Using and Cleaning Glassware

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Glass is a valuable tool for anyone making, creating and concocting lotions and potions. It beats the pants out of plastic as it is non-reactive, safereusable and doesn’t degrade. The downside of glass? You need to clean it, and when you are using lipids and lipid-loving substances such as essential and fixed oils it can be a real drag as the fatty/lipid substances smear and smoosh and don’t really seem to come off. And you throw up your hands in despair thinking the only way to clean your lovely glassware is to use nasty solvents such as alcohol or harsh detergents. Fear not and read on!

First of all, consider the following glass options to use and re-use instead of plastic and metal:

  • Droppers and pipettes: instead of using plastic pipettes opt for glass droppers. Tip: your local drugstore sells glass droppers in the eye-care section.
  • Vessels: glass beakers, measuring cups and graduated cylinders. Not only are they handy but you can amass a really cool selection and revel in the fact you are a chemist.
  • Stirring rods: perfect for stirring amazing salves, butters and other potions. Metal is reactive and plastic, well, is plastic.
  • Bottles: don’t throw away your old dram, 5ml, 10ml (etc.) glass bottles! Reuse them so you don’t have to buy more!

Obviously I’ve thought about this a bit too much–and I am finally writing about it. How does one clean these fabulous pieces of glassware? Often you’ll find that fats/lipids are hard to get rid of by hand washing or in the dishwasher. And essential oils linger, especially on the plastic lids of mixing bottles (e.g., 5ml bottles). The simple secret is humble BAKING SODA.

The humble baking soda.

So why is Sodium bicarbonate (aka baking soda) so awesome?

  • Neutralizes =  deodorizer.
  • Mild alkaline = grease buster.
  • Mild abrasive that is gentle enough for glass = more grease/grime busting.

Let’s get down-and-dirty and start cleaning.

  1. Get yourself a bowl or bucket large enough to fit your glassware (or use your sink, or bathtub–you get the idea…).
  2. Plop your glassware in there.
  3. Add an unscientifically measured amount of sodium bicarbonate into the bowl.
    1. Some will dissolve in the water, so add a bit more if you want even more of the mild abrasive action.
  4. Add a squirt of surfactant (e.g., a soap of your choice).
  5. Fill the bowl with hot water and swish the bottles around.
    1. Really swish. Get in there with your hands and a sponge or bottle cleaner. Love your glassware!
  6. Rinse and dry!
  7. Next time you want to use the glassware, be sure to sterilize it in the dishwasher or in a pot of boiling water.

Tip: I like to let bottles that had essential oils in them sit for a bit, sometimes over night.

Tip: Invest in bottle cleaners, especially if you use graduated cylinders.

A nifty bottle cleaner.

These are easy to find; I purchased mine from the Container Store. Other options are baby bottle cleaners.

Below is a picture of the recently washed, now squeaky-clean, graduated cylinder that used to have tamanu and hemp seed oil in it. I used some baking soda and a scant amount of soap. No residue.


Happy cleaning.

2 responses to “Using and Cleaning Glassware”

  1. I’m sure using a pot of boiling water would be good enough to burn off any of the residual bacteria. I just got a new set of beakers and I want to make sure that I keep them clean throughout the years. I just have to make sure that I don’t crack them under any high heat in the cleaning.

    1. Boiling water is a fabulous killer. Your beakers should definitely be able to withstand heat beyond the boiling point of water. Have fun!

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