Ultimate Lab Basics Buying Guide

by Carolina Staff
buying guide

Let Carolina help you select the proper materials and quantities needed for your classroom or laboratory.

Carolina has been a leader in science education materials for 90 years. Let us help you select the proper materials and quantities needed for your classroom or laboratory.

Purchase the Carolina® Basic Lab Equipment Package for a 1-click option to get your lab up and running quickly. Just looking for a list of recommended materials for your lab? Download our “Basic Lab Equipment Needed for Any Lab,” which identifies the materials needed to fully stock a lab for 24 students. Want more assistance? Call our customer support team at 800.334.5551 and let our staff help tailor a list that is right for your needs. Shop with confidence–all our products are 100% satisfaction guaranteed.

Glass & Plasticware Buying Guide

Chemicals in the laboratory

Chemicals in the laboratoryShutterstock

Glass and plasticware are integral accessories in any science classroom. A well-equipped science lab has glassware in a wide variety of sizes for measuring, mixing, and storing various solutions. The National Science Teaching Association recommends 24 students per lab; Carolina’s material recommendations are based on this class size. You will need sufficient glassware for each student in the class, plus additional pieces for storage and instructor use. A chemistry classroom typically has more glassware needs, whereas a biology class may use less glass and plasticware.

All our glass and plasticware meet the highest quality standards when it comes to safety, durability, and accuracy. All beakers, flasks, cylinders, and test tubes sold by Carolina meet ASTM standards. The composition of the labware is an important consideration when purchasing these items. Consider all applications and usages to ensure you purchase the most appropriate and versatile product that is well suited for the temperatures, chemicals, and uses in your science laboratory. Confused about where to start? Choose the Carolina® Beaker-Breakers Set 1 to stock your lab with ease. Use the provided table to narrow your specifications.

Learn the basics of laboratory glassware and how to care for it with this simple infographic.

Glassware and Plasticware Specifications

NameTransparencyChemical ResistanceMax Working TempBreak ResistanceMicrowave SafeAutoclavable
Borosilicate GlassClearExcellent230C/446FBreakableYesRepeatedly
Flint GlassClearExcellent100C/212FBreakableYesNo
High-Density Polyetheylene (HDPE)TranslucentGood120C/248FGoodNoNo
Low-Denisty Polyethlyene (LDPE)TranslucentGood80C/176FGoodYesNo
Polycarbonate (PC)ClearPoor135C/275FGoodNoLimited
Polymethylpentene (PMP)ClearGood175C/347FFairYesRepeatedly
Polyproplene (PP)TranslucentExcellent135C/275FExcellentYesRepeatedly
Polystyrene (PS)ClearPoor90C/194FFairNoNo
Polyvinylchloride (PVC)ClearFair70C/158FFairYesNo


Beakers are simple graduated containers used for dispensing, stirring, and heating liquids in the laboratory. Beakers are cylindrical with a flat bottom; low form, also known as Griffin beakers, are the most common style. Most beakers have a small spout to aid pouring. Carolina offers a wide variety of beakers, ranging from 10 mL to 4,000 mL. For most science laboratories we recommend 24 beakers in each of the most popular sizes: 50 mL, 250 mL, 400 mL, and 1,000 mL. Carolina® Standard-Grade Beakers provide high-quality autoclavable borosilicate glass at an affordable price. If you are concerned about glassware breakage, chemical-resistant polypropylene beakers are your best choice. Our budget-friendly pricing makes it easy to stock your classroom or laboratory. Save even more when you buy in bulk!


Flasks are graduated containers used for preparing solutions, holding chemicals, or containing chemical reactions. A distinguishing feature of flasks is that the body of the flask is much wider than the neck. Wide-mouth Erlenmeyer flasks are the most common style found in the laboratory, but boiling and volumetric flasks also serve important roles. Our flasks come in a variety of sizes based on your needs. A well-stocked general science laboratory will have 24 each of 125-mL and 250-mL Erlenmeyer flasks, twelve 500-mL Erlenmeyer flasks, 6 each of 100-mL and 500-mL volumetric flasks, and three 1,000-mL volumetric flasks.


Graduated cylinders have a narrow cylindrical shape and are the most common choice for measuring the volume of a liquid in the laboratory. Borosilicate graduated cylinders from Carolina can resist temperatures up to 350 °F and have a strong lip that resists chipping; our PMP (polymethylpentene) cylinders have the added feature of being shatterproof. Twenty-four 10-mL, 25-mL, and 100-mL cylinders plus four 500-mL and 1,000-mL cylinders will equip a class for most lab experiments.

Test Tubes

Test tubes, also known as culture or sample tubes, are another essential type of glassware in the science laboratory, ideal for routine procedures such as culturing or performing chemical reactions. Test tubes come in a wide range of sizes. The first dimension is the diameter of the tube and the second is the length, both expressed in millimeters (mm). The most common test tube sizes are 15 x 125 mm and 25 x 150 mm. We recommend purchasing 100 of each size. Save even more when you buy in bulk. We also offer sterile and non-sterile centrifuge tubes with a conical tube design. And don’t forget to purchase a test tube rack for each lab station. Our many options for test tubes and their accessories mean you can find what you need, for beginner to advanced studies, with economical choices that still maintain maximum chemical stability.

All Other Glass & Plasticware

Not seeing what you need? Carolina offers a large selection of bottles, burets, condensers, dishes, droppers, flasks, funnels, hydrometers, pipets, specimen containers, vials, and watch glasses.

Lab Safety Buying Guide

Lab Goggles and Nitrile Gloves

Lab Goggles and Nitrile GlovesShutterstock

A safe, well-managed classroom and laboratory require appropriate safety equipment for each type of discipline. When determining your PPE and other safety equipment needs, you’ll want to consider the hazards your students will encounter throughout the year. Remember that these items need to be in serviceable condition and in adequate quantities for the number of students in your classroom or laboratory. You should inspect your safety equipment at the beginning and end of each school year. Check that there are no cuts or tears in lab aprons, that you have sufficient quantities of gloves in appropriate sizes for your students, and that all goggles are in working order.

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Guide: PPE for the Lab

Infographic: Lab Safety Rules


Gloves Specifications

TypeUse with ChemicalsTear ResistanceDexterityDurabilityNon-Latex

Based on the type of activities you are performing, choose from our large selection of gloves. Disposable latex-free (nitrile and polyvinyl) gloves are the most popular choice for dissections and have superior chemical resistance. If you need gloves for more general use, such as routine laboratory handling that requires sterilization, try our disposable vinyl or polyethylene options. Are you working with hot or cold materials? Make sure you protect yourself with our durable, long-lasting heat-resistant gloves.

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Eye Protection

TypeUseANSIWear with Glasses
Indirect-Vent GogglesChemical Splash/ ImpactANSI Z87.1Yes
Direct-Vent GogglesImpactANSI Z87.1Yes
Spectacles/ GlassesImpactANSI Z87.1No
Face Sheild/ Splash SheildChemical Splash w/ ProtectionN/AYes

Put safety first with our quality eye protection options. Designed specifically for chemical-splash protection, our indirect-vent goggles are the most appropriate choice. They provide superior comfort for students who wear contact lenses or prescription eyeglasses. For labs not using hazardous fluids, our safety spectacles meet impact resistance safety requirements. When worn in conjunction with the appropriate safety eyewear, our splash shields and safety visors afford extra protection.

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Aprons & Lab Coats

TypeUse with ChemicalsTear ResistanceDurability
Rubberized ClothBestBetterBetter

Our economical and stylish lab coats offer protection against chemicals. Choose from our many sizes, men’s and women’s designs, and reusable vs. disposable options. Rubberized cloth aprons are waterproof and resistant to most chemicals, while transparent vinyl aprons and NexGen® aprons are the best choice for general classroom use. When heavy-duty protective coverings are required, nitrile is the safest and most appropriate option.

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All Other Lab Safety

Looking for more lab safety options? We also carry a large selection of cleanup and disposal productseyewash stations and showersfire protectionfirst aid kitslab signagesafety storage, and hearing protection.

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Furniture Buying Guide

Do you need to replace existing lab furniture or equip a new classroom? Carolina offers exceptional furniture, built for years of dependable service, at an affordable price. From student and instructor tables to full lab workstations, we are sure to have everything needed to outfit your classroom efficiently. Comfortably seat all your students with our bulk pricing options!

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Lab Furniture Recommendations for Science Labs

Student Tables

Tabletop Options

1-1/4″ Plastic Laminate TopGoodWears Well under normal use. Resists scratches and spills.
1-1/4″ Chemical Resistant Laminate TopBetterDurable chemical-resistant survace with a waterproof edge.
1″ Solid Epoxy Resin TopBestImpervious to normal labatory chemics and heat.

Our sturdy tables are designed to withstand years of student use. Choose from student tables with plain aprons or book compartments. Additionally, 3 surface options provide varying levels of heat and chemical resistance. Our plastic-laminate top is a popular choice for standard lab use, while our chemical-resistant laminate and epoxy resin options offer exceptional durability.

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Chairs and Stools

Check out our large selection of chairs and stools to suit any budget. The designs are lightweight and durable, with versatile sizes to fit any workstation or table. The posture chair, our most popular option, is available in several height ranges. Refer to the chart below to determine the seating height that’s right for your students.

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Working Surface HeightSeating Height

Lab Workstations

Carolina has a diverse selection of lab workstations to furnish your science classroom or lab. Keeping in mind the need for flexibility in a science lab environment, we carefully choose the lab workstation products we carry. Select from multi-student tables, double-sided service centers, peninsula workstations, octagonal workstations, perimeter workstations, and more. Many of the workstations have ample working space and varying storage options, as well as a layout that allows the instructor to see students.

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Mobile Furniture

Looking for more flexibility with your classroom? Mobile furniture is a good choice, especially if you need to share equipment, such as microscopes, among multiple rooms. Carolina offers a great selection of mobile lab tables–from a bare bones model to full-feature workstations–all made of durable, high-quality materials. We are sure to have what you need for your lab.

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All Other Furniture

Carolina also offers a large selection of drafting tablesequipment storageinstructor’s deskslab cartssafety stations, and furniture accessories.

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Microscope Buying Guide

Microscope objective lenses

Carolina offers a full range of compound microscopes, stereomicroscopes, and digital microscopes spanning virtually all grade levels and applications. Our top brands are Wolfe®, Celestron®, Swift®, and Ken-A-Vision®. We offer expert repair at a reasonable cost, quantity discounts, and a 100% satisfaction guarantee. Use the charts below to find the microscope that is right for your classroom.

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A Guide to Microscopes

There are 2 types of microscopes: compound microscopes and stereomicroscopes.

TypeUseSpecimensMagnificationField of ViewWorking Distance
Compound MicroscopeView slide-mounted, micro-sized specimens that are thin enough to allow light to pass through themExamine pre-mounted slides and pond water specimens such as algae and protozoans.High (40x-1000x)NarrowShort
StereomicroscopeObserve unmounted macro-sized specimens that are too thick to allow light to pass through them.View insects, plants, rocks, coins, and more.Low (10x-40x)WideLong

Compound Microscopes

A compound microscope provides high-power magnification (40× to 1,000×) that can be used for viewing pre-mounted slides and micro-sized specimens such as algae or protozoans. A digital compound microscope provides added ease of capturing or displaying images by allowing you to easily connect to a computer or projector.

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How to Use a Student Compound Microscope


For viewing macro-sized specimens such as insects and plants, a stereomicroscope that provides a lower magnification (10× to 40×) is appropriate. A digital stereomicroscope makes sharing the images with your class a breeze.

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Digital Camera

Already have a quality microscope and want to go digital? Adding a specially designed digital camera to the microscope eyepiece will give you the option to connect to a computer, projector, or video screen to save and share images.

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All Other Optics

Looking for more options? Carolina also carries great selection of binocularstelescopesfield microscopesmagnifiersinstructional equipment and devicesmicroscope accessories, and microscope slides.

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Laboratory Equipment Buying Guide

Carolina is here to help you select the proper equipment needed for your classroom or laboratory. We carry a vast supply of top brands, including Ohaus® and Corning®. Shop Carolina branded equipment for feature-packed products at budget-friendly prices. We have everything you need to outfit or replenish your lab–all with a 100% unconditional guarantee.

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Basic Lab Equipment Needed for Any Lab

Hot Plates & Stirrers

Whether you need a hot plate, a stirrer, or a combination of both, Carolina is sure to have what you are looking for at a budget-friendly price. Each of our space-efficient designs offers fast, reliable, and safe results. These quality hot plates and stirrers are suitable for many lab applications. Models featuring easy-to-clean, corrosion-resistant ceramic tops are ideal for high school and college labs. Our most popular option, the Carolina® Digital Hot Plate/Stirrer, integrates both functions into a single apparatus, saving you space and money.

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Balances and Scales

When considering which balance is best for your application, your first decision is whether to choose a mechanical or electronic balance. To teach basic weighing techniques in elementary and middle school, a mechanical balance is your best option. We recommend the Carolina® Triple Beam Balance. For more advanced weighing practices in high school and college, an electronic balance is needed. A Carolina® Electronic Balance with 500-g load rating and 0.1-g readability will meet the needs of most classes. Our electronic balances feature selectable weighing modes and units as well as computer connectivity to record and store measurement data. We also offer pocket scales, analytical balances, and other portable options.

Important considerations when selecting a balance: capacity (choose a balance with 10-15% more capacity than your application requires), readability, repeatability, weighing units, weighing modes, environment, and connectivity.

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Major features of electronic and mechanical balances:

Harvard Trip Balance

  • Two pans, demonstrates relative mass and equal mass
  • Appropriate for grades K—5 and 6—8
  • Add a mass set to use as a standard mass

Triple Beam Balance

Digital Balance or Electronic Balance

Analytical Balance

  • One pan, masses an individual sample, ability to tare/zero the mass of a weigh boat, high precision measurements, a draft shield consisting of 3 sliding glass doors, stainless-steel pan, RS232 interface hookup, integrated security bracket, up-front leveling bubble
  • Appropriate for grades 10—16, AP® Science and university labs
  • Add weighing paperweigh boatspour weigh boats, or weighing dishes

Pull Spring Scales

  • One bottom hook, masses/weighs an individual sample, reads in grams or Newtons
  • Appropriate for grades K—16, physical science and physics
  • Add hooked mass set or double hooked mass set

Balances Buying Guide

For elementary school and aboveFor high school and above
Hands-on learning approachEasy, fast measurements
Fixed weighing unitSelectable weighing units
Fixed weighing modeSelectable weighing modes
No computer connectivityComputer connectivity

Water Baths

Carolina offers compact, reliable water baths with best-in-class features, perfect for any classroom or laboratory. They come in a range of sizes so you can pick the unit that best fits your classroom space and experiments. Each unit has an easy-to-clean chamber and an insulated housing design to help maintain temperature. Check out our Carolina® Digital Water Bath Series, available in several sizes and with accessories that allow for customization. The Carolina® Water Bath is a quality, affordable choice that will fit the needs of most classrooms.

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All Other Lab Equipment

Not seeing what you need? Carolina offers a large selection of blendersburnerscentrifugescolony countersdishwashersdesiccatorsfume hoods and workstationslabware kitspurification systemsautoclaves and sterilizers, and refrigerators.

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Get the Full List

AP® is a trademark registered by the College Board®, which was not involved in the production of, and does not endorse, these products.

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1 comment

Clare Martin October 27, 2023 - 8:29 am

My cousin studies chemistry at university, and I heard he needs to buy lab equipment to use for his classes soon. It’s good that glassware is essential for every laboratory since they are needed for measuring, mixing, and storing various solutions. I’ll keep this in mind while I help my cousin find a supplier in Seattle to contact about used lab equipment for sale soon.


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