Tempered Explosions

Duralex Picardie TumblerIn the middle of the night, I heard the sound of shattering glass. I thought a glass had fallen from the counter or the shelf, or perhaps that the dog had toppled my tea mug off the wooden futon armrest, where I’d precariously left it the night before. But the explosion of glass was so loud and intense, it couldn’t have simply been a glass falling to the floor.

I’ve had these Duralex Picardie tumblers since 2001. These are “tempered glasses are suitable for hot or cold drinks and conveniently stackable.” I have actually broken a few throughout the years, but only after accidentally dropping them with some degree of force into the sink while washing dishes. Yet they’ve survived getting clumsily knocked off the table onto the hard floor or banged against another dish while putting them away.

Still, even when they broke, they’d never made that sound. That sound I heard last night was the sound of glass being thrown across the room. Because I needed to get up early the following day, I decided to go back to sleep and deal with it in the morning. But my heart was racing, my blood a bubbly cocktail of fear and adrenaline, and it took me a little while to fall back asleep.

Of course, I knew there was no one in the house throwing glass across the room. But I was familiar with that sound. I can still hear it ringing in my ears. I know what it’s like to have to sweep up smashed glass, barely able to see what I was doing, blurry eyed with painful tears, after witnessing an explosion of anger.

Spontaneous Drinking Glass Breakage
You can’t really get a true sense of the damage from this picture. (See dustpan image below.)

The following morning, I saw I’d been correct that a glass hadn’t fallen onto the floor. Somehow, a glass had spontaneously burst into hundreds of pieces, ranging from thick shrapnel to miniscule shards and fine grains of sand. It had exploded with some force because there were even pieces of glass on the floor.

It appears that the glass that had been nested inside another glass was the one that had broken — the outer glass somehow expanding and squeezing the inner glass. There were larger pieces of broken glass inside the unbroken glass, and medium to tiny pieces all over the shelf, counter, and floor.

Spontaneous Drinking Glass Breakage

According to Wikipedia, “Spontaneous glass breakage is a phenomenon by which toughened glass (or tempered) may spontaneously break without any apparent reason.” But it doesn’t mention anything about glasses. (And by the way, my Duralex Picardie tumblers are made of tempered glass, “conveniently stackable” and “extremely durable.”)

According to a Science Advisor (Brewnog) on Physics Forum:

Sounds to me like the outside glass compressed the inside glass on cooling. Since the glasses don’t ‘properly’ nest together, the area of contact between the two would be very small. Glass is rather brittle, and does not take much deformation to cause it to fail.

Spontaneous Drinking Glass Breakage
Yeah, I don’t really want this flying in my face.

After doing initial research, my first thought was simply never to stack the glasses again and continue using them. After all, I got these glasses because I’d fallen in love with the design, modeled after French cafe drinking glasses from the late 1920s. Last night’s explosion had to be a fluke. But after reading over two dozen accounts on Amazon.com about these very same glasses spontaneously exploding in people’s hands, with bloody and gory consequences, I decided I better not take the risk. I couldn’t even conscientiously donate them to Goodwill.

Feeling a little sad and wasteful, I threw them out, content with re-purposing my mason jar collection as new drinking glasses. After all, they’re kind of vintage, too, popularly used in all the hip, local-sourcing restaurants these days. And they’re not tempered.

So what’s the lesson in all this? As humans, perhaps we should try to be more like untempered glass. We break when we need to, and when we do, we break into manageable pieces that can easily be put back together. Instead, tempered glass continues to invisibly develop defects in its inner core, between its outer protective layers, dangerously exploding when least expected, potentially causing harm to others.

27 Replies to “Tempered Explosions”

  1. Interesting thoughts, thank you..
    I was reading this post having searched on google because last night I had an old, much used glass tumbler explode in my hand: it was when i’d just picked it up, there was a loud bang, and glass was everywhere – sink, floor, working surfaces.
    I thought: 1. I need to find out about this phenomenon as I presumed this wasn’t a one-off act of god!
    2. well, that’s another of life’s hazards i hadn’t known of, but then life’s hazardous anyway, no point in wishing it otherwise – and trying to ensure safety is hazardous in itself!

    1. I was loading my dishwasher earlier today and just a moment after I had placed a Duralex 12 oz drinking tumbler that was made in France and that I had purchased in a set from a US import store over 15 years ago, exploded into many small pieces without any apparent reason. I have been using the set for as many years, but now I am afraid to keep them after reading this thread.

      1. I’m reading this post because I just had a small, colored juice glass explode in the dishwasher as I was (gently) trying to position it from a tilt. It was the scariest, most bizarre thing that’s ever happened to me in a kitchen. There’s glass for a good 6 feet around and one section of the bottom of the glass is intact with millions of cracks, like a broken windshield. I guess it was tempered glass but who knows. These were very cheap glasses I just bought….no temperature fluctuation except that we had a very cold kitchen last night until my husband loaded the wood stove.

  2. Not again! My second in a matched pair of 10-oz martini glasses burst today. Handblown with an etched groove from stem to rim. Expensive. Sitting on counter. Empty, but had recently been been used. Temp difference? A/C blowing on it? So annoying!

  3. Omg this happened to me last night. It happened after watching The conjuring 2 which made me terrified to go to sleep. It happened in a cabinet, and there wasn’t a glass stacked on top of it. It was a violent smash late at night. I have to go home now and sleep in the house all alone. I’m scared. Hahaha! This post has given me some comfort… 🙂

  4. Well, within a week, 2 different glasses with beverage in it exploded. With a loud POP. Tiny pieces of glass everywhere and some glass dust. Someone suggested that it might have to do with resident frequencies. Etc. Look it up. Not sure if that is a good answer.. very strange!!!

  5. Just happened to me tonight, but not a drinking glass.
    I was preparing stuffed peppers when I heard a loud BANG! In the sink. the thick glass storage container which was soaking, just shattered into pieces (mainly) small and medium for no reason.
    The larger pieces had spider web-like cracks throughout. Very weird and after reading the accounts of others, a little scary.

  6. This happened to me just this morning!! I had just washed the glass and put it in the other side of the sink. When I set the glass down it exploded!! My first thought was,” thank you Jesus for not letting this hit me in the face”. It was so powerful and loud.

  7. Thank you duralex refugees for sharing war stories. Same thing just happened to me. An 8 oz duralex glass was in pieces ranging from large shards to fine sand. Some larger pieces were actually fractured with lines. Spent an hour cleaning up and will have to dispose of the other glasses upon hearing that they spontaneously explode.

  8. I just picked up one of my Crate&Barrell drinking glasses. Exact style but larger size to the one you posted in the photo. The glass exploded in my hand. I am just now looking in to this phenomenon and feeling very fortunate that I did not get glass in my eye! I am considering new glassware now too. Yikes!

  9. OMG! LOL! This happened to me too! A Duralex bowl in my sink in the middle of the night shattered and the sound woke me up. It’s been a mystery for the past two months. I thought the doorman was sneaking up into my apartment, or a poltergeist was angry or most scarily I was sleep walking in a destructive fugue state. I am so happy to hear that glasses can spontaneously explode.

  10. Happened to me last night. I heard a loud noise ran into the kitchen a tall drinking glass not stacked had exploded shattering the glass behind it shooting glass across the kitchen. Totally freaky I can’t remember the brand of glass not expensive nor tempered. I’m thinking about throwing them all away, super scary!

  11. I was on vacation at a resort in Cancun last week (I’m from Wisconsin, USA) and I experienced something similar. As I sat at our restaurant table drinking my (non-alcoholic) strawberry daiquiri, I starting using the straw to get the remaking daiquiri out of the hollow ice cubes. The glass cup was nearly empty when out of nowhere the bottom of it explodes. I was lightly gripping the top half of the glass and luckily I only had a single sliver in my hand. However, I was very shocked over the whole event. It was totally random and none of the waiters had seen anything like it. I’m glad I was able to find a similar situation! If anybody has any other ideas specific to my situation I would love to hear them!! Thanks!

  12. Hello,
    Thank you for this article. I’ve lined up
    our 18 Duralex Picardie 8oz tumblers to leave the house (possible donating them, unsure at the moment) and I am wondering if anyone has been injured from these Duralex glass explosions? I have two little kids in daycare and they have been using these glasses for a year or so. I’m certainly concerned of the glasses exploding in their face but I’m wondering if the safety is built into the explosions at all? Perhaps the bark is greater than the bite? Is it possible that the explosive sound and the glass bits everywhere is the only scare and no one has gotten hurt because they are truly that safe? Please let me know. Thanks so much for this topic!
    Concerned Mom in California

  13. This just happened to a recently used glass just sitting on the bench top. Loudest glass breakage noise I’ve ever heard. So thankful my children weren’t in the room at the time. No explanation. I think I’ll be upgrading our glassware.

  14. I know this is an old post, but I came across it when I was “googling” for info on when Duralex breaks. I have a set I bought at Target recently. I really like them & love that I can pour hot tea over ice into the larger tumbler. I was watching the USA network series “The Sinner, which is kinda creepy. I got up to quickly do some dishes during the commercial and not quite sure how it happened, but a glass exploded. I think I may have let it slip from my hand into the dishes in the sink. It broke as described above into several chunky pieces, but also several tinier ones, including some needlelike slivers. The Duralex website describes the glasses as being safer than untempered glass. Now I am not so sure. It took what seemed like forever to gather the glass up out of the sink. The pieces scratched up the stainless steel surface and I had to fish some out of the disposal. I guess I was fortunate that most of it was contained in the sink basin. Scares me to think that my young grandsons were drinking out of the juice glass size recently. Hoping this was just a fluke or that I caused it. Definitely did not like the way it burst. Scarier than a regular glass breaking IMO.

  15. I was at an Hotel havong breakfast. I just finished my orange juice and tbe glass was on the table when it exploded all by itself. Glass went everywhere in a 2 m radius. The whole resturant when silent. Very spookey.
    I got another​glass and tried to make it expkode by concentrating but it did not work. The glass looked like the one in the picture

  16. Just happened to me, the drinking glass broken into million pieces automatically. The glass was empty, but the explosion was very hard. Thanks God, my family is safe.

  17. My husband took out two old heavy Ikea glasses to set the table. Blam! One must have touched the other and they both shattered into a bajillion pieces, but not shards. Kind of like glass globs- lots of pieces like in your picture, but also chunks that were pixelated but still adhering. Super weird. Glass fatigue? One brand is Libbey Duratuff. and the other is – tada! – Duralex.

  18. I have a set of tempered glass IKEA tumblers. I was getting my coffee cup out of the dishwasher and as I hadn’t opened the drawer enough, my coffee cup put a little pressure on the base of the glass and as soon as the coffee cup stopped contact with it, it too exploded. Much the same as your photos. I detest cleaning broken glass. I feel on edge for days after as I fear stepping on a missed piece. It isn’t the large pieces I hate. It is the small pieces that you can’t get out without great difficulty.

    Thanks for your post. I’m pleased the hear that I’m not the only one to experience a glass exploding so unusually.

  19. Just taking things out of a China cabinet-( moms stuff I haven’t dealt with yet) and two pieces were neatly broken. One was a shaving mug my grandpa had, and the other a footed glass compote with lid. When I picked them up- the broken part just stayed perfectly in place. Cabinet sits against a cold outer wall- is that why these pieces broke on their own? Never had such a thing occur before!

  20. So, this has happened to quite a few people. Just last night, my daughter wakes me up at 3am saying that she heard a loud shattering sound coming from downstairs. As tired as I was I didn’t see anything wrong, but in the morning opening the water glass cabinet, there it was! One of these 10oz IKEA glasses made in Bulgaria exploded into pieces. It is important to note that it was not stacked, and it was one of those glasses on the back row, so it hadn’t been washed or handled recently. Maybe we bought them over 6 months ago because the previous set was over 5 years was was starting to loose its shinny appeal. Go figure!

  21. So, this has happened to quite a few people. Just last night, my daughter wakes me up at 3am saying that she heard a loud shattering sound coming from downstairs. As tired as I was I didn’t see anything wrong, but in the morning opening the water glass cabinet, there it was! One of these 10oz IKEA glasses made in Bulgaria exploded into pieces. It is important to note that it was not stacked, and it was one of those glasses on the back row, so it hadn’t been washed or handled recently. Maybe we bought them over 6 months ago because the previous set was over 5 years was was starting to loose its shinny appeal. Go figure!

  22. So, this has happened to quite a few people. Just last night, my daughter wakes me up at 3am saying that she heard a loud shattering sound coming from downstairs. As tired as I was I didn’t see anything wrong, but in the morning opening the water glass cabinet, there it was! One of these 10oz IKEA glasses made in Bulgaria exploded into pieces. It is important to note that it was not stacked, and it was one of those glasses on the back row, so it hadn’t been washed or handled recently. Maybe we bought them over 6 months ago because the previous set was over 5 years was was starting to loose its shinny appeal.

  23. I know that somebody that I knew years ago said that there were glasses in the cupboard that were shattered for no reason and she was convinced that there was some kind of “spirit” or “ghost” in the house breaking the glasses. She said that was the only possible explanation for it. I don’t believe in anything so I didn’t have much to say.

  24. I don’t think our cheap drinking glasses are tempered, but we had one break into pieces while upside down in the cupboard with other glasses around it but not stacked together. Fortunately, the cabinet door was closed so it was self-contained, but pieces had popped up on top of things throughout that shelf.

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