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Plasticware is the general term for all lab vessels, containers and other equipment made of plastic material. Unlike glassware, plastic equipment is used for processes where mechanical impacts are more common or for storing various chemical reagents, usually because plastic is lighter than glass and will not shatter if dropped on the floor.


Plastic items are mainly used for short term handling of reagents. Most common plasticware include funnels, reagent storage bottles, racks, etc. Plasticware are commonly used when handling materials that react with glass, such as hydrofluoric acid.

Most common types of plastic used:

  • Polyethylene: Comes in several varieties, low density (LDPE), high density (HDPE). Cheap, used when working with salts or in analytical chemistry.
  • Polystyrene: Less resistant to solvents than PE, it's used for trays, pouring boats, weighing dish, etc.
  • Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE or Teflon): Expensive, mainly used when working with extremely corrosive chemicals.

Strong solvents, such as acetone, esters, ethers, halocarbons (except most fluorocarbons), acetonitrile will attack plastic, though the speed which they do that varies, depending on the type of plastic and thickness.

Some reagents, such as hydrogen peroxide are generally stored in plastic bottles, as glass catalyzes their decomposition.

Plasticware items tend to break down if exposed to strong UV light (like sunlight). They are also unsuitable for distilling most liquids.

Below there's a list of various plastic lab items encountered in the chemistry lab, that are useful for the average amateur chemist. Obviously you will not need them all, but the most important basic and advanced items are necessary when doing any lab work.

Basic plasticware


Polyethylene beakers tend to be used when handling various aqueous solutions and diluted acids. Not employed for long term use of strong acids or organic solvents. PTFE beakers are mainly used when working with hydrofluoric acid solutions.

Dispensing bottle

Useful when pouring liquids through small orifices.

Erlenmeyer flask

Less common than plastic beakers, but they do exist. Some models tend to have screw and cap.


PE funnels are more often used than glass ones, as they don't chip when hit and do not freeze if stuck on a ground glass joint.

Graduated cylinders

Unlike glass cylinders, plastic test tubes tend to deform easily and are unsuitable for fine measurement of volumes.

Measuring scoop

Similar to spatulas, can be used for taking exact amounts of material.


Pasteur pipettes are commonly used due as they're simple to use, cheap and reliable.

Graduated plastic pipettes to be used for titrations.

Transfer pipettes are also made of PE.

Pipette tips are made of PE.

Pipette jar

Similar to a graduated cylinder, though opaque and no markings, it is commonly used as a holster for various pipettes, either for storage or washing.

Pouring boat

Used for handling solids and, as their name suggests, add them to a flask or bottle.

Reagent bottle

Plastic storage bottles, made of PE or polystyrene are commonly used for storing dry reagents, such as salts, granules, some organic solvents. Hydrogen peroxide and volatile flammable solvents that do not attack plastic, such as alcohols, are generally stored in PE bottles.


Graduated plastic tubes fitted with a plastic piston, commonly used for transferring liquids. Come together with needles.

Test tubes

PE or PTFE tubes tend to be used for chemistry involving salts and reactions where no heat is needed/generated.


  • Falcon tube
  • PET preforms


Used for storing, handling and carrying lab equipment.


Plastic tubes are used for cooling, PE and PTFE tubes are used for transferring gasses.

Cannula is one such type of tube.


Plastic tweezers can be used for handling items that are corrosive to metals or electric components.

Volumetric flasks

Used for measuring fixed amounts of liquid.

Wash bottle

Wash bottles are plastic bottles with a tube protruding the cap, which generally has a small diameter detachable head. Commonly used for washings (hence the name).

A less known type is the refillable wash bottle.

Weighing dish

Come in various shapes, like square or hexagonal, are commonly used for weighing solids or for air drying wet solids. Can be made of PE or polystyrene.

Advanced plasticware

Agar plate

Used in microbiology for cultivating microorganisms.

Aspirator vacuum pump

Known as Venturi pumps, are commonly used for vacuum filtration.

Burette butterfly clamps

Used for holding burettes.

Drying rack

Used for drying lab items.

Eppendorf vials

Commonly used in biology, in centrifugation.

Funnel supports

Used for holding separatory funnels. Come in two types, full ring or "C" shaped.

Joint sleeves

PTFE joint sleeves are used in ground glass joints due to their chemical inertness.


Although glass hydrometers are common, plastic hydrometers are also commonly encountered, as they do not break if struck, which would be catastrophic for the device.

Hose stopcock

Similar to gas/water valves, this type of stopcock is used in various plastic tubing as a simple fluid valve. Also comes in metal and glass form.

Keck clips

Also known as plastic joint clips, kecks are used for holding various glassware with ground glass joints. Manufacturers tend to give a distinct color for each keck clip size, though the colors may differ from producers. Also comes in metal form.

Spray bottle

Useful when spraying liquids.

Stir bar

Consists of a small magnetic material coated in PTFE, which moves when exposed to an external magnetic field.

Stir bar retriever

Similar to the stir bar, it consists of a stick made of PTFE, with one end containing a magnet.

Syringe filter

Used for filtering small amounts of liquid.

The most common type is the "sliced lemon" model.

Test tube racks

Used for holding many test tubes.

Microtiter plates are used for holding small vials.

Tubing connectors

Used when connecting multiple tubes. Have various shapes, like T, Y, L, +, etc.


Balance brush

Used to clean the lab balance.

Bottle carrier

Useful for carrying multiple reagent bottles.

Bottle spigot

Useful when pouring liquids from a large tank, like distilled water.

Face shield

Not used in chemical synthesis, but rather as protective equipment.

Flow indicator

Used in water cooling tubing, to show if the water is flowing. Comes in two models, paddle wheel and ball.

Pour spout

Used when pouring from drums or jugs. They look like this.


Used as PPE.

See also


Relevant Sciencemadness threads