Stainless steel offers the most hygienic surface when used in a laboratory table, and it has an exceptional working life, but these advantages come at a considerable cost. Phenolic resin laboratory tables, which resist acids and moisture, cost less than steel or similar materials. Plastic laminated tables cost less, but have a shorter working life and may not be suitable for some applications. Wooden laboratory tables can be the cheapest, but generally don’t do well with acids or liquids.
Laboratory table selection depends largely on what work is being performed. High school and university chemistry labs use the phenolic resin type because it holds up well under heavy use. This material also works well in industrial labs, particularly in highly acidic environments. A biochemical or radiological lab may select stainless steel to reduce surface contamination. Stainless steel cleans easily and can be sterilized, and it can withstand extremes of heat and cold better than other materials. Because it is expensive, a lab may use all stainless steel furniture in some key areas and phenolic resin tables or laminated furniture for less hazardous work.
Most lab tables have drawers and cabinets for storage, usually made with furniture-grade materials covered with a laminate surface that offers some chemical resistance. Some lab tables use wood with a clear finish for the cabinetry, but the choice of finish depends on the environment and the available budget.