How to clean the glassware of your rotary evaporator

I might not be the perfect “Mr. Clean” at home, but I always kept my lab equipment squeaky clean. The rotary evaporator is no exception. It is a given that the glassware of your system should be regularly washed. To make this monotonous task quicker and more efficient, I offer you a few simple instructions on how to clean the glassware of your rotary evaporation inside and out.

I have a little competition going on with my neighbour on who will wash their windows first. He is so far winning with three years since the last wash. I have to say, I would clean my windows more often, but often the result is worse than what they looked like at the beginning. And this despite the many tutorials I’ve watched and advice I’ve been given by those more experienced than me.

Funny, I have not faced similar problems in the laboratory, whenever I’ve had to clean glass parts. In fact, I had my equipment nearly always sparkly clean. At least this is how it is recorded in my memory.

And since I consider myself an expert on how to clean the glassware in a lab, I want to give you a few tips on how to clean the glassware of your rotary evaporator.

First, it would be really good if you perform an overall glass inspection before you get down to any cleaning. This would involve manually looking over the system parts and noting any dirt built-up, or possible cracks and damage to your glassware. One of the most important system parts you should pay attention to is the flange. In any case, please remember that it is very important to replace any glass parts that are damaged.

Now you might be wondering how often you should clean the glassware of your rotary evaporator. Well, this depends on your application.

Ideally, you should clean the glassware immediately after a distillation, especially if you are working with aggressive solvents.

Now put on your lab goggles and let’s get started.

How to clean the glassware parts outside of the rotary evaporator

You can give all external glassware parts a wipe with a paper towel with some water or ethanol on it. A damp cloth could also work well here instead of a paper towel. Be careful not to use hard-brittle brushes that could scratch up your glassware. For more persistent dirt, read the manufacturer’s instructions on what, if any, brushes are safe to use with the glass. Do not use soaking cloths or paper towels to avoid getting any solvent or water into the system and causing any electrical failure.

Cleaning the glassware parts inside the rotary evaporator

If you don’t perform a cleaning after each distillation, then make sure you do one if you notice any deposits, powder or accumulation of solvents in your system parts. The part you need to monitor most carefully is the condenser, especially the lower part where the vacuum seal is located. Proper system maintenance can save you lots of time in the long run. For more time-saving tips during rotary evaporation, grab our free poster.

Back to the current topic! To clean the inner part of your glassware, perform the following steps:

  1. Remove screwcap on top of condenser
  2. Use a wash bottle to rinse interior of the condenser with the most appropriate solvent or water depending on your last use:
glassware; rotary evaporation, distillation, rotavapor; rotary evaporator

3. Empty receiving flask, re-connect it and close the condenser screwcap.
4. Fill your evaporating flask using the stopcock using the feeding option or remove and fill with water, ethanol or other relevant solvent you are using in your application.
5. Perform a distillation to completely clean the whole system
6. Empty receiving flask, re-connect it and let the system run in continuous mode for about 5 minutes.
7. Your glassware should now be clean and dry.

There you have it, a clean rotary evaporator in seven steps. Besides this post on how to clean the glassware of your system, I’m a fan of maintenance of lab equipment in general. Check out my previous posts with tips on how to keep your chromatography system and chromatography columns in good shape. I hope this post cleanly laid out a good plan on how to clean glassware and you manage to have many spotless distillations with it!

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