Learning science involves knowledge and application. During your undergraduate years, applications start in the science laboratory. You use different science equipment to help you produce hypotheses and conclusions on given problems. These tools can vary from things you see around you every day (such as a drinking glass) to calibrated and precise instruments that can be very sensitive. This second type of science equipment can be very expensive, such that it really needs to be properly taken care of. The following are ways on how to handle and clean science equipment:
1. Glassware. This type of equipment is usually used as a holder for chemicals to be tested. If the glass has impurities, the experiment can fail. In general, there are four ways to clean the apparatus:
- Completely cleansing the glassware using flowing tap water.
- Using detergents that are specifically designed for laboratory glassware.
- Sterilizing and boiling water in the apparatus to completely evaporate the impurities.
- Using chemical solvents and water-based soaking solutions. An example of this can be acetone and sodium carbonate. For silicone grease removal, the only solution is soaking the glassware for two hours using decahydronaphthalene. For microscopic lenses and slides, a solution containing glacial acetic acid should be soaked for 10 minutes. There are instances in which water is used for the last rinsing.
Note that each chemical is unique, and there is no exact manner in cleaning science equipment. Lastly, it is important to wipe the glass dry using a clean cloth or paper towel.
2. Plastic ware. Since this is more sensitive than glass, mild lab detergent is enough to clean it. Note that the detergent must have neutral PH, be nonabrasive and non-caustic. Rinse with clean, preferably distilled water. Use heat and chemical solutions for removing difficult grease, oil and other organic matter. However, not all types of plastics can withstand heat and chemical application. It is still best that you check cleaning instructions in the packaging.
3. Platinum ware. If the platinum dish/crucible has organic matter, clean it with a chromic acid mixture. If it was used to contain insoluble carbonates or metal oxides, the platinum dish must be boiled in a solution of hydrochloric acid, rinsed thoroughly, and boiled in nitric acid. Platinum electrodes are cleaned with water followed by alcohol.
4. Stainless steel lab ware. The following solutions that can be used to clean stainless steel ware: alkaline, chlorinated alkaline, and non-chloride cleaners. Never use hydrochloric acid on steel products. These solutions must be applied on the equipment using non-abrasive tools. A soft and clean cloth can be used. There are also stainless steel pads that can be used, however, the manner of cleaning or polishing must be correctly observed. Usually these steel products have visible polishing grains or lines that must be followed as directions for scrubbing or cleaning. Filtered water is the recommended liquid for rinsing. Some unfiltered water can contain deposit build up that can protect the equipment.