What Are Vials?

Vials are small bottles or containers made from either plastic or glass.

They’re used to store medicines in liquid form, and they can even store powders or tablets. As with most things, it can seem as if there are infinite varieties of vials, but really it comes down to two vial types:

Screw Thread Vials

These have a screw cap

Patent Lip Vials

These have a stopper or a cork

While these are the two types of vials, we usually categorise vials by what they are used for. So, if you were looking for a liquid medication, you’d likely find it to be a screw thread vial, but a perfume vial would generally have a plastic stopper.

Plastic OR Glass Vials?

Whether you prefer plastic or glass vials usually depends on what you’re using it for or your budget. Obviously, people think that from an environmental point of view, the glass would be the obvious choice for vials, given that they are an eco-friendly option. However, it’s not a good idea to discount plastic as a material. Both are recyclable, but since glass can only be recycled into more glass, it’s limited.

Glass is also more substantial than plastic, which means that pharmaceutical shipping can be more expensive to invest in. The fragility of glass also brings into question whether it’s the best material for use, especially as it’s slippery to touch and can easily fall. Those working in factories with glass vials are more at risk of breaking the glass and causing an injury than those who choose plastic.

When it comes to using plastic vials, there are plenty of advantages. Not only is it not likely to break and splinter, but it’s also a light material choice. They also provide much better thermal insulation, allowing them to keep their contents at the right temperature at all times.

What makes a good pharmaceutical bottle?

Most of the time, vials are used over bottles for medicines and other pharmaceutical liquids. Usually, this is because they are smaller and easier to transport. Here are some differences between the two:


Often made of glass over plastic, and used to store normal daily liquids. Can be plugged, capped or corked for closure. Can be used for drinks, cleaning fluids and sometimes, medicines.


Smaller glass vessel, though plastic is becoming more popular. The bottom is usually flat as opposed to testing tubes, and the prescription vial is the standard term given that it is mostly used in medicine. Modern vials are made with polypropylene. Primarily used in the storage of medication, whether liquid, cap, or powder form.

The choice between the two is a personal one depending on the liquid, tablets or powders being transported, but vials have always come out as more popular, used and recycled between the two. Glass vials are still around – particularly for things like immunizations – but plastic is growing in popularity.

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