Essential Tips for Washing Academy Laboratory Glassware


Introduction to Laboratory Glassware Understanding Different Types of Laboratory Glassware
Importance of Clean Laboratory Glassware in Experiments

Glass Quality and Types
Durability and Chemical Resistance

Handling Dirty Glassware
Sorting Glassware by Type and Contamination Level

Step-by-Step Guide For Cleaning Laboratory Glassware
Common Mistakes in Manual Washing

Types of Laboratory Glassware Washers
Pros and Cons of Automated Washing

Selecting the Right Detergent
Natural vs. Chemical Detergents

Techniques for Tough Stains and Deposits
Safety Measures in Handling Harsh Chemicals

Effective Rinsing Techniques
Air-Drying vs. Oven-Drying

Proper Storage Techniques
Regular Maintenance and Care

Residue Build-up and How to Avoid It
Handling Breakage and Cracks

Eco-Friendly Washing Practices
Waste Management in Glassware Washing

Ultrasonic Cleaning
Specialized Cleaning for Sensitive Equipment

Educating Lab Personnel
Establishing Routine Cleaning Protocols

In-Depth Guide to Effective Glassware Cleaning



Recap and Final Thoughts

Essential Tips for Washing Academy Laboratory Glassware

Cleaning Laboratory Measuring Cylinder

Discover the art of washing laboratory glassware with our comprehensive guide. Learn essential tips to ensure cleanliness and precision in all of your scientific experiments!

Laboratory glassware is a cornerstone of scientific experimentation, providing the means to measure, mix, and analyse with precision. However, the accuracy and success of these experiments hinge on the cleanliness and integrity of this glassware. Let’s jump into the world of washing laboratory glassware; exploring methods, tips, and best practices to maintain the quality and reliability of your lab equipment.

Understanding the Different Types of Laboratory Glassware

Before you even touch a sponge or detergent, it’s good practice to understand the types of glassware in your laboratory. Beakers, flasks, vials, and test tubes, each with their unique shape and purpose, require particular cleaning methods. Knowing the nuances of each type of vessel and vessel material can prevent damage and ensure thorough cleaning and maintenance.

Importance of Clean Glassware in Experiments

The slightest residue can skew experimental results. Clean glassware is not just about aesthetics; it’s about the integrity of your scientific work. Residues can lead to cross-contamination, inaccurate measurements, and ultimately, unreliable results. Even specks of dust can throw off a measurement considerably – dust leads to liquid being retained on the surface of the glass and any liquid left inside the vessel on the wall is liquid missing! This is very, very important when dealing with accurate analysis.

Glass Quality and Types

The material of your glassware does matter. Borosilicate glass, known for its durability and resistance to thermal shock, is a popular choice in labs. Understanding the material helps in selecting the appropriate cleaning methods and avoiding damage during washing.
Glass may be borosilicate, soda-lime, quartz, or another specialised type (of which there are literally hundreds!) Long essays can be written on glass type alone (see our other articles), but suffice to say that the majority of benchtop glassware for the laboratory is borosilicate. Borosilicate is durable and inert, and generally pretty tough stuff.
Bottles are often sodalime, except for blue screw top reagent/media bottles, which are borosilicate when purchased from a reputable brand and supplier. As an aside, please be aware of fake products of blue screw cap bottles, there are cheap imitations in the marketplace which are nothing short of dangerous.
Sodalime bottles are quite adequate for certain storage uses, one simply needs to know what one is using for what purpose. (See our other articles).
Chips, cracks and scratches effect glass durability. The rule of thumb is to maintain stocks in good condition. Please be aware that scratches, chips and cracks all affect the thermal shock characteristics of glassware. (Read about thermal shock in other articles)

Handling Dirty Glassware

Dealing with dirty glassware is more than just a chore; it’s a safety practice. Always check for chemical residues and handle with care. Pre-rinsing can help in removing initial layers of chemicals or substances, making the deep cleaning process more manageable.
In certain cases, sterilisation may be required. Sterilisation should occur prior to washing! For sterilisation, you should generally be thinking of an autoclave, as steam under pressure is a superior technique compared to others.

Step-by-Step Guide to Manual Washing

Manual washing may seem straightforward, and sometimes it is. However, on other occasions it’s more of an art in itself.

  1. Start by correctly disposing of any substances within the vessel or that have touched the item in question.
  2. Use gloves if required.
  3. 3) Rinse the vessel with water to remove loose residues. Do not spray water violently everywhere, instead control the level of water pressure and water direction so that splashing is minimised and loosened residue does not spatter surrounding surfaces, or indeed yourself. And do not spray any product into your mouth or eyes!
  4. Use a mild detergent and a soft brush or sponge for scrubbing. Work gently but persistently until the product is clean.
  5. Pay special attention to hard-to-reach areas such as the bottom of flasks or the insides of narrow openings.
  6. Use specific bottle brushes that suit the purpose in question in terms of brush head size and material. (See other articles for more detail)
  7. If you cannot gain access to clean all of the interior of the vessel, then you probably need specialised tools or equipment to wash the item thoroughly. In this context, access means exerting enough pressure on the interior of the vessel to remove substances. A pipette, for example, will need to be washed with a pipette washer – just running it under the tap in an effort to wash it through is often not sufficient.
  8. When using a bottle brush, realise that ramming the brush repeatedly into the base or walls of the vessel may break the glass – laboratory glassware is quite robust, but will break if mistreated. Ham-fisted or overly exuberant brush technique will result in broken product. Remember to twist the brush as well as scrub.
  9. As a general rule, the thinner the wall thickness, the more fragile the item. The more fragile the item, the more care is required.
  10. When finished brushing / scrubbing, rinse the vessel with clean water again.
  11. If the item is still dirty, repeat the process until it is clean.
  12. Leave the item to drain.
  13. Depending upon the item, RO or distilled water may be required for cleaning or final rinsing. Ordinary tap water contains impurities, and these will leave water marks when dry, and/or leave impurities on the wall of the vessel which will subsequently affect measurement accuracy. One needs to use one’s own judgement here – are you washing a Grade A volumetric vessel or a general-purpose beaker for approximate measurement of a relatively unimportant material?
  14. Once the item is dry, the vessel may be re-used. Again, one needs to use judgement here – does the vessel need to be sterilised or rinsed with a particular product or treated for a specific purpose?

Laboratory Glassware Washers

For larger laboratories, automated washers can be a game-changer. These machines are designed to handle a variety of glassware, ensuring consistent and thorough cleaning while saving time and labour.

Selecting the Right Detergent

The choice of detergent can make a significant difference. Opt for non-abrasive, laboratory-grade detergents that effectively remove residues without leaving behind any harmful traces.

Techniques for Tough Stains and Deposits

Sometimes, you’ll encounter stubborn stains or deposits that won’t budge with regular cleaning. In these cases, specific techniques like soaking in special solutions or using ultrasonic cleaners can be effective. Overly aggressive brush or scrubbing technique will result in breakages. Also, soaking in aggressive chemicals may ruin the vessel (see other articles).

Effective Rinsing Techniques

Rinsing is as important as cleaning. Residues from detergents can also affect experimental results. Rinse thoroughly with distilled water, ensuring no traces of detergents are left behind.

Proper Storage Techniques

Once cleaned, storing your glassware properly is crucial to maintaining its cleanliness. Store in a dust-free, organised manner, preferably in closed cabinets to prevent contamination.

Residue Build-up and How to Avoid It

Regular maintenance is key to preventing residue build-up. Establishing a cleaning routine after every use can go a long way towards keeping your glassware pristine.

Eco-Friendly Washing Practices

In today’s world, it’s important to consider the environmental impact of your lab practices. Opt for eco-friendly detergents and water-saving methods to reduce your ecological footprint.

Academy Glass Beaker Laboratory Cleaning Sponge Brush

Guide to Effective Glassware Cleaning

Now, let’s examine the specifics of washing laboratory glassware. Here, we’ll cover everything from pre-washing preparations to the final inspection for cleanliness. Let’s answer some questions:


  1. Can I use regular dish soap to clean laboratory glassware?
  2. How often should laboratory glassware be cleaned?
  3. What is the best way to dry laboratory glassware?
  4. Is it safe to use a dishwasher for laboratory glassware?
  5. How do I remove oil or grease from glassware?
  6. Can ultrasonic cleaners damage glassware?

Can I use regular dish soap to clean Academy laboratory glassware?

Regular dish soap can be used for cleaning laboratory glassware, but with caution. While it’s effective for removing everyday grime and residues, there are several factors to consider:

  1. Residue: Regular dish soaps may leave behind residues that can interfere with experimental results. It’s essential to rinse the glassware thoroughly with distilled or deionised water to ensure all soap residues are removed.
  2. Chemical Compatibility: Dish soaps contain additives or fragrances that might react with certain chemicals used in the lab. Always check the soap’s composition to ensure it won’t cause unwanted reactions.
  3. Gentleness: Choose a mild, non-abrasive dish soap. Harsh chemicals or abrasive agents in some soaps can damage delicate glassware or etch its surface, affecting its clarity and integrity.
  4. Efficiency: Laboratory-grade detergents are specifically designed to clean glassware without leaving residues and are more effective in dealing with laboratory contaminants such as oils, bacteria, and chemicals.
  5. Safety: In a lab setting, safety is paramount. If the glassware has been used with hazardous chemicals, a regular dish soap may not be sufficient to decontaminate it thoroughly. In such cases, specific cleaning agents and protocols are required.

In summary, while regular dish soap can be used for a quick and simple cleaning of Academy laboratory glassware, it’s not the ideal choice for thorough, residue-free cleaning, especially in cases where precision and contamination control are critical. For most laboratory applications, it’s recommended to use specialised lab detergents and follow standard cleaning protocols to ensure the glassware’s cleanliness and the experiment’s integrity.

How often should Academy laboratory glassware be cleaned?

Academy Laboratory glassware should be cleaned immediately after each use to prevent residues from drying and becoming harder to remove. This practice is essential for maintaining the integrity and accuracy of experimental results. Here are some key points to consider regarding the frequency of cleaning Academy laboratory glassware:

  1. Immediate Cleaning: As soon as an experiment is completed, it’s advisable to clean the glassware. This helps in removing chemicals or substances before they adhere strongly to the glass surface or react with the glass.
  2. Before Each Use: Even if the glassware was cleaned after the last use, a quick rinse with distilled water is recommended before its next use. This ensures that any dust or contaminants that may have settled on the glassware while in storage are removed.
  3. After Handling Hazardous Materials: If the glassware was used for experiments involving hazardous or reactive chemicals, it should be cleaned immediately afterward using appropriate safety protocols. This is crucial not just for maintaining the glassware, but also for ensuring lab safety.
  4. Periodic Deep Cleaning: Even with regular cleaning, some residues, especially those that are less visible, may build up over time. Periodic deep cleaning is recommended to ensure that any lingering contaminants are thoroughly removed.
  5. When Switching Experiments: If the glassware is being repurposed for a different experiment, especially if the chemicals used are different or incompatible, thorough cleaning is necessary to avoid cross-contamination.
  6. Before Calibration: Glassware used for measurements, for example volumetric flasks and pipettes, should be cleaned before calibration checks to ensure accuracy.
  7. Special Cleaning for Sensitive Experiments: For experiments that are particularly sensitive to contaminants, such as trace analysis or microbiological cultures, glassware should be cleaned meticulously before use.

In summary, regular and timely cleaning of laboratory glassware is a critical practice in any lab setting. It maintains the quality and accuracy of experiments and ensures the longevity and safety of the glassware. Establishing and adhering to a consistent cleaning schedule, tailored to the specific needs of the experiments and types of glassware used, is key to achieving reliable experimental outcomes.


What is the best way to dry laboratory glassware?

Drying laboratory glassware properly is as crucial as cleaning it, as improper drying can introduce contaminants or residues that might affect experimental results. Here’s a guide to the best practices for drying laboratory glassware:

  1. Air-Drying: The most common and recommended method is air-drying. Place the washed glassware upside down on a clean, non-absorbent surface, like a draining rack, and allow it to air dry. Ensure the area is dust-free and away from potential contaminants.
  2. Use of Clean, Dry-Air or Nitrogen: For quicker drying, especially in a high-throughput lab, you can use a stream of clean, dry air or nitrogen. This method is particularly useful for glassware that has narrow necks or tubes where water can be trapped.
  3. Oven-Drying: Some laboratories use drying ovens specifically designed for glassware. This method is effective but requires careful temperature monitoring to avoid thermal stress, especially for glass types that are less heat-resistant.
  4. Use of Lint-Free Towels: If immediate drying is needed and other methods are not feasible, use a lint-free, clean towel. Be cautious with this method as towels can introduce fibres or contaminants.
  5. Avoiding Heat Sources: Do not dry glassware on hot plates or over open flames. Excessive heat can cause glass to crack or break (see other articles), and it can also alter the properties of certain types of glass. Don’t forget that often flames deposit soot!
  6. Inverted Position for Drainage: When air-drying, always position the glassware in a way that allows water to drain out. Accumulated water can leave stains or residues as it dries.
  7. Drying Agents: For completely moisture-sensitive procedures, consider using drying agents or desiccators to remove any trace of moisture.
  8. Rinsing with Solvents: In cases where water residues are problematic (e.g., in organic synthesis), rinsing with a volatile solvent like acetone or ethanol, followed by air-drying, can be effective.
  9. Proper Storage: Once dry, store the glassware in a clean, dust-free environment, preferably covered or enclosed, to prevent the accumulation of dust and other contaminants.
  10. Checking for Dryness: Before use, always check that the glassware is completely dry. Any moisture can alter the concentration or behaviour of solutions in your experiments.

Remember, the choice of drying method can depend on the specific type of glassware, the nature of the experiment, and the lab’s available resources. The key is to ensure that the method used does not introduce contaminants and that the glassware is completely dry before every use.

Is it safe to use a dishwasher for laboratory glassware?

Using a dishwasher for cleaning laboratory glassware can be safe and helpful, but not necessarily all that effective. It depends on several factors including the type of glassware, the nature of the contaminants, and the specifications of the dishwasher. Here are considerations to determine if using a dishwasher is appropriate for your laboratory glassware:

  1. Type of Glassware: Standard laboratory glassware like beakers, flasks, and bottles can often be safely washed in a dishwasher. However, delicate items or glassware with narrow openings and intricate shapes (like volumetric flasks, pipettes, or specialized equipment) may not be adequately cleaned.
  2. Type of Dishwasher: Laboratories often use specialised glassware washers that are designed to handle delicate items and remove chemical residues. These are different from household dishwashers and have various settings for temperature, pressure, and detergents. Most important are the various accessories available for a lab washer (pipette racks, specialised nozzles etc), this is where a lab washer really differentiates itself from a household dishwasher – its ability to get into the nooks and crannies and really clean specialised items of odd shapes.
    An autoclave is not a dishwasher! A household dishwasher does not reach the same temperature as an autoclave, and in the case of an autoclave, steam sterilisation under pressure is also introduced. However, it is important to comprehend that an autoclave does not wash – it sterilises. Washing and sterilisation are not the same thing!
  1. Chemical Contamination: If the glassware has been used with hazardous chemicals, particularly those that are volatile, corrosive, or toxic, then a standard dishwasher will not be appropriate. These chemicals require specific handling and decontamination procedures. Autoclaves are often used to sterilise products. Then the vessels are washed after sterilisation. If needs be, the glassware can then be sterilised once more if required.
  2. Detergents and rinsing: Glassware requires non-residue-forming detergents. Standard dishwashing detergents might leave residues that can interfere with lab experiments. Additionally, thorough rinsing is essential to remove all traces of detergent.
  3. Temperature and Pressure Settings: Most laboratory glassware can withstand the high temperatures and pressures of a dishwasher, which can, on rare occasions, be effective for sterilisation. However, not all glass types are suitable for this treatment. Once again, sterilisation is not washing!
  4. Drying Process: Dishwashers often use high heat or fans for drying, which might not be suitable for all types of laboratory glassware. Generally, however, this is not an issue. Improper drying, however, can lead to water spots or residues (especially of tap water is used), and this is much more of an issue.
  5. Safety Considerations: Always check for cracks, chips, or weaknesses in the glassware before placing it in the dishwasher. Damaged glassware should not be used as it can break during the washing cycle.
  6. Validation of Cleaning: For certain laboratories, especially those accredited under specific standards, the cleaning process must be validated to ensure it effectively removes all contaminants.

In summary, while dishwashers can be used for cleaning some types of laboratory glassware, it’s important to consider the specific requirements and safety protocols of your laboratory. For many applications, particularly those involving sensitive or hazardous materials, manual cleaning or the use of an autoclave for sterilisation as well as a laboratory-grade glassware washer is recommended.

How do I remove oil or grease from glassware?

Removing oil or grease from laboratory glassware requires a methodical approach to ensure that all residues are effectively eliminated. Here’s a step-by-step guide to deal with oily or greasy contaminants:

  1. Pre-Rinsing: Begin by rinsing the glassware with warm water. This step helps to remove any loose contaminants and can make the degreasing process more effective.
  2. Use of a Suitable Detergent: Select a detergent that is specifically designed for removing oil and grease. Laboratory-grade detergents are typically more effective in dealing with greasy residues than regular dish soaps. They are formulated to break down oils and grease without leaving any residue.
  3. Soaking: For stubborn grease, soak the glassware in a warm detergent solution. The duration of the soak can vary depending on the extent of the contamination, but it generally ranges from a few minutes to overnight. This soaking helps to loosen and dissolve the grease.
  4. Scrubbing: Use a soft brush or sponge to gently scrub the glassware. Pay special attention to areas with visible grease. Be careful not to scratch or damage the glass. For narrow-necked glassware or intricate pieces, use brushes designed to reach inside without causing damage.
  5. Rinsing Thoroughly: After scrubbing, rinse the glassware thoroughly with water. It’s essential to remove all traces of detergent, as any residue can interfere with subsequent laboratory procedures. Distilled or deionized water is preferred for the final rinse to ensure that no minerals from tap water are left behind.
  6. Solvent Rinse: If grease residues persist, a rinse with an organic solvent such as acetone or ethanol can be effective. These solvents can dissolve oily residues that are resistant to aqueous detergents. After the solvent rinse, rinse again with (ideally distilled) water to remove any traces of the solvent.
  7. Drying: Allow the glassware to air dry on a clean rack or use appropriate drying techniques, ensuring that no residue or water spots remain.
  8. Inspection: Before using the glassware for any laboratory procedures, inspect it to ensure it is completely clean and free of any oily residue.
  9. Preventative Measures: To minimize future grease contamination, handle glassware with clean gloves and avoid direct contact with greasy substances.

Remember, safety is paramount. When using solvents for cleaning, work in a well-ventilated area and follow all laboratory safety protocols. Disposal of used solvents should also be completed in accordance with your facility’s waste disposal guidelines.


Can ultrasonic cleaners damage glassware?

Ultrasonic cleaners are a popular tool in laboratories for cleaning glassware, but it’s important to use them correctly to avoid potential damage. Here’s what you should know about the safety of using ultrasonic cleaners with laboratory glassware:

  1. Nature of Ultrasonic Cleaning: Ultrasonic cleaners work by generating high-frequency sound waves that produce microscopic cavitation bubbles in the cleaning solution. These bubbles collapse with great energy, providing a thorough cleaning action even in hard-to-reach areas. This method is generally safe for most types of laboratory glassware.
  2. Risk of Damage: While ultrasonic cleaning is generally safe, there are certain risks. Delicate or thin-walled glassware might be susceptible to damage due to the intense energy released by the cavitation process. Similarly, any glassware with cracks, chips, or existing weaknesses is more likely to break when exposed to ultrasonic vibrations.
  3. Type of Glassware: The suitability of ultrasonic cleaning largely depends on the type and quality of the glass. Robust items like thick-walled beakers and standard lab bottles are usually safe. However, care should be taken with more delicate items, like capillary tubes, thin-walled flasks, or intricate glass apparatus.
  4. Cleaning Solution and Duration: The choice of cleaning solution and the duration of the cleaning cycle are important factors. Using an appropriate laboratory-grade detergent and avoiding excessively long cleaning cycles can minimise the risk of damage.
  5. Positioning in the Cleaner: How glassware is positioned in the ultrasonic cleaner can also impact its safety. Ensure that items do not touch each other, as vibrations can cause them to collide and potentially chip or crack.
  6. Temperature Control: Some ultrasonic cleaners have heaters to improve cleaning efficiency. However, extreme temperatures can stress the glass. It’s important to monitor and control the temperature, especially when cleaning temperature-sensitive glassware.
  7. Regular Inspection: Regularly inspect glassware for any signs of damage. If any weaknesses or imperfections are detected, it’s best to avoid using ultrasonic cleaning for those items.
  8. Manufacturer’s Instructions: Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for both the ultrasonic cleaner and the glassware. These instructions provide valuable information on the compatibility and recommended settings.

In summary, while ultrasonic cleaners are generally safe for use with laboratory glassware, it’s important to consider the type of glassware, the cleaner’s settings, and the condition of the items to be cleaned. When used properly, ultrasonic cleaners can provide effective and efficient cleaning without damaging glassware.


Washing laboratory glassware is an essential skill in the realm of scientific research. By following these tips and techniques carefully, you can ensure that your glassware is not only clean but also maintains its precision and dependability in your experimental outcomes.