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Glassware vs. Plasticware

Learn how to choose the best option for your application

United Scientific GLSKIT3 General Lab Glassware Starter

Just about any laboratory requires a variety of flasks, test tubes, beakers, graduated cylinders, dishes, and flasks. Many of these supplies we offer are available in glass or alternatively plastic materials. This post will help you better understand the differences between glassware and plasticware and help you decide which applications are better suited to these materials. First, let's go over some of the main advantages and disadvantages of both.

Advantages of Glassware
• Beakers can be heated on hotplates without melting or breaking
• Easier to clean and can be re-used frequently
• Improved transparency of glass offers better visibility of graduation marks for more accurate readings
• Better chemical resistance against acids and alkaline solutions

Disadvantages of Glassware
• High chance of breaking which can result in sample loss and exposure to harmful solutions creating an unsafe lab environment
• Glass containers cannot be used to hold hydrofluoric acid
• Not disposable after every use and would have to be cleaned or autoclaved

Advantage of Plasticware
• Reusable and can be autoclaved (Polypropylene plastic only)
• Lightweight for better ergonomics
• Can be recycled and are more environmentally friendly
• More cost-effective than glass
• More convenient as they can be disposed of after each use
• Better safety as plastic materials are non-breakable and flexible

Disadvantages of Plasticware

• Not as good clarity in comparison to glass
• Are affected by high temperatures
• Graduation marks aren't as clear which can lead to inaccurate results

Types of plastic used in laboratory plasticware

Many of our Globe Scientific and United Scientific plasticware is made from different types of plastic which include polypropylene (PP), Polystyrene (PS) Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polymethyl pentene (PMP) All these various types have their strengths and weakness and can be used in many different applications.

Types of glass used in laboratory glassware

The most popular type of glass used in laboratory glassware is borosilicate glass. These types of glassware are resistant to thermal shock and are made from silica and boron trioxide during the manufacturing process. This makes glassware that is highly durable and can withstand high temperatures. Additional soda lime glass culture tubes are also available in our glassware section. Soda-lime glass does not have as good chemical resistance and is durable in comparison to borosilicate glass.

Glassware or plasticware which one is best for you?

For start-up labs and classrooms, plasticware may be the best way to go as it is more budget friendly and makes for a safer lab work environment. However, when working in chemistry laboratories glassware can offer improved resistance to chemicals when acidic and alkaline solutions are used. Additionally when using equipment like hotplates and stirrers glassware will offer the best resistance and hold up to extreme temperatures. In conclusion, consider the pros and cons of glassware and plasticware in regard to your application. If your budget allows it is a great idea to stock up on both glass and plastic supplies to truly benefit from both and have the ability to pick the best option when in the lab.

PLSKIT1 Plasticware Starter Kit

Click here to shop our wide variety of plastic bottles, beakers, test tubes, cylinders and much more.

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Volumetric Glassware Burette

For glassware, including culture tubes, funnels, graduated cylinders, beakers, and flasks, click here.

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For any further information on a wide range of lab and educational topics, please visit our regularly updated blog page.


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