How to Clean Lab Glassware (The Burette, Pipettes, & Flasks)

Cleaning stained laboratory glassware isn’t optional.

For your own safety and the success of your experiment, you’ll want to ensure you know exactly how to clean the glassware in your lab.

In this guide, we’ll go over just how to do this, so you’re prepared next time you need to do some lab cleaning.

But before we jump into the nitty-gritty, let’s first go over a few reasons why you need to clean your dirty lab glassware.

methods of cleaning glassware in the laboratory

Types of Glass Used in Laboratory?

Glassware (and not other materials) are mostly used in the chemistry laboratory because they have a lower coefficient of expansion and higher resistance to chemical attack.

Laboratory glassware can be made of verities of different glass materials.

However, it has been seen that the most common material for the manufacturing of beakers, flasks, test tubes, ground joints, kettles, and other products is borosilicate glass and Quartz glass.

While borosilicate glass is transparent and can withstand higher thermal stress, quartz glass can withstand very high temperatures.

Also, it is transparent in parts of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Why Cleaning Them is Highly Crucial?

The first and most obvious is that mixing new chemicals with the residue left in glassware can pose a safety hazard for you and those around you.

To avoid adverse chemical reactions, you’ll want to make sure each glass is one hundred percent clean upon use.

Following this, it goes without saying that mixing unknown chemicals can ruin your experiment.

If you’re looking to succeed in the lab or with your schoolwork, be sure to keep all vials and tubes clean so that you can get to your end goal without unnecessary hiccups.

How to Wash Different Types of Glassware?

Knowing this, let’s take a look at how to wash different types of laboratory glassware:

  • Buret

To begin, start by washing the burette with hot, soapy water.

Once washed, you’ll want to rise completely with tap water and follow this by washing four times with de-ionized water.

The glass should be completely clean before use.

  • Pipettes and flasks

Pipettes, flasks, and other graduated cylinders must be washed in hot, soapy water.

You may find it necessary to let the flasks soak overnight.

Scrub with a brush, rinse with tap water, and then rinse thoroughly with de-ionized water before setting out to dry.

  • Organic Chemistry Glassware

Start by washing the cloudy glassware with the corresponding solvent of the contained chemical; remember to use de-ionized water as your solvent if the contents of the glassware are water-soluble.

Scrub with hot soapy water, if needed; wash with tap water and rinse with de-ionized water to safely remove all soap and chemical residue.

Note: While cleaning or washing the volumetric lab glassware, there can be a high risk of breakage.

And since associated replacement costs can be high, you need to be extra careful while accomplishing the cleaning task.

How Can Laboratory Ultrasonic Cleaner Help?

Ultrasonic cleaning of laboratory glassware is one of the widely used cleaning methods for various different reasons.

The most prominent among many is its greater reliability and efficiency in cleaning delicate laboratory glass with complex configurations.

Using a laboratory ultrasonic cleaner machine for labs, you can rest assured that all the stains and tenacious contaminants are removed thoroughly without wasting human effort and time.

Ultrasonic cleaning devices make use of high-frequency sonic waves/sound waves that create millions of minute bubbles to clean the hardest and most unreachable area/region of your cleaning stuff by utilizing the cavitation process.

The bubbles due to the cavitation process collide aggressively with the contaminated surface to loosen the grime and thus helps in achieving a cleaner surface.

How to Use the Device?

  • When using the device, carefully arrange the lab glassware (you need to clean) in a stainless-steel basket provided by the machine.
  • Keep a note that the surface that needs the cleaning gets properly immersed in the ultrasonic cleaning solution.
  • Now turn on the device and set your preferred time and temperature for cleaning (this should generally be based on the level of cleaning you require)
  • At the end of the cleaning cycle, inspect the glassware and remove it carefully from the basket. Rinse it in water and let it dry naturally.
  • Care that with regular use; the cleaning solution may get ineffective over time. Consider disposing of the old solution safely and replace with a new one periodically.

The key to getting the most effective cleaning results is choosing the right cleaner device and the cleaning formulation that can be used in the machine.

For getting superior cleaning results, it’s important that you choose a device that comes with a larger rinsing tank and heating element (to heat the liquid solution).

When you have picked the right device for cleaning, you need to establish a consistent cleaning procedure so that you can keep the labware stain-free and chemical-free.

wash lab glassware

Washing Common Lab Chemicals from Glassware

With this out of the way, let’s go over some essential tips for washing common lab chemicals.

Follow these tips to make sure that you sufficiently clean glassware that has been used to house chemicals common in the lab.

Strong Acids

Cleaning glassware that you used with strong acids is quite simple:

  • Start by rinsing the glassware out with large amounts of tap water.
  • Then, simply rinse out four times with de-ionized tap water.
  • After this, put it away to dry.

Strong Bases

To wash glassware used with strong bases, simply follow the same steps as with strong acids:

  • rinse with large amounts of tap water,
  • rinse four times with de-ionized tap water,
  • and then put away to dry.

Weak Acids

To wash glassware that housed weak acids, simply rinse four times with de-ionized water and put it away to dry.

Weak Bases

Weak bases first require you to wash the glassware with tap water and then rinse four times with de-ionized water.

Once done, put away to dry.

Water Soluble Solutions

Washing glassware used for water-soluble solutions is easier than you may think!

To do so, simply wash the glass out with de-ionized water four times and then put the glass up to dry.

Water Insoluble Solutions

Washing glassware used with water-insoluble solutions is a bit more complicated.

To start, you’ll want to rinse the glass out with acetone or ethanol (or other substances as required).

Following this, wash out approximately four times with de-ionized water and then put away to dry.

Drying the Laboratory Glassware After Washing?

Do not towel dry or blow dry your glassware. Instead, you should let the chemistry lab glassware dry naturally unless needed immediately.

If you plan on using the glassware right away, rinse three times with acetone, which will evaporate quickly for ready use.

For ether solutions, you can rinse in acetone or ethanol; simply remember to rinse this with your final solution to remove traces of these chemicals.

If you’re going to use water in your chemical mixture, there’s no need to dry your glassware if you don’t believe the water in the glass will affect your solution.

Vacuuming the glassware may also prove useful in some situations, though you’ll want to take care and do so under guidance if attempting for the first time.

Can You Use Acetone for Cleaning Glassware in Labs?

Acetone is a common cleaning agent used to remove dirt, grease, and other grime from different surfaces.

You’ll find acetone being used commercially in different industries because of its versatility.

In addition, to be used as a cleaner, acetone is often used to dissolve adhesives such as superglue along with removing grease.

Plus, acetone is often added to paint or varnish to provide a volatile component that helps in application to different surfaces. For its sheer versatility, acetone is quite remarkable.

As far as cleaners go, acetone offers several advantages thanks to its properties and being rather inexpensive compared to many other cleaners.

  • Effective
  • Low Cost
  • Contains only a Small Amount of Toxins
  • Soluble in Water
  • Easy to Obtain
  • Safe (in most circumstances)

Because it is less regulated than other volatile components thanks to the low toxicity levels, acetone can be found commercially which makes it easy to obtain.

It should be noted that acetone is not a volatile organic compound (VOC) which can be dangerous.

Although it is recommended that you use protection by wearing gloves, a mask, and eye protectors when using the product.

Although acetone can clean several different types of surfaces, it is most effective in cleaning glass.

And no wonder there are good reasons to use acetone to clean glass in labs, although care must be taken when mixing and applying the product.

Easy to Use:

Although you will need to wear some protection, acetone is an excellent glass cleaner that usually requires fewer applications or wipes to remove the dirt, grease, and other debris from the glass itself.

Removes Grease:

Acetone is often used to degrease machinery which makes it a good glass cleaner as well.

This is because cleaning grease or oils off glass tends to be difficult with most other cleaning agents.

Acetone cuts through the grease and removes it from the glass fairly easily.

No Streaks:

The most common issue that many other cleaners have with glass is that it leaves a residue behind.

Not so with acetone which evaporates when exposed to the air.

Depending on how much water is used, acetone can effectively clean glass and leave it bright and shiny.

One of the downsides is that acetone is flammable and must be mixed with water before being used.

Care must be taken when handling acetone in its natural state. Otherwise, the risk of fire is present when not careful.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning your lab glassware is a key to successful lab tests. In fact, cleaning and drying your lab glassware is a delicate process.

With the information in this guide, you’ll be able to do it right the first time and every time so that your laboratory work goes smoothly and without error.

For this reason, make sure to refer to this piece next time you have questions about cleaning your glassware in the lab.