Glassware

DWK guide to cleaning lab glassware

It is important to clean laboratory glassware as it has frequent contact with a range of substances on a repeated basis. A robust cleaning process is needed to ensure the equipment can be re-used safely, as well as helping to prolong the life of the products used and protects the validity of future work.

Cleaning of glassware can be carried out manually, with the use of automated washing equipment or a combination of both. This blog will outline the core steps to effectively re-process equipment as well as general tips for cleaning glassware safely

Image of scientist cleaning laboratory glassware
Image of scientist cleaning laboratory glassware

Reprocessing laboratory glassware explained

A complete cleaning/re-processing cycle typically consists of four stages, although not all are always necessary. The stages are:

1. Initial cleaning:

This step ensures the removal of any adhering contamination from the surfaces of laboratory glassware, using process chemicals if necessary

2. Neutralisation:

If required, this process is undertaken to neutralise the residues of any process chemicals in and on the surface of laboratory glassware during cleaning. As alkaline process chemicals are typically used in cleaning processes, acidic chemicals are generally used for neutralisation

3. Rinsing:

This step removes any remaining dissolved/detached contamination and the process chemical employed from the surfaces of the glassware

4. Disinfection:

This stage is only required if the safety classification in the laboratory or specific process demands it. The aim of disinfection is to reduce the number of pathogenic germs and active viruses on the surfaces of the glassware and to reduce contamination to a degree which is accepted as being safe

Basic tips for cleaning lab glassware

There are a number of tips that can help ensure lab glassware and plastic coated glassware is cleaned effectively and safely. Here are 12 tips to consider:

  1. Washing machines may be used to enable automated re-processing. Support racks on the washer must be well maintained. The support pins should be coated with a non-abrasive material to prevent metal to glass contact and scratching
  2. When manual washing, use only plastic core brushes that have soft, non-abrasive bristles. Soft, clean sponges or other wiping materials may be used. Scouring pads will scratch glass and shouldn’t be used.
  3. Inspect your glassware after cleaning and discard it if scratched, chipped, cracked or damaged in any way
  4. Many commercial glass cleaners are available, follow the manufacturers’ directions for the use of these products since some are corrosive and can damage laboratory glass
  5. Organic solvents are acceptable cleaning agents when conditions warrant their use
  6. Do not soak plastic-coated glassware for long periods of time as this can shorten the life of the coating. Do not allow used plastic-coated glassware to sit unwashed for long periods of time as well as this will make cleaning more difficult
  7. Do not place metal or other hard objects, such as spatulas, glass stirring rods, or brushes with metal parts inside the glassware. This will scratch the glass and can cause eventual breakage and injury
  8. Do not sure strong alkaline products and hydrofluoric acid as cleaning agents. They can dissolve the glass and can damage the glassware which will eventually cause breakage/injury.
  9. Do not place hands inside glassware while wearing any jewellery, particularly diamond rings, as these will score the inside of the glassware, resulting in damage that could lead to eventual breakage and injury.
  10. Do not heat glassware to temperatures above 400°C to burn out carbon residues. This will result in the introduction of permanent stress in the glass hat will eventually cause the glassware to break.
  11. Do not use any abrasive cleansers, including soft cleansers as these can also scratch the glass. If used repeatedly this can cause eventual breakage and injury.
  12. Plastic-coated glassware should not be cleaned with harsh, chemical grade detergents. Instead, use a non-abrasive grade detergent. If using a dishwasher or dryer, avoid temperatures greater than 110°C. Scouring pads and brushes are not recommended for use on plastic-coated glassware.

All blog information was provided courtesy of DWK

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