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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 twelve months.
  • 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.
  • Store reactive materials seperate from corrosives or flammables.
  • Store Nitric acid (reactive and corrosive) separately from other acids and flammables.

Chemical Classifications and Segregation

The Chemical Hygiene Plan for Texas State University provides the segregation and color code program we use to store chemicals in labs.

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




Chemical Compatibity Chart

Below is a chart adapted from NFPA regulations which demonstrates how chemicals should be stored by hazard class. This chart is not complete but it will aid in making decisions about storage. For more complete information please refer to the MSDS for the specific chemical.




Hazard Class

Storage Location

Special Instructions


Grey, Green, Orange


On shelves or in cabinets

Presents no more than moderate hazard in any of categories. For general chemical storage.



Health Hazard

On shelves or in cabinets

Toxic if inhaled, ingested or absorbed through skin. Store in a secure area.




On shelves or in cabinets

Reactive & oxidizing reagents. May react violently with air, water or other substances.  Store away from flammables or combustibles.




In flammable storage cabinet

Store in area segregated for flammable reagents.




Contact Hazard

*In corrosive storage cabinet

May harm skin, eyes, & mucous membranes. Store away from red, yellow, and blue coded reagents.

*Within this storage group you must segregate acids and bases.  In addition, nitric acid is always to be stored alone.

  • Storage location should clearly indicate which group/code is stored in that location.  Each shelf or cabinet should indicate the color.
  • Groups should always be separated by a vertical divider not horizontal divider. (see diagrams below)
  • Each chemical container should be clearly labeled by its storage color.
  • Ideally liquids should be isolated by secondary containment.

Shelf/Cabinet Diagram 1: Correct

G-Grey Storage

B-Blue Storage

Y-Yellow Storage

G-Grey Storage

B-Blue Storage

Y-Yellow Storage

Shelf/Cabinet Diagram 1: Incorrect

W-White Storage

B-Blue Storage

B-Blue Storage

R-Red Storage

Y-Yellow Storage

Y-Yellow Storage

 (from pg 20 Appendix A of the Texas State University-San Marcos Chemical Hygiene Plan)

Chemical Storage System

June 2011
Revised November 2014