Glass Storage Containers: Pros and Cons

different glass storage containers in different sizes on black patterned backgroundGlass storage containers are in many aspects a deluxe storage solution. Glass is hygienic, easy to clean, safe and neutral to taste. It is also the most ecological choice. But beware: Sometimes they splinter and explode!

Glass is of course not the only option for storage containers. In our main article on food storage containers we give an overview. But if the heavy weight of glass is no problem in your eyes, you’re on the right track here.

If you want to go directly to the product comparison, go on to the second chapter.

Glass Storage Containers: What Matters

Health and Safety Issues

Non-toxic Material

Regarding health and safety, glass storage containers are the best choice you can make for your kitchen storage solutions. Glass doesn’t leach harmful substances like plastic storage containers do.

Even silicone cannot be considered completely safe, which is often considered a safe alternative to plastic. And other alternatives like tin boxes may get metals into your food which has also health concerns.

Breakage

Thermal Shock Risk

The only risk is breakage – especially when the glass is exposed to rapid heating (boiling water or soup, putting a cool dish in a heated oven) or cooling (putting a hot baking dish on a cool, heat conductive surface like metal).

Remember the Exploding Pyrex story from 2008? That was badly tempered soda-lime glass. However borosilicate glass is far more thermal shock resistant. Consider this if you know your glass storage containers will get it rough.

But also soda-lime glass will not suddenly and unexpectedly break if you take care and avoid very quick temperature changes.

Dropping and Splintering

Another possibility to get injured is from glass breakage after dropping a glass dish, or by damaging it lightly and chipping of small and sharp glass shards that you don’t recognize immediately.

However, if the glass is correctly tempered it breaks without sharp edges (toughened glass). Simple jars are not tempered at all. Dedicated glass storage containers typically are. However, as you will see in our product comparison, the manufacturers have a weak spot here!

Ecological Impact

High Energy Demand, Harmless Chemistry

The environmental impact of glass is moderate. On the one hand, its production consumes a lot of energy (not as much as metals though). And it is heavy. You need to produce and transport more material for the same storage capacity compared to plastic. This further increases the energy demand.

On the other hand glass storage containers are environmentally harmless and can be fully recycled. This makes them a better solution than plastic containers are, since plastic has its drawbacks in the chemistry.

Indeed there is probably no better option available than glass storage containers. You also have to take into account that glass has an infinite lifetime (unless you don’t accidentally break it).

Plastic materials degrade over time and deform or become brittle. That means all plasticizers have gone. Partly into your food. Yummy. And even if glass someday makes it onto a landfill, it is lying there safely.

Recycling

Pieces of broken glass over sign of recycling
Glass is a valuable resource. Recycle it!

Glass should be recycled and not being disposed of. If you buy glassware, it contains up to 95 % recycled material according to the glass packaging institute. In practice this fraction is rarely achieved since only about one third of all glass containers are recycled at all.

Aurora Glass is a non-profit organization that makes décor glass products from 100 % recycled glass. Refresh Glass goes a similar direction (but for profit with quite high prices). Sadly, both have no glass storage containers, but other nice glassware.

If you really should want 100 % recycled glass storage jars, the only option we have found on the web is the recycled glassware company.co.uk, but it seems their products didn’t make it to the U.S. yet.

Cleaning

Glass is a dense material. There are no micro pores that take up odors and stains of your food as plastic does. That makes it easy to clean, either manually or in the dishwasher.

The lids of glass storage containers are typically made of plastic. Don’t treat plastic with boiling hot dishwasher programs or aggressive detergents. Our article on health and safety of plastic materials tells you why.

Durability

Except for the possibility of breakage due to thermal shock or dropping it, glass lasts a lifetime. Heavy usage in the freezer, microwave or oven won’t curtail the lifetime of a quality product.

However, this may not be true for the plastic lids. A manufacturer of quality glass containers will keep that in mind and offer replacement lids for sale.

Buying Glass Storage Containers Online

General Issues

When looking at what the market has to offer, three brands are prominent: Pyrex, Snapware and GlassLock. Popit! also offers some containers that seem like a good catch at first glance. We examined them all.

The bad news is that all of them have some serious complaints from Amazon customers. The reported issues are:

Glass Shards and Splintering

Sweeping broken glass off the floor
Beware of chipping on edges and exploding containers

Several reviews complain that chipping may occur especially on the edges of a glass container. This is true for every of the 4 brands mentioned above. Also, some people report that the glass exploded in the microwave or the oven, even though the product is deemed heat resistant.

Snapware, GlassLock and Pyrex use soda lime glass (that’s obviously not tempered well). If you think borosilicate is per se better, Popit! will disappoint you. They sell borosilicate glass containers – and they have the worst results on this issue.

That’s a serious problem for all major brands. Imagine glass splinters getting into your food without you recognizing it. Swallowing an inch long glass shard can result in severe gastro-intestinal injuries.

Glass surely is a brittle material. But as described above, it’s technically possible to avoid sharp splinters. Presumably there could be done more from the manufacturers’ side, but as often this may be a cost issue.

This leaves the task of quality control up to you. Please check your containers before every usage for chipping, especially along the rim. And when you store your containers, be careful not to hit glass onto glass. Put a tea towel or cabinet liner between two glass dishes in the cupboard.

So if you pay attention and handle your glass dishes carefully, you will most probably never have a problem – especially if you stick to the brand that performs best. To find out which one this is, we had a closer look and examined who has the least complaints:

Rate of complaints across several products for each brand
Brand Amazon reviews Glass shards or breakage
Pyrex ~3400 0.5 %
Snapware ~1500 0.7 %
GlassLock ~3200 1.0 %
Popit! ~600 1.7 %

So it seems like Pyrex is still the best quality out there, while Snapware makes a good second place. However, Snapware has more problems with the lids, see below.

Poor Lids

Most of the bad reviews for all 4 brands complain about lids. So looking at the ratio of bad ratings (1- or 2-star) on Amazon gives you a good heuristic which brands suffer least from this problem.

In general, there are two types of lids. A rigid plastic cover with snap-on latches (used by Snapware, GlassLock and Popit!) or elastic lids with a groove to snap on the rim of the glass (used by most Pyrex products).

Popit! only has 5 % bad ratings, so their lids seem to have a steadier quality than others. Pyrex with a different lid system is close with 7 % bad ratings, followed by GlassLock (9 %) and Snapware (11 %). The issues reported for the different lid types are the following.

Rigid With Latches

Snapware, GlassLock and Popit! use lids with snap-on latches and a rubber gasket. Since the plastic is often brittle, customers report that the latches break too easily – especially when you take them out of the freezer.

Since customers want lids that seal tight, producers tackle that problem with force. Often you’ll need quite some strength to get the lids on and off. That’s not really handy.

This problem gets worse when you wash the lids in the dishwasher. They begin warping and become useless. Also, don’t expect necessarily a tight sealing when you’ve pressed the lids on. Often the containers still leak a bit.

Furthermore, moisture can stay on the gasket or in the gasket groove. Some people report development of mold on the gasket. So be sure to clean and dry these lids well after usage.

Rubber Lids

Pyrex relies on a different system. They use elastic lids with a groove to snap on the rim of the glass.

The main issue here is that the lids also may not fit the container correctly. Often they sit very strong, but sometimes also too loose. Warping after the dishwasher is also a problem.

Pyrex Containers

Since Pyrex has the least complaints on glass shards or breakage, this is the brand we recommend – and they offer replacement lids in case you’ll get problems with them some day.

Actually, Pyrex and Snapware both belong to World Kitchen LLC, they differ only in the lids. So if you prefer the snap-on lids with latches, buy Snapware.

World Kitchen licensed Pyrex from Corning Inc. who is among the world leaders of glass products since the 19th century. The containers are manufactured is the U.S.

Links marked with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links.

Mixed Pyrex Set (Our Top Pick)

Pyrex 7-container set of differently sized round glass storage containers with blue lids
Pyrex 7-container set*

This 7-container set* of round containers is probably the best and most flexible set for everyday usage at home. The 4 containers of 2-cup size are perfect for storing leftovers. 2 containers with 4-cup size can hold a whole meal, and the 7-cup container also makes up a salad bowl or a baking dish.

If you don’t need different sizes, you can pick this set of four 4-cup containers*

We had mentioned the problem of non-fitting lids. In fact, this is more often associated with rectangular containers than with the round ones. And this is quite plausible.

A round lid is less demanding. Only the diameter must be correct. Rectangular lids have a narrow corner radius and require therefore a more precise matching. As soon as there is a little distortion of the ideal shape, the lid quickly doesn’t fit anymore.

Rectangular Containers

Pyrex 3-container set of rectangular glass storage containers with blue lids
Pyrex 3-container set*

However the rectangular shaped containers use the space in your cupboard, fridge or freezer more efficiently. Then you might be interested in this 3-container set* with 2 small (1 7/8 cups) and 1 big (5 cups) container.

Again, the small ones are suitable for leftovers. The big one is of course also oven proof and can be used for cakes or casseroles (small ones). A multi functional glass storage container.

Snapware

Snapware 10-container set of glass containers, green-edged lids with latches
Snapware 10-container set*

If lids with latches really are what you want, even though customers complain more often about them, there is a set of 10 different containers* available that fits many use cases. The set includes:

  • 1 tiny 0.73-cup container (round)
  • 6 small ~1.5-cup containers (2 round, 4 rectangular)
  • 2 average sized 3.3- and 3.5-cup containers (rectangular)
  • 1 large 6-cup container (rectangular).

However, if these are too small and you would rather select your containers individually by size, look here*.

Glass Compartment Containers

There are also glass containers with compartments available. This implicates that glass is not too heavy for you to carry around. But if you value the safety and hygiene of the glass material and bring your lunch to work everyday, these are a a neat option.

Links marked with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links.

IdealPrep (Best Compartment Container)

IdealPrep glass compartment container (3 containers) with snap-on lids
IdealPrep compartment containers*

Glass compartment containers are quite a new invention, so there is not a big history of user experience available. However, IdealPrep is a vendor that receives many good reviews and gets in touch with the few people who have complaints.

This set of 3 containers* with a 2- and 3-cup sized compartment will hold even a bigger meal. It’s made of borosilicate glass. Up till now, there are no complaints about breakage and glass shards during use.

The lids also do a reliable job and seal tight. However be aware that the separator doesn’t reach the full height of the outer rim. So if you shake the container, contents may partly slop over between the two compartments.

Another advantage of the lids is that you can remove the gasket for cleaning and drying. This should prevent problems with mold.

MealPrep

IdealPrep is not the only vendor of compartment glass storage containers. MealPrep offers a container similar in size, shape and price*. However the rate of bad reviews is markedly higher than for IdealPrep.

There are mainly issues with the lids (also snap-on with latches): They leak or don’t snap, or the latches break.

Luckily the rate of glass cracks, shards or breakage is quite low and in the range of Pyrex.

The issue with the shallow separator is the same as for the IdealPrep containers.

Conclusion

Before you buy anything, ask yourself if you really need it. Just for pantry storage at home or storing leftovers from your meals, reuse big glass jars that you get somewhere throughout your regular shopping.

You can even use a set of jars to bring your lunch to work! Something wide and shallow feels just like a standard glass container.

Of course, if you intend to use the glass vessel in the microwave or the oven, you’re better off with a product that was designed just for this purpose, like the Pyrex glass containers are.