What Do The Graduated Cylinders Measure?

graduated cylinders

What Do The Graduated Cylinders Measure?

Posted on the 31st of Aug 2023 by Westlab

A graduated cylinder is a common equipment in laboratories across the world. These cylindrical glass or plastic vessels are marked with precise measurements and are used for accurately measuring liquid volumes. The reliability and simplicity of a graduated cylinder make it an essential tool for scientific experiments and procedures.

This blog will provide information on graduated cylinders and their significance.

What Measurements Are Taken Using Graduated Cylinders?

A graduated cylinder measures volume. It is specifically designed to measure and dispense liquids with greater accuracy than beakers or flasks. 

The following points explain how and what graduated cylinders measure:

Measuring Volume

A graduated cylinder use to measure the volume of a liquid. The term 'volume' refers to the amount of three-dimensional space a substance occupies. In the context of liquids, volume denotes the amount of space that the liquid takes up in a container.

Measurement Units

The most common units of volume measurement on a graduated cylinder are milliliters (mL) or liters (L), which belong to the metric system.

For water and many other liquids, 1 mL is equivalent to 1 cubic centimeter (cc or cm³). This means a graduated cylinder can also indirectly provide measurements in cubic centimeters.


The sides of the cylinder feature lines known as graduations. Each line corresponds to a specific volume. The distance between these lines can vary depending on the size and intended precision of the cylinder.

Smaller graduated cylinders might have finer scale increments, such as 0.1 mL or 0.5 mL, offering greater precision. Larger ones include 1 mL, 5 mL, or even 10 mL graduated cylinder

Precision and Accuracy

Graduated cylinders come in various levels of accuracy, commonly designated as Class A and Class B. Class A cylinders have tighter tolerances and are more precise than Class B.

When measuring a liquid in a graduated cylinder, it's important to take a reading from the bottom of the meniscus (the curve formed by the liquid at its surface). The meniscus forms due to the cohesive forces between the liquid and the container.

Types and Variations

Some cylinders have a single scale (e.g., only milliliters), while others might have a double scale (e.g., milliliters and ounces).

Bulb Cylinders are a type of graduated cylinder with a large, bulbous bottom and a narrower top. They are typically used for more precise measurements.

Using a Graduated Cylinder

A graduated cylinder provides an accurate means to measure the volume of liquids. Its design, combined with the precise graduation marks, ensures that scientists and researchers can confidently measure and use liquids for a plethora of applications. 

Whether it's in a high-tech lab, a school science class, or an industrial setting, the graduated cylinder is fundamental Laboratory Glassware for volume measurement.

Reading Liquid Volume

When reading the volume of a liquid in a graduated cylinder, one should read from the bottom of the meniscus (the curve seen at the top of the liquid). This is especially important when measuring transparent liquids like water.

Avoid Parallax Error

It's crucial to have the graduated cylinder at eye level when reading measurements to avoid parallax error.


Like all laboratory equipment, it's essential to calibrate graduated cylinders periodically to ensure they provide accurate measurements.


After each use, the cylinder should be rinsed with distilled water to avoid contamination. If the cylinder comes in contact with reactive or hazardous chemicals, it should be cleaned accordingly.

Applications of Graduated cylinders

Graduated cylinders find application in different industries. The common application of graduated cylinders are as follows:

Chemistry Labs

A graduated cylinder is most commonly associated with chemistry laboratories where accurate volume measurements are critical for reactions. They provide the precision that's required. They ensure that chemical compounds are mixed in the correct ratios, leading to accurate and reproducible results. Additionally, their transparent nature allows for easy monitoring of liquid levels, which is particularly useful when creating solutions of specific concentrations.

Biology and Environmental Studies

Research in biology often involves the study of liquid samples, whether it's Exploring Blood Plasma a Vital Fluid by analyzing blood samples in medical biology or studying water samples in marine biology. In environmental studies, especially those related to aquatic environments, accurate measurements of water samples are crucial. This can be for checking pollution levels, understanding solute concentrations, or studying aquatic life. Graduated cylinders, due to their precision, play a pivotal role in ensuring that these measurements are accurate.


The scope of industrial applications for graduated cylinders is vast. In the food industry, they can be used to measure out specific volumes of liquids for recipes, ensuring consistency in product quality. In the pharmaceutical industry, accurate measurements are vital for drug formulation. A slight deviation in the volume of a certain component can make a drug ineffective or even harmful. 


The importance of graduated cylinders in educational settings cannot be overlooked. From the early stages of high school to advanced university laboratories, students use these tools as a fundamental part of their lab exercises. By using graduated cylinders, students not only learn the importance of accurate measurements but also get hands-on experience in conducting experiments.

In conclusion, graduated cylinders stand as an indispensable tool in both professional labs and classroom settings. Their precision, design, and ease of use make them the go-to instrument for accurately measuring liquid volumes. 

Whether you're a seasoned scientist or a curious student, the graduated cylinder's role in ensuring accurate and reproducible results cannot be overstated. 

Get the Best Quality Lab Equipment Online

To ensure accuracy and precision in your laboratory, get lab equipment from Westlab Canada. Westlab a well known Laboratory Equipment Supplier is offering high-quality laboratory supplies. Explore our range of graduated cylinders, designed for both durability and precision. Whether you’re seeking the transparency of glass or the resilience of polymethylpentene, we’ve got you covered. 

Choose Westlab Canada today and elevate your research and experiments!

2023-08-31 05:38:00
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