You might have noticed that plastic tubes have become a staple in every lab. But, have you considered why that is? Even though they are a bit tougher to clean, plastic centrifuge tubes have a lot of benefits that glass ones don’t.

Let’s take a look at why plastic centrifuge tubes have become so popular. What’s more, I’m also going to talk about how to clean them and what some things to consider before buying them are.

Plastic vs. Glass Centrifuge Tubes

Now, before I can get into how plastic tubes can save you money, I first need to explain how they work.

Glass Centrifuge Tubes

You can use a glass centrifuge tube for almost any solvent. They are pretty durable and easy to clean. You can clean them just like the rest of the glass hardware in your lab. If you want to sterilize your glass tube, autoclaving will do the trick.

But, I recommend cleaning and sterilizing them as soon as you’re done using them. If you don’t clean them immediately, they might develop a buildup, and they’ll become almost impossible to clean.

The Drawbacks

Even though glass centrifuge tubes work great, they also come with a pretty hefty price tag. If you want to equip your entire lab with glass tubes, know that it will cost you a small fortune.

What’s more, glass centrifuge tubes are much less durable compared to plastic ones. You can easily break them while you’re cleaning or moving them. Not only that, but if not properly balanced, they can even break in the centrifuge.

If you want to get glass tubes, I recommend investing in some rubber sleeves. They make the tubes a bit more durable, and you can use them for a longer time.

Plastic Centrifuge Tubes

Now, let’s talk about plastic centrifuge tubes and figure out if they’re really that much better compared to glass ones. To start, plastic tubes are much more durable, and they are almost impossible to break.

What’s more, they’re much cheaper compared to glass tubes, and you can get them if you’re working with a smaller budget. Plastic tubes also come in different colors, making them much easier to label and organize.

You are also better off getting plastic centrifuge tubes if you want to dispose of them after use. I wouldn’t recommend using them if you work with corrosive materials in your lab.

Plastic centrifuge tubes are also pretty popular in biology labs because of their size. You can get a plastic tube if you’re working with a microcentrifuge. The sizes of microcentrifuge tubes start from 0.5 ml to 5 ml. But, if you need something a bit bigger, you also have 15 ml and 50 ml tubes.

The Drawbacks

The only downside to using plastic tubes that I found is that they are a bit more difficult to sterilize, unlike the glass ones. But, with a little effort and a good cleaning solution, it’s pretty easy.

How to Clean Plastic Centrifuge Tubes

Before using a plastic centrifuge tube for the first time, make sure to clean it. All you need is a 1% nitric solution and some ultrapure water. Put the solution in the tube, close the cap, and shake it a few times.

Make sure to do this step at least two times. Once you’re done, you should rinse it with ultrapure water once more just to make sure there’s no nitric solution left.

You can also boil plastic tubes in some hot water for a few minutes, or use a simple detergent solution to clean them. But, before you can use them again, make sure they are completely dry and sterile.

Things to Consider

It is the age-old question — which centrifuge tubes would better fit your lab? Well, it all comes down to what kind of lab you’re working in and what you need. With that said, while glass tubes are easy to clean, they can be tricky to work with.

On the other hand, plastic centrifuge tubes are extremely durable and cheap, unlike glass tubes. What’s more, if you get the disposable ones, you won’t even have to worry about cleaning them. If you’re working in a bigger lab or with a microcentrifuge — plastic tubes are the way to go.