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Chemical Storage

Proper chemical storage is as important to safety as proper chemical handling. Often, seemingly logical storage ideas, such as placing chemicals in alphabetical order, may cause incompatible chemicals to be stored together.

General Guidelines

Follow these guidelines for safe chemical storage:

  • Read chemical labels and MSDSs for specific storage instructions.
  • Store chemicals in a well-ventilated area; however, do not store chemicals in a fume hood.
  • Maintain an inventory of all chemicals in storage.
  • Return chemical containers to their proper storage location after use.
  • Store glass chemical containers so that they are unlikely to be broken.
  • Store all hazardous chemicals below eye level.
  • Never store hazardous chemicals in a public area or corridor.

Separating Hazardous Chemicals

In addition to the guidelines above, there are storage requirements for separating hazardous chemicals. Because an alphabetical storage system may place incompatible chemicals next to each other, group chemicals according to their hazard category (i.e., acids, bases, flammables, etc.).

Follow these guidelines to ensure that hazardous chemicals are stored safely:

  • Separate acids from bases. Store these chemicals near floor level.
  • Isolate perchloric acid from organic materials. Do not store perchloric acid on a wooden shelf.
  • Separate highly toxic chemicals and carcinogens from all other chemicals. This storage location should have a warning label and should be locked.
  • Separate acids from flammables.
  • Do not keep peroxide-forming chemicals longer than the expiration date.
  • Do not allow picric acid to dry out.
  • If flammables need to be chilled, store them in a laboratory-safe refrigerator, not in a standard refrigerator.
  • Flammables should be stored in a flammable storage cabinet.
The following table provides examples of incompatible chemicals:



Acetic acid

Chromic acid, nitric acid, hydroxyl compounds, ethylene glycol, perchloric acid, peroxides, permanganates


Chlorine, bromine, copper, fluorine, silver, mercury


Concentrated nitric and sulfuric acid mixtures

Alkali metals

Water, carbon tetrachloride or other chlorinated hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide, halogens


Mercury, chlorine, calcium hypochlorite, iodine, bromine, hydrofluoric acid


Ammonium salts, acids, powdered metals, sulfur, finely divided organic or combustible materials


Ammonia, acetylene, butadiene, butane, methane, propane (or other petroleum gases), hydrogen, sodium carbide, benzene, finely divided metals, turpentine




Most other chemicals


Sulfuric acid


Oils, grease, hydrogen, flammable liquids, solids, or gases

Perchloric acid

Acetic anhydride, bismuth and its alloys, alcohol, paper, wood, grease, oils,


Carbon tetrachloride, carbon dioxide, water



19. Shipping/Receiving Chemicals

The U.S. Department of Transportation regulates the shipment of hazardous materials. Anyone who packages, receives, unpacks, signs for, or transports hazardous chemicals must be trained and certified in Hazardous Materials Transportation. Warehouse personnel, shipping and receiving clerks, truck drivers, and other employees who pack or unpack hazardous materials must receive this training. Contact your Safety Officer for more information on shipping or receiving hazardous chemicals.