Many different reagents, reagent mixtures and tips have to be used to thoroughly wash glassware. It is important to know them to keep your glassware clean of impurities for your experiments. A good thread about it can be found here.

Preliminary glass cleaningEdit

First, remove any solid impurities with a paper towel, if there are any. If the dirt is soluble in water or can be removed with a water jet, use water. Use detergent to remove any other impurities that haven't been removed with plain water. Use a brush to remove persistent dirt.[1]

Common impuritiesEdit


Graphite is a problem as it is not soluble in any solvent and has low reactivity. It will clog fritted glassware. Aqua regia and piranha solution are good at removing graphite.


Tap water generally presents a high mineral content, and it's also known as "hard water". The build-up of lime on glassware can be removed by dissolving them with an acid, preferably a strong one. It's best however to avoid sulfuric and oxalic acids, as the resulting salts are poorly soluble and require more effort to remove them. Hydrochloric acid or concentrated acetic acid are ideal and cheap. To prevent a build-up of lime or the glassware, the glassware can be further cleaned with either distilled water or steam.

Metal and metal oxide tracesEdit

The traces left from Wood's metal or another eutectic alloy on glassware can be removed either chemically or by rubbing the glassware with a wet insoluble/poorly soluble salt, such as sodium sulfate or bicarbonate. Using anything harder will erode the glass.

Persistent stains and burns on the outsideEdit

A cooktop cleaner for ceramic oven works like a charm to clean the outside of glassware stained with hard to remove stains. It can only be used on the outside though, because it needs to be rubbed correctly to remove the stain and the inside of glassware is impossible to reach to rub correctly.

Rust and iron depositsEdit

For deposits of rust, iron, carbonates, and oxides which are hard to remove, prepare a solution of ~19 parts vinegar to 1 part store bought isopropyl alcohol. Add sulfuric acid or sodium bisulfate to catalyze the production of isopropyl acetate, a solvent. Put this solution in your stained glassware to clean it of debris and residue.

Scraping the glassware with a toothpick or skewer can help remove deposits.

Cleaning bathsEdit

Acid bathEdit

A diluted solution of a strong acid, such as hydrochloric acid, can be used to clean glassware, usually after they were cleaned in a base bath. It will remove most of metal impurities. Excellent for cleaning glass and plastic. Metal items however, must never be put in an acid bath as they will rust.

Base bathEdit

A concentrated solution of alkali hydroxide in 95% ethanol or isopropanol is a very powerful cleaning solution. This solution will dissolve glass after a period of time, so care must be taken to ensure the glass is not left in it too long. This solution should not be used on ground glass joints as this may alter their size.

Fritted glass is particularly sensible, as the strong alkali solution will slowly dissolve the sintered bonds and increase the pore size or even cause them to crumble.

Other solutionsEdit

Aqua regiaEdit

Aqua regia solutions are good for removing organic material from fritted glass and graphite to a degree. Does not attack glass, but will damage metal and plastic items.


Bleach is useful to remove organic traces from glassware. However, removing the chlorine traces is difficult. The best way is to wash the glass with a diluted solution of hydrogen peroxide. There is also the risk of accidentally adding acid if the bleach container is not properly labeled, releasing dangerous amounts of chlorine.

Chromic acidEdit

A solution of concentrated sulfuric acid and a hexavalent chromium salt, such as potassium dichromate, is one of the best cleaning solutions. It doesn't dissolve glass, but care must be taken as this solution is extremely corrosive, toxic, and carcinogenic. This solution will dissolve many impurities as their dichromate salt, and will oxidize many other hard to remove stains, including carbon.

Chromic acid may be made by dissolving chromium trioxide in water.

Fenton's reagentEdit

Fenton's reagent is excellent for removing organic traces from glassware, especially solvent traces and organic impurities.

Piranha solutionEdit

The Caro's acid solution is a very effective way of removing extremely hard to clean impurities from glassware, but it is much more dangerous to handle than the other solutions mentioned. It will dissolve and destroy any organic compound and is good for removing graphite.

Other tipsEdit

  • Using baths of other solvents, such as acetone, ethyl acetate, THF, chloroform, carbon disulfide, is not recommended, as, apart from wasting large amounts of valuable solvent, the standard basic and acid baths will eventually remove the impurities.
  • The base bath strength will decrease over time, as the NaOH/KOH absorbs carbon dioxide from air and breaks down organic compounds. Test it from time to time.
  • Wipe the joints from grease before adding them in the base bath; otherwise the grease will react with the alkali and a goo will result in the bath, that will contaminate other glassware that are being cleaned.
  • Try to use warm water instead of hot water if you're washing traces of volatile compounds.



Relevant Sciencemadness threadsEdit