Whether to employ central washing stations or point-of-use washers located under a lab bench is something that has to be addressed with regards to laboratory glassware washers. The former provide an economy of scale and are popular with lab workers who, almost universally, hate to “wash the dishes.”

The downside for central washing stations is that glassware tends to disappear over time, due to breakage and operator error. Nobody cares if they lose a beaker or Erlenmeyer flask. The problem arises with specialty glassware such as distillation heads or Soxhlet extractors, or custom-blown glassware, which is expensive and can take days and many dollars to replace.

Jenny Sprung, a product manager at Labconco (Kansas City, MO), notes that washing stations can take a while to return glassware. “Central glassware washing is great in principle, but if you rely on it and the person in charge of collecting glassware and running the washer is out, you can have a very long wait.”

Point-of-use washers provide a level of control that central stations do not.

Workers can, for example, set the machine to run overnight and then return to a set of sparkling glassware the next day.

Two other situations suggest the superiority of point-of-use washing. Laboratories handling diluted, highly sensitive samples, or whose analytic methods are extremely sensitive, might not tolerate residues left behind by cleaning products — whether they be detergents or chemical agents. It should be noted, however, that leading machine manufacturers claim their washers leave behind as close to zero residue as possible.

Radioisotopes are rarely used for analysis these days, but if your lab employs them, you might consider keeping associated glassware away from any washers to avoid permanently contaminating the machine and cross-contaminating subsequent loads.

Hand washing might make economic sense for very “clean” workflows that include foods and beverages, but it too has drawbacks. As Ms. Sprung points out, acidic and alkaline baths must be properly neutralized or appropriately discarded as waste, while hand-washers tend to over-apply cleaning agents and almost always leave residues. Finally, glassware that is manually dried might require an extra autoclaving step for sterilization.

“To determine the best option for your lab, you need to carefully analyze these factors, plus the ongoing cost of hand washing vs. the acquisition of a glassware washer that will last years after the initial purchase,” Ms. Sprung says.

Mike Henley, general manager at LANCER (Winter Springs, FL), adds local, factory-trained service, and maintenance agreements to the list of desirables for a lab washer. He says that remote diagnostics are more frequently used today as a means of documenting outages and alarms, to prevent service calls in some cases, and to maintain the life of the machine and reduce downtime.

“The choice also depends on building design and [how much users need to] minimize the consumption of water and electric utilities,” says Mr. Henley.

A well-designed lab washer can potentially save hundreds or thousands of dollars a year in electricity and water, generating a full ROI in five years.

ELx405 Select Deep Well Washer

  • Automateds aspirate and dispense steps in 96- and 384-well plates up to 50 mm high, and can also accommodate standard 15 mm microplates
  • Features Dual-Action™ manifold for independent and precise aspirate/dispense control, and variable flow rates and angled dispensing for optimized cell washing
  • Washing protocols may be created and run through the keypad interface or LHC™ Software

BioTek Instruments

SteamScrubber®, FlaskScrubber®, and FlaskScrubber® Vantage®

  • SteamScrubber® series provides top and bottom racks that accommodate accessory inserts for a wide variety of glassware shapes and sizes
  • FlaskScrubber® washers have a spindle rack that holds up to 36 pieces of mostly narrow-necked glassware
  • The FlaskScrubber® Vantage® series includes additional monitoring and control features


1700 LXA

  • Available in single- or double-door configurations for pass-through applications
  • Features high-capacity cleaning with up to three levels of washing
  • On-board storage of cleaning chemicals is provided via an ergonomic, top-loading chemical storage compartment
  • Features a HEPA-filtered chamber and direct injection drying


PG 8535/36

  • Features temperature-independent dispensing control on the basis of ultrasound
  • Includes a sleek touch screen control and spray arm monitoring
  • Features continuous conductivity monitoring for residue-free rinse quality