Your Guide to Essential Types of Plastic Ware in Labs

Your Guide to Essential Types of Plastic Ware in Labs

In the world of labs, it's like a puzzle – every piece has a job. Plastic tools are like the unsung heroes, quietly helping scientists and researchers get things done. This guide is your key to understanding the types of plasticware in labs – what they are, what they do, and why they matter.

Whether you're a science pro or just starting out, knowing about plastic tools is like having a superpower in the lab. We're here to break it down for you – the types of plastic tools, what makes each special, and how they make science happen. Get ready for a journey into the world of lab plastic tools, where we'll explore how they help in everything from measuring stuff to growing tiny things. Because in the world of science, the right plastic tool can make all the difference.

Common Types of Plasticware in Labs

common types of plasticware in labs

Plastic lab equipment is commonly used in scientific research because it's affordable, light, sturdy, and chemical-resistant. Unlike glass lab tools, plastic ones are less likely to break, adding safety to the lab environment. Let’s look at some commonly used labware with a durable plastic alternative:


The most common labware, beakers, come in all shapes and sizes, from squat and sturdy for mixing to tall and slender for measuring. Polypropylene (PP) is your go-to for most applications, while Polyethylene (PE) is ideal for high temperatures.

Graduated Cylinders:

One of the most common plastic materials used for graduated cylinders in laboratories is polypropylene. These cylinders are crucial for the accurate measurement of liquid volumes. The transparent nature of polypropylene allows researchers to easily observe and measure the levels of liquids, making it an ideal choice for precise experiments involving the addition or transfer of fluids.

Centrifuge Tubes:

Polyethylene is a prevalent plastic material for centrifuge tubes, chosen for its durability and chemical resistance. These tubes are designed to withstand high centrifugal forces during sample separation processes. They come in various sizes and are essential for tasks such as isolating DNA, separating components of a mixture, or conducting biochemical assays.


In the realm of cuvettes, Polystyrene stands out as a widely used plastic material. Cuvettes are transparent cells used to hold liquid samples for analysis in spectrophotometers. Polystyrene cuvettes provide excellent optical clarity, allowing for accurate measurements of absorbance and fluorescence, making them indispensable for experiments involving the analysis of light-absorbing or emitting substances.


Polyethylene and polypropylene are frequently employed in the production of pipettes, as these materials offer excellent chemical resistance and are autoclavable for sterilisation. Pipettes come in various types, such as micropipettes and serological pipettes. They are used for precise liquid handling, ranging from transferring small volumes in molecular biology to larger volumes in clinical and chemical laboratories.


Polypropylene is a popular choice for spatulas due to its chemical resistance and ease of cleaning. Spatulas in laboratories are versatile tools for scooping, mixing, and transferring solid and powdered substances. They are indispensable in tasks like weighing samples, preparing solutions, and accurately transferring materials between containers.

Storage Bottles:

For storage bottles, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) is commonly utilised. HDPE is known for its excellent chemical resistance and durability. These bottles are reliable containers for storing various liquids and solutions, ranging from reagents to media. The secure sealing properties of HDPE storage bottles make them essential for maintaining the integrity and longevity of stored materials in laboratory settings.

These are just some of the many types of plasticware in labs that are commonly available in almost every laboratory shop or supplier. The first thing we need to establish before purchasing is what laboratory apparatus can you afford right now as glassware, and then buy the rest as plasticware for now; that is if you want to go all glass. 

When Should You Consider Plasticware over Glassware?

plastic ware vs glass ware

Choosing between plasticware and glassware in the lab depends on several factors, and opting for plastic isn't always a clear-cut decision. Here's a breakdown of situations where plasticware might be the better choice:


  • Plasticware eliminates the risk of dangerous glass shards in case of drops or accidents, making it ideal for settings with students or high activity levels.
  • If you're working with corrosive or hazardous chemicals, plastic's lower risk of breakage can minimise potential injuries during spills.


  • Plasticware generally withstands bumps and drops better than glassware, minimising breakage and replacement costs.
  • Plastic's lighter weight makes handling easier, especially for large or frequent manipulations.


  • Generally, plasticware is cheaper than glassware, making it a budget-friendly option for startups, educational labs, or experiments with high material consumption.
  • While reusable glassware offers cost savings over time, the replacement cost due to breakage can be significant. This Plasticware might be more cost-effective in the long run for labs with frequent accidents or activities with a high risk of breakage.
  • Disposable plasticware adds disposal costs, while reusable options require cleaning and sterilisation resources. Weighing these against the purchase price is crucial for finding the most economical option.


  • Many types of plasticware can be sterilised with autoclaves or other methods, making them reusable for repetitive tasks.
  • Colored plasticware helps quickly identify contents, improving organisation and reducing confusion.
  • Temperature tolerance: While not all plastic types can withstand moderate heat and cold, some offer an alternative to glassware in specific applications.

Specific Applications:

  • Thick-walled polypropylene centrifuge tubes are preferred for their strength and chemical resistance during high-speed spins.
  • Plastic bottles and tubes provide lightweight and durable options for storing samples and reagents at various temperatures.
  • Portable and shatterproof plasticware is ideal for research in settings where space and risk of breakage are concerns.

However, plasticware also has limitations:

  • Not all types of plastic ware in labs resist all chemicals, so compatibility testing is crucial to avoid reactions or leaching.
  • Most plastics have lower heat tolerance than glassware, making them unsuitable for high-temperature reactions or heating equipment.
  • In highly precise measurements, especially for optical analysis, glassware may offer superior accuracy due to its inherent clarity and stability.
  • Disposable plasticware creates waste, so reusability and eco-friendly options should be considered for sustainable practices.

Ultimately, the best choice depends on your specific needs and context. Consider the factors mentioned above, assess the risks and benefits, and consult your lab guidelines to make an informed decision for each individual use of plasticware or glassware.

lab guidelines for plasticware

Looking for affordable and durable laboratory plasticware? Science Equip has everything you need! From beakers and pipettes to storage bottles and centrifuge tubes, we offer various types of plasticware in labs. We have high-quality plastic labware at competitive prices. Plus, we have helpful resources and guides to ensure you choose the right tool for the job. 

Head over to Science Equip today! Safety, precision, and budget-friendliness don't have to be mutually exclusive. With plastic labware, you can have it all.


Why is plasticware commonly used in laboratories?

Plasticware is a laboratory staple due to its versatility, safety, and cost-effectiveness. Plastic tools, such as beakers, graduated cylinders, and centrifuge tubes, provide durability, chemical resistance, and ease of handling. Additionally, plasticware is safer in environments with high activity levels or when working with hazardous chemicals, as it eliminates the risk of glass breakage.

What makes polypropylene a preferred material for spatulas and centrifuge tubes?

Polypropylene is favored for spatulas due to its chemical resistance and easy cleaning properties. Polyethylene's durability and chemical resistance are essential for withstanding high centrifugal forces during sample separation processes for centrifuge tubes.

When should I choose plasticware over glassware in the laboratory?

Choosing between plasticware and glassware depends on factors such as safety, durability, cost-effectiveness, and convenience. Plasticware is preferable in settings where safety is a concern, breakage risk is high, or cost is a significant consideration. It offers durability, lightweight handling, and cost-effectiveness advantages for certain applications.

Are there any drawbacks to using plasticware in laboratories?

While plasticware offers many advantages, it also has limitations. Not all plastics are resistant to all chemicals, and some may have lower heat tolerance than glassware. Disposable plasticware contributes to waste, raising considerations for eco-friendly practices. The choice between plasticware and glassware should be made based on specific needs, considering factors like chemical compatibility, heat tolerance, and sustainability.

Can plasticware be sterilised for reuse?

Yes, many types of plasticware can be sterilised for reuse. Autoclaves and other sterilisation methods are commonly used, making plasticware suitable for repetitive tasks. This reusability adds to the cost-effectiveness of plasticware, especially in comparison to disposable options.

What are the benefits of colored plasticware in laboratories?

Colored plasticware aids in quick content identification, improving organisation and reducing confusion in the laboratory. This is particularly useful when handling multiple samples or conducting various experiments simultaneously.

Why might plasticware be preferred for specific applications, such as storing samples or conducting research in certain settings?

Plastic bottles and tubes provide lightweight and durable options for storing samples and reagents at various temperatures. These types of plastic ware in labs are portable and shatterproof plasticware is preferred in research settings where space constraints and the risk of breakage are concerns. These features make plasticware particularly suitable for fieldwork or mobile laboratories.

What considerations should be made when choosing between plasticware and glassware for specific experiments?

When choosing between plasticware and glassware, factors such as chemical compatibility, heat tolerance, precision requirements, and sustainability should be considered. Compatibility testing is crucial to avoid reactions or leaching, and the specific needs of each experiment should guide the decision-making process.

Are there instances where glassware might be a better choice than plasticware?

Glassware may offer superior accuracy in highly precise measurements, especially for optical analysis, due to its inherent clarity and stability. Glassware with higher heat tolerance might be more suitable in experiments involving high-temperature reactions or heating equipment. Additionally, reusable glassware could be preferred over disposable plastic options for sustainable practices.

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