Breakage of laboratory glassware in the middle of experimental runs can be highly frustrating due to loss of valuable time and effort in addition to possibility of injuries.
The earlier article on How to prevent laboratory spills? covered some useful tips which are common to both these topics but in this article such points are covered again to present a comprehensive set of guidelines.
Let us first of all spare a thought on the key reasons responsible for glassware breakages and then see what measures can be adopted to prevent such mishaps:
- Overlooking of safety guidelines and procedures
- Accidental breakages
- Carelessness in handling
The article will offer useful guidelines under these three broad categories:
Overlooking of safety guidelines and procedures
- Do not use cracked or chipped glassware
- Always use glass beads when boiling liquids in beakers or round bottom flasks
- Never heat liquids directly on a naked flame. Instead use a hot plate, heating mantle or asbestos wire gauze
- Carry out acid digestions inside a fume hood
- Never stock reagent bottles on laboratory floor or walking isle
- Do not place glassware on the edge of the working bench as it can easily roll over and fall
- Never take sharp turns or run around in the laboratory as it can lead to glassware breakages
- Do not exceed specified rotation speeds during centrifuging as this can lead to breakage of centrifuging tubes
- Never adopt higher than specified temperatures or pressures when carrying out microwave-based digestions as this can lead to tube breakages inside the systems
- Stir gently during heating of solution with a glass rod or if a magnetic stirrer is used it should not be operated at very high spin rates
- Use a sticking tape around vacuum distillation glassware or vacuum desiccator so as to prevent implosion accidents
Carelessness in handling
Majority of glassware breakages take place due to carelessness in handling.
- Breakages of burette or pipette tips against washbasin walls when such washing is not carefully carried out
- Do not heat test tubes without making use of test tube clamps
- Always keep round bottom flasks in clamp stands to prevent accidental roll over
- Always support large sized volumetric flasks with both your hands. It is advisable to use trays.
- Never lift reagent bottles from screw caps as these may have been left without proper tightening
- Always use heat proof gloves when removing glassware from hot air ovens
- Do not keep volumetric flasks with stoppers affixed inside hot air ovens
- Allow sufficient time to cool glassware to room temperature after removal from hot air oven before use
- Keep stoppers of burettes well greased and do not use force to loosen stuck joints. Gentle tapping can be helpful
- Remember to release pressure from time to time when mixing different solvent solutions in separating funnels
- Gently place filled volumetric flasks (> 500 ml) on the bench to prevent breakages
- Do not stock glassware on laboratory side wall shelves which are not easily accessible. Use built-in workbench cabinets instead.
- Adopt gentle glassware cleaning and washing procedures after use. Glassware washing machines offer a better option and time saving as well.
Safe glassware handling practices and exercising necessary care does not take any additional time or effort but it does prevent accidental laboratory glassware breakages and allows you greater freedom to concentrate on other laboratory operations.