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The Difference Between Clear Glass and Ultra-Clear Glass

When it comes to buying glass for shelves, showers or railings, homeowners and designers are often torn between two choices: Should they go for clear glass, or pay the extra buck for ultra-clear glass?

This decision is very easy to make when you know the actual difference between clear glass and ultra-clear glass. Once you do see that difference, you are better equipped to make the right choice.

Visually, there is a slight detail that shows when you have “regular” clear glass compared with ultra-clear glass, which goes under various other names around the internet.

We prefer to simply call it ultra-clear glass and here is how you differentiate it from clear glass.

The Tint

The difference between clear glass and ultra-clear glass shows when you look at the edges of your piece. Clear glass has a bit of a green hue to its finish, whereas ultra-clear glass has a completely neutral finish. It contains approximately one quarter of the iron content of standard clear float glass, providing an ultra clear glass that is crystal clear in appearance.

The explanation for this tint difference is the following: Ultra-clear glass is made of low amounts of iron, compared to standard clear glass. For this reason, ultra-clear glass is also called low-iron glass. It is made of 0.01 % ferric oxide – in other words, it not composed of much iron at all. In comparison, clear glass can contain up to 4 or 5 times that material quantity due to the natural levels of iron present in sand, one of the main glass “ingredients”.

The greater light transmission capacity of high-clarity glass will show indoors – on a shower glass door, a glass shelf or a glass railing installed on your living room retainer wall, for example.

Thus, ultra-clear glass is ideal in decorative and furniture applications, aquariums, showcases, showers or shop fronts – any situation where featured colours or displays at close range need to be enhanced.

Ultra clear glass doors

Clear Glass is Great, Too

Difference in iron levels does not diminish the quality of clear glass in any way – in some cases, in fact, it is not particularly useful to pay more to get ultra-clear glass.

For instance, you would not significantly improve your view on your pool or on the lake if you paid higher to get low-iron glass for your deck railing. Reduced iron rates do improve light transmission through glass panels, but not enough to justify the substantial extra in outdoor application.

Quick Rule of Thumb: If your glass is installed in white or very pale surroundings (i.e shower enclosures with white ceramic walls, glass cover on a white marble table, etc.), only then you would want to consider getting ultra clear glass; otherwise, it is usually not worth paying the extra cost.

Normal clear aquarium (left) and Ultra clear aquarium (right)

Clear glass still is the most prevalent type of glass and the lowest cost solution. Other than the tint, it mostly carries the same likeable features as ultra-clear glass, such as high workability, chemical stability, resistance to corrosion, etc.

Clear glass can also be toughened through the tempering process, thus becoming five to 10 times more scratch and heat resistant.

Situations when you should treat yourself with ultra-clear glass

  • Shower glass in pristine white bathroom environment

  • Decorative kitchen cabinets

  • Aquariums

  • Interior railings

  • Display boxes

  • Glass cover for antique wood table

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