Chemical Safety Storage Guidelines

Chemical Safety Storage Guidelines

January 28, 2014

The specific Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) should always be consulted when doubts arise concerning chemical properties and associated hazards. Always wear appropriate personal protective equipment (e.g., laboratory coat, safety glasses, gloves, safety goggles, apron) when handling hazardous chemicals. Be aware of the locations of the safety showers and emergency eyewash stations. 

Chemical Safety Storage Priorities

Keep in mind that most chemicals have multiple hazards and a decision must be made as to which storage area would be most appropriate for each specific chemical. First you have to determine your priorities:

  1. Flammability. When establishing a storage scheme, the number one consideration should be the flammability characteristics of the material. If the material is flammable, it should be stored in a flammable cabinet.
  2. Isolate. If the material will contribute significantly to a fire (e.g., oxidizers), it should be isolated from the flammables. If there were a fire in the laboratory and response to the fire with water would exaggerate the situation, isolate the water reactive material away from contact with water.
  3. Corrosivity. Next look at the corrosivity of the material, and store accordingly.
  4. Toxicity. Finally, consider the toxicity of the material, with particular attention paid to regulated materials. In some cases, this may mean that certain chemicals will be isolated within a storage area. For example, a material that is an extreme poison but is also flammable, should be locked away in the flammable storage cabinet to protect it against accidental release.

Basic Rules for Hazardous Chemical Storage

  • Date all chemicals on receipt.
  • Maintain a permanent inventory that is verified annually.
  • Establish a separate and secure storage area for chemicals.
  • Do not store chemicals in fume hoods or work areas.
  • Label storage areas and cabinets to identify the hazardous nature of products stored within.
  • Properly identify all unlabeled products before storing.
  • Never store flammable chemicals in a standard domestic refrigerator.
  • The maximum total quantity of flammable and combustible liquids must not exceed 60 gallons within a flammable storage cabinet. The maximum quantity allowed to be kept outside a flammable storage cabinet, safety can, or approved refrigerator/freezer is 10 gallons.
  • Use secondary containment when storing chemicals on the floor.
  • Chemicals should not be stored above eye level so that storage circumstances can always be easily evaluated (corroded containers or deteriorating container).
  • Lips or seismic restraints on storage shelves should be in place to prevent bottles from falling off.
  • Chemical storage should be away from heavily traveled areas.
  • Stored chemicals should be in a cool and dry location with caps and lids tightly closed; no chemical should be on the outside of the container.
  • Stored chemicals should be arranged in compatible families rather than in alphabetical order. Extremely hazardous chemicals should be purchased in as small a quantities are possible.
  • Post emergency telephone numbers in the chemical storage areas.

Incompatible Chemicals

Table 1 contains a list of incompatible chemicals. Per row, the chemicals listed in the left column should not be used with chemicals listed in the right column, except under specially controlled conditions. Per row, chemicals in the left column should not be stored in the immediate area with chemicals in the right column. Incompatible chemicals should always be handled, stored or packed so that they cannot accidentally come into contact with one another. This list is representative of chemical incompatibilities and is not complete, nor are all incompatibilities shown.

Table 1 - Incompatible Chemicals
ChemicalKeep out of Contact with
Alkaline metals, such as powdered aluminum, magnesium, sodium, potassium, etc. Carbon tetrachloride or other chlorinated hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide and water
Acetic Acid Chromic acid, nitric acid, hydroxyl compounds, ethylene glycol, perchloric acid, peroxides and permanganates
Acetylene Chlorine, bromine, copper, fluorine, silver and mercury
Ammonia Mercury, chlorine, calcium, hypochlorite, iodine, bromine and hydrofluoric acid
Ammonium nitrate Acids, metal powders, flammable liquids, chlorates, nitrites, sulfur, finely divided organic or combustible materials
Carbon, activated Calcium hypochlorite
Copper Acetylene and hydrogen peroxide
Chromic acid Acetic acid, naphthalene, camphor, glycerin, turpentine, alcohol and flammable liquids
Chlorine Ammonia, acetylene, butadiene, butane, methane, propane, hydrogen, sodium carbide, turpentine, benzene and finely divided metals
Cyanides Acids - organic or inorganic
Hydrogen peroxide Copper, chromium, iron, most metals, alcohols, acetone, organic materials, aniline, nitromethane, flammable liquids and combustible materials
Hydrogen sulfide Fuming nitric acid and oxidizing gases
Hydrocarbons (butane, propane, benzene, gasoline, turpentine etc.) Fluorine, chlorine, bromine, chromic acid and sodium peroxide
Iodine Acetylene, ammonia and hydrogen
Nitric acid Acetic acid, aniline, chromic acid, hydrocyanic acid, hydrogen sulfide, flammable liquids, flammable gases, copper, brass and any heavy metals
Perchloric acid Acetic anhydride, bismuth and its alloys, alcohol, paper, wood, ether, oils and grease
Phosphorous Oxidizing agents, oxygen, strong bases
Potassium chlorate Sulfuric and other acids
Potassium permanganate Glycerin, ethylene glycol, benzaldehyde and sulfuric acid
Sodium Carbon tetrachloride, carbon dioxide and water
Sodium nitrite Ammonium nitrate and other ammonium salts
Sodium peroxide Ethyl or methyl alcohol, glacial acetic acid, acetic anhydride, benzaldehyde, carbon disulfide, glycerin, ethylene glycol, ethyl acetate, methyl acetate and furfural
Sulfides, inorganic Acids Sulfuric acid Potassium chlorate, potassium perchlorate and potassium permanganate

Special Segregation of Incompatible Chemicals

Table 2 contains examples of dangerously incompatible substances. Per row, the chemicals listed in the left column are dangerously incompatible with chemicals listed in the right column. Per row, chemicals in the left column must be stored away from chemicals in the right column so that accidental mixing will not occur.

Table 2 - Dangerously Incompatible Substances
ChemicalKeep out of Contact with
Chlorine Acetylene
Chromic acid Ethyl alcohol
Oxygen (compressed, liquefied) Propane
Sodium Chloroform and aqueous solutions
Nitrocellulose (wet, dry) Phosphorous
Potassium permanganate Sulfuric acid
Perchloric acid Acetic acid
Sodium chlorate Sulfur in bulk

Table 3 contains examples of incompatible oxidizing agents and reducing agents. Every chemical in the left column is incomptabile with every chemical in the right column. These chemicals must be stored away from one another so that accidental mixing will not occur.

Table 3 - Incompatible Oxidizing Agents and Reducing Agents
Oxidizing AgentsReducing Agents




Chromium trioxide


Halogenating agents

Hydrogen peroxide

Nitric acid









Metal hydrides


Organic Compounds




Laboratory Safety Division
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