Lab Procedures, Tips & Safety

Lab Safety & Disposal for ChemTalk Experiments

lab safety chemistry

When safety is kept in mind, chemistry experiments in a lab can both a safe and joyous activity, leading to a lifelong passion of learning, science, and exploration. We strongly recommend using gloves, googles and a lab coat whenever toxic or corrosive compounds are used in an experiment, or high heat is involved. These experiments are from the ChemTalk youtube channel.

Elephant Toothpaste Experiemnt

Elephant Toothpaste – Safety

Goggles must be used with this experiment, as the foam can quickly shoot out of the container. This experiment can be performed with 3% or 30% hydrogen peroxide. If 30% hydrogen peroxide is used, we highly recommend using gloves as it can cause mild burns on the skin. It will also turn your skin very white, that is your skin being oxidized. That will usually go away in a few hours of a couple of days. Potassium permanganate is a strong oxidant and should not be mixed with organic substances. Avoid contact with the skin and breathing the dust. You can read our elephant toothpaste article.

Maze-Solving Experiment

Maze-Solving – Safety

Dilute sodium hydroxide solutions and dilute hydrochloric acid solutions are irritating to skin, and can burn the eyes. Dilute solutions are used in the maze, but may need to be prepared from concentrated solutions. Concentrated solutions of NaOH and HCl can burn the skin and eyes. Vapors from concentrated hydrochloric acid are extremely irritating to the eyes, skin and respiratory system.

Prussian Blue Experiment

Prussian Blue – Safety

Soluble compounds of iron, like iron (III) chloride can be toxic when ingested and irritating to skin.

Tin Crystals Experiment

Tin Crystals – Safety

Stannous chloride can irritate the skin and eyes. Dust from tin crystals can be irritating to the skin and lungs.

Tin Crystals – Disposal

Dry your tin element and store it as part of your element collection.

Making Cobalt Ferrocyanide Experiment

Making Cobalt Ferrocyanide – Safety

Cobalt compounds are mildly toxic – use gloves and do not mix the chemicals in kitchen or eating areas.

Making Cobalt Ferrocyanide – Disposal

Wash down the drain with excess water.

Cyanide solves a mystery Experiment

Cyanide solves a mystery – Safety

Ferricyanide compounds should never be mixed with hot or concentrated strong acids, as this could result in generation of hydrogen cyanide, which can be fatal in small quantities.

Hydrochloric acid can cause burns, and the vapors are extremely irritating when breathed in. We recommend pouring concentrated HCl outside or in a fume hood. Wear goggles when using HCl.

Cyanide solves a mystery – Disposal

Acids should be neutralized with sodium bicarbonate.

Magnesium Carbonate Experiment

Magnesium Carbonate – Safety

Oven can get very hot and burn little fingers. This experiment generates intense enjoyment, that can result in further experiments being requested.

Magnesium Carbonate – Disposal

Nothing special.

Reactions of Magnesium Experiment

Reactions of Magnesium – Safety

Compounds of copper, nickel, lead, vanadium and cobalt can be toxic when ingested and irritating to skin. Some nickel compounds are suspected carcinogens. Dust from these compounds, especially nickel, vanadium and lead, should not be inhaled. Effects to exposure to lead can be cumulative and cause anemia and loss of appetite.

Hydrochloric acid can cause burns, and the vapors are extremely irritating when breathed in. We recommend pouring concentrated HCl outside or in a fume hood. Wear goggles when using HCl.

Nitric acid can cause severe burns to the skin and eyes, and is a powerful oxidizing agent. It can cause fire and explosions with combustible materials. Reaction of 68% nitric acid with many metals produces nitrogen dioxide, which is poisonous and should not be inhaled. Handle nitric acid with care. Nitric acid will destroy nitrile gloves within seconds.

Sulfuric acid is an extremely strong acid that can burn the skin and eyes. Adding water to concentrated sulfuric acid can cause violent and dangerous splattering. Handle it with care.

Read more about the element magnesium.

Reactions of Magnesium – Disposal

Acids can be slowly neutralized with sodium bicarbonate. Use caution and googles, as the reaction producing carbon dioxide can be violent and uncontrolled.

Copper from Aluminum Foil Experiment

Copper from Aluminum Foil – Safety

Copper compounds are toxic if taken internally. The dust will irritate mucous membranes. Wear gloves when handling copper compounds.

Copper from Aluminum Foil – Disposal

No special instructions.

Alkali Metal Converter Experiment

Alkali Metal Converter – Safety

This experiment is extremely dangerous and should not be attempted unless you have significant chemical engineering experience. Alkali metals like cesium are extremely reactive and can form peroxide layers that can be explosive, and can explode upon contact with water.

Alkali Metal Converter – Disposal

Alkali metals must be stored in mineral oil, or converted to salts in extremely small quantities at a time due to their extreme reactivity.

Cobalt Molybdate Experiment

Cobalt Molybdate – Safety

Cobalt compounds are mildly toxic – use gloves and do not mix the chemicals in kitchen or eating areas. Read more about the element molybdenum.

Cobalt Molybdate – Disposal

Cobalt molybdate can be dried and stored in a small vial, or thrown in the trash.

Gallium + Aluminum Experiment

Gallium + Aluminum – Safety

When a gallium aluminum alloy is added to water, the water can get quite hot.

Gallium + Aluminum – Disposal

Remaining solutions can be washed down the sink. The gallium is heavier than the aluminum or water and can be recovered by physical separation and reused.

Bismuth Admiration Experiment

Bismuth Admiration – Safety

Warning – collecting beautiful elements like the element bismuth can be addictive, and can lead to a lifelong passion for science and chemistry. Proceed with caution.

Bismuth Admiration – Disposal

Never dispose of your elemental bismuth. Simply pass it on to a young future scientist, or use it to make bismuth crystals.

Photo Credit

Cover image by Debbie Freeman-Griffith. Thank you Debbie!

Further Reading:

What is an acid?

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