Best Graduated Cylinder for Precise and Reliable Measurements: An Essential Guide

graduated cylinders in different sizes

What is a Graduated Cylinder?

A graduated cylinder, a staple in laboratories and various industrial settings, is an instrument designed for measuring the volume of liquids with precision and accuracy. Unlike other measuring tools, graduated cylinders offer a higher level of accuracy, crucial in applications where precise measurements are of utmost importance. This precision is achieved through the cylinder's narrow cylindrical shape and the finely calibrated marking along its length, typically in milliliters or liters.

Different Types and Materials Used in Graduated Cylinders

Graduated cylinders come in a variety of types and materials, each tailored to specific needs and environments. The most common types are: 

  • Glass Graduated Cylinder: Known for their clarity and chemical resistance, glass cylinders are ideal for use with a wide range of chemicals. They are perfect for environments where durability and long-term use are key factors.
  • Plastic Graduated Cylinder: These are often made from polypropylene or polymethylpentene, offering the advantage of being lightweight and break-resistant. They are ideal for environments where glass breakage is a concern, though they may not be suitable for all types of chemicals.
  • Metal Graduated Cylinder: Less common, metal cylinders are used in specialized industrial applications. They are durable and can withstand high temperatures and harsh conditions.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Graduated Cylinder

Selecting the appropriate graduated cylinder is critical for accuracy and efficiency in industrial measurements. The right graduated cylinder not only ensures precision in measurements but also aligns with the specific needs and constraints of the work environment. Here's a more detailed look at the factors to consider:

Material Quality: Glass vs. Plastic 

  • Glass Cylinders: Preferred for their high chemical resistance and non-reactivity, glass cylinders are ideal for precise measurements and long-term durability. They resist staining and scratching, maintaining clarity over time. However, they are more prone to breaking and are typically heavier than plastic, which can be a consideration in high-traffic or less controlled environments.
  • Plastic Cylinders: These are often chosen for their durability and shatter-resistance, especially in settings where safety and the risk of breakage are major concerns. Modern plastics like polymethylpentene and polypropylene offer reasonable chemical resistance and are lighter, making them easier to handle. However, plastic can degrade over time, especially under UV exposure, and may absorb some chemicals, leading to potential contamination and less precision in measurements.

Capacity and Graduation Increments 

  • Capacity: The capacity or volume of a graduated cylinder can range from a few milliliters to several liters. It's important to choose a size that not only fits the volume you're measuring but also offers a practical level of readability and ease of handling for that volume.
  • Graduation Increments: The precision of measurements depends largely on the graduation increments. Finer graduations allow for more precise measurements but can also result in a taller, more cumbersome cylinder. Consider the balance between precision and practicality for your specific applications. 

Accuracy and Calibration 

  • Calibration Type: Graduated cylinders come in two main types—TC (to contain) and TD (to deliver). Understanding the difference between TC and TD cylinders is critical. TC cylinders are ideal for applications where the precise quantity of the liquid being contained is critical, while TD cylinders are better suited for situations where the quantity being dispensed is the focus.
  • Calibration Accuracy: Ensure the cylinders are calibrated according to industry standards and check if they come with a calibration certificate. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) specifies standards for Laboratory Glass Graduated Cylinders with a particular focus on the classification of cylinders into different accuracy classes. Class A cylinders represent the highest level of precision. They are manufactured with tighter tolerances and are often used in applications where accuracy is critical, such as in quantitative chemical analysis. Class B cylinders, while still maintaining a high level of accuracy, have slightly broader tolerance limits. They are suitable for general laboratory work where the precision requirements are less stringent.

Durability and Chemical Resistance 

  • Material Durability: Assess the likelihood of wear and tear in your working environment. In harsher environments, a more durable material might be necessary, even if it compromises a bit on measurement accuracy.
  • Chemical Compatibility: Ensure the material of the cylinder is compatible with the chemicals being measured. This includes considering factors like corrosion resistance, permeability, and potential for chemical interactions.

Ease of Cleaning and Maintenance 

  • Cleaning Process: Consider how easy it is to clean the cylinder. Glass cylinders, while easier to clean to a residue-free state, are more fragile. Plastic cylinders might require more careful cleaning to avoid scratches and clouding.
  • Maintenance Requirements: Factor in the long-term maintenance needs. Glass cylinders may require more careful storage and handling, while plastic cylinders might need more frequent replacement due to wear and chemical exposure.

5 Best Graduated Cylinder

Karter Scientific Glass Graduated Cylinder

The Karter Scientific 100ml graduated cylinder is a reliable choice for precise liquid measurements. Crafted from Borosilicate 3.3 glass, it offers high chemical resistance and durability. Its 100ml capacity with 1ml graduations provides precision for small-volume measurements. The Class B tolerance indicates a reasonable level of accuracy for laboratory and educational use. The hexagonal base offers stability, and the glass material makes it easy to clean and maintain.

Material: Borosilicate 3.3 Capacity: 100ml Calibration: Class B

Pyrex Glass Graduated Cylinder

The PYREX glass graduated cylinder is a classic choice for laboratories, classrooms, or home science experiments. Made from durable borosilicate glass, it offers high clarity and chemical resistance. The addition of plastic bumper guards helps in preventing breakage. Its 50mL capacity with clear metric markings makes it ideal for precise measurements in smaller volumes. The TC (To Contain) calibration caters to applications where the contained volume is critical. The white enamel graduations aid in accurate readings. Easy to clean and autoclavable at 121°C, it's well-suited for repeated use in busy environments.

Material: Borosilicate Capacity: 50ml Calibration: TC

Nalgene Graduated Cylinder With PP Base

This 500mL graduated cylinder is designed for durability and clarity. The polymethylpentene body with a polypropylene base offers clarity similar to glass, with the added benefit of being shatterproof. Its large base also prevents tipping, and the material is suitable for food and beverage use, demonstrating good chemical resistance. With a graduations of 5.0mL and an error limit of ±4.00mL, it is suitable for applications where slight variances are acceptable. The cylinder can be chemically sterilized without affecting accuracy, though autoclaving may impact precision.

Material: Polymethylpentene Capacity: 500ml Calibration: Class B

Eisco Labs Graduated Cylinder

Eisco Labs' 1000mL graduated cylinder is designed for industrial quality use, offering a blend of capacity and durability. Made of high-quality polypropylene, it withstands heat and chemical exposure well. The octagonal base enhances its stability. With raised graduations every 10mL, marked every 100mL, it is suitable for larger volume measurements. As a Class B tolerance cylinder, it's calibrated to contain, suitable for general industrial use where precise volume containment is necessary. Its design allows for easy cleaning, and it is autoclavable, making it suitable for repeated and rigorous use.

Material: Polypropylene Capacity: 1000ml Calibration: Class B, TC 

Brewing America Plastic Graduated Cylinder

This 250ml plastic graduated cylinder from Brewing America is an excellent choice for classroom experiments and kitchen measurements. Made of food-grade polypropylene plastic, it offers a clear view of the contents with its transparent color. The plastic construction also provides good chemical resistance and durability, making it suitable for a range of liquids. With dual-sided marking (black and raised graduation lines), it ensures versatility and ease of reading. While the material is suitable for general measurements, the accuracy might be less than glass cylinders. It's ideal for educational and non-critical industrial uses. The plastic build offers excellent break resistance. Its wide rim and tapered pour spout enhance usability and the non-wetting interior surface simplifies cleaning. The cylinder is also autoclavable for sterilization.

Material: Polypropylene Capacity: 250ml Calibration: Not indicated

Best Practices When Using Graduated Cylinders

As the graduated cylinder definition goes, ensuring precise and reliable measurements is the main purpose of this equipment. Proper handling and care and attention to detail in measurement techniques are key to obtaining reliable and precise results in any industrial application.

Proper Handling and Care 

  • Always hold the cylinder at the base or on the sides. Avoid touching the graduations to prevent smudging, which can impair readability.
  • Store graduated cylinders in a secure, upright position to prevent tipping and damage. Glass cylinders should be kept in areas where they are less likely to be knocked over.
  • Clean cylinders after each use to avoid cross-contamination. Use appropriate cleaning agents and rinse thoroughly with distilled water. For glass cylinders, avoid abrasive materials that can cause scratches.
  • Regularly inspect for any cracks, chips, or etching, especially in glass cylinders. Compromised cylinders should be replaced to maintain accuracy.

Tips for Ensuring Accurate Measurements 

  • Always place the cylinder on a level surface to ensure an accurate reading.
  • When reading the measurement, ensure your eye is level with the meniscus to avoid parallax error.
  • For clear liquids, read the measurement at the bottom of the meniscus. If the liquid is opaque, read at the top of the liquid.
  • Do not overfill the cylinder, as this can lead to spillage and inaccurate measurements.
  • Pour liquids slowly and steadily into the cylinder to avoid splashing and the formation of bubbles, which can affect accuracy.
  • Not considering whether the cylinder is calibrated for TC or TD can lead to measurement errors, especially in critical applications.
  • Since a graduated cylinder is used to measure liquids, taking measurements in haste can lead to errors. Take your time to ensure accuracy. 

Handling Chemicals and Solutions 

  • Always wear appropriate PPE, including safety goggles, gloves, and lab coats, when handling chemicals.
  • Understand the properties and hazards of the chemicals being measured. Refer to Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for specific handling and exposure guidelines.
  • Never use your mouth to pipette or transfer liquids. Use appropriate tools and techniques to avoid direct contact with harmful substances.
  • Work in well-ventilated areas to avoid inhalation of harmful vapors, especially when working with volatile or toxic chemicals.

Storage and Disposal Guidelines 

  • Proper Storage: Store chemicals and graduated cylinders in designated areas. Keep cylinders in a stable, upright position and ensure that chemicals are stored in compatible containers with proper labeling.
  • Segregation of Chemicals: Store chemicals according to their compatibility. Some chemicals can react dangerously if stored together.
  • Disposal: Dispose of chemicals and solutions according to local regulations and guidelines. Never pour chemicals down the drain without confirming it's safe and permissible.

Emergency Procedures 

  • Be familiar with the spill response procedures for different types of chemicals. Have spill kits accessible and know how to use them.
  • Know basic first aid procedures for chemical exposure, including eyewash and emergency shower locations.
  • Immediately report any accidents or incidents to the appropriate safety officer or department.
  • Be aware of the evacuation routes and procedures in case of a chemical spill or other emergencies.


What is the use of measuring cylinder?

A measuring cylinder, or a graduated cylinder, is used to measure the volume of liquids accurately.

What unit does a graduated cylinder measure?

A graduated cylinder typically measures in milliliters (mL) or liters (L).

Why do you use a graduated cylinder to measure volume?

A graduated cylinder is used to measure volume due to its precise graduations and narrow shape, which allow for accurate readings of liquid volumes.

Is a graduated cylinder used to measure mass?

No, a graduated cylinder is not used to measure mass; it's designed for measuring the volume of liquids.

Why are smaller graduated cylinders more accurate?

Smaller graduated cylinders are more accurate because they have finer graduations, allowing for more precise volume measurements.

What is more accurate than a graduated cylinder?

A volumetric flask or a burette is typically more accurate than a graduated cylinder for measuring liquid volumes.

The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.


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Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.