hood. The laboratory glassware should be rinsed abundantly in tap water, followed by 3 to 4 efficient rinses with deionized water and set aside to dry.
* Glass beakers and laboratory glassware should be air dried to avoid scratching or damaging the surface. Towels or blowed air may also cause fibers or other contaminates.
* It is generally easier to clean laboratory glassware directly following use, as it will be easier to remove all traces of chemical substances. Also, water and other liquids can ruin a chemical solution or experiment. It is therefore required that a dry glass beaker be used for each new experiment. By cleaning the glassware directly after use, it will allow for drying time.
* If you must use glass beakers and other glassware immediately after cleaning, they should be rinsed 2 or 3 times with acetone. The acetone will evaporate quickly and remove any excess water.
* When laboratory glassware has been cleaned properly, a deionized water rinse will form a smooth sheet when it is poured through clean glass beakers or other glassware. If you cannot see this sheeting action, you may need to apply more aggressive methods of cleaning.
* Ground glass joints can be degreased by soaking a lint-free or microfiber cloth in either acetone or ether and wiping the joints carefully.