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16.13 Glassware Washing

In most cases laboratory glassware can be cleaned effectively by using detergents and water. In some cases it may be necessary to use strong chemicals for cleaning glassware. Strong acids should be avoided unless necessary. In particular, Chromic acid should not be used due to its toxicity and disposal concerns. One product that may be substituted for Chromic acid is “Nochromix Reagent”. The Fisher catalog describes this material as: “Nochromix Reagent. Inorganic oxidizer chemically cleans glassware. Contains no metal ions. Rinses freely—leaving no metal residue, making this product valuable for trace analysis, enzymology, and tissue culture work. (Mix with sulfuric acid).” Unused Nochromix Reagent can be neutralized to a pH between 5.5 and 9.5 and drain disposed. Acid/base baths should have appropriate labeling and secondary containment. Additionally a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), proper personal protective equipment (PPE), and spill materials should be available. Proper disposal for spent acid/base bath contents is neutralization and drain disposal.

When handling glassware, check for cracks and chips before washing, autoclaving or using it. Dispose of chipped and broken glassware immediately in an approved collection unit. DO NOT put broken glassware in the regular trash. Handle glassware with care – avoid impacts, scratches or intense heating of glassware. Make sure you use the appropriate labware for the procedures and chemicals.

Use care when inserting glass tubing into stoppers:

  • Use glass tubing that has been fire-polished
  • Lubricate the glass
  • Protect your hands with heavy gloves

If your department/building has a glass washing service there are certain protocols that must be followed before sending the glassware to be washed. It is the responsibility of the lab to empty and rinse all glassware before it leaves the lab. Although the contents may not be hazardous, the washroom support staff cannot be certain of the appropriate PPE to wear, disposal regulations or possible incompatibilities with items received from other researchers. Be aware that labeling for lab personnel is not sufficient for areas outside the lab as per the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard. It is the responsibility of the glassware washing staff to reject or return glassware that is not acceptable due to breakage or containing chemicals. For this reason, glassware should be labeled with the name of the person who is responsible for it.