Label and Store

The information below reviews how to properly label and safely store chemicals at UVM. Please be aware that if you have come to UVM from another college or University, these storage and labeling protocols may differ.

Chemicals, whether they are hazardous or non-hazardous, liquid or solid, must be properly labeled and stored at all times. Proper labeling and storage of chemical containers, chemical storage cabinets and appliances is important for the following reasons:
  • labeling communicates hazards to anyone who enters a UVM lab 
  • can prevent accidental misuse of a chemical;
  • can prevent inadvertent mixing of incompatible chemicals;
  • supports quick decision-making and action during an emergency response, and
  • can help reduce the expense associated with the handling, management and disposal of "unknown" substances.


Select The Proper Container

Choose The Correct Label

Segregate and Store Chemicals Properly

Flammable Storage Limits

Periodically Review Your Inventory

Labels and Safety Supply Locations on Campus


 Proper Chemical Labeling & Storage in UVM Labs


Select the Proper Container Material, Cap and Size

Before you begin mixing solutions in your lab, take the time to make sure the chemicals you are mixing are compatible and that the chemicals will also be compatible with the container material.

Notice what container material was used when the chemical was shipped to you. Often this material is the best choice when creating a separate solution of the same material in your lab. For example, if hydrochloric acid comes in a glass container when you order it from Sigma or Fischer-Scientific, perhaps glass is the best choice in which to mix and store your additional stock solutions.  


Does your solution need a container with a vented cap?

For example, if 30% hydrogen peroxide comes in a glass container with a vented cap, then be sure to contain and store solutions in a pressure-relieving container with a vented cap.  This rule of thumb should be used when creating and storing waste in the lab as well.

Solutions that may require a vented cap include:

  • Nitric acid mixtures
  • Pirhana solutions
  • Aqua Regia solutions


Improperly choosing a chemical container can cause the container to degrade, leak, or build up unnecessary pressure, leading to a potential lab injury. 


Do's and Don'ts of Chemical Container Choices

Many factors can affect the chemical resistance of a given plastic product. CP Lab Safety has a chemical compatibility reference chart that helps to explain the compatibility of chemicals stored in different types of plastic containers.

Never use food grade containers to store any chemical. Containers, such as plastic milk containers or water bottles, cannot stand up to chemicals and will degrade quickly.   

Never store corrosive chemicals in metal containers or metal secondary containment bins! Take the time to look at how your chemicals are stored when conducting the required monthly laboratory self-inspection      

Open beakers may be necessary while conducting research during the day. However, when possible, it is safest not to store open beakers in storage cabinets. 

Chemical containers must have screw cap closures that fit the mouth of the container so that vapors are contained and spills can be prevented.  Always hand tighten caps; plastic caps can break easily if overly tightened.

Properly Size Your Chemical Container

Always use a container that is sized appropriately for the amount of material you are using. For example, never store 100 mls of a solution in a 1-gallon container. This practice takes up valuable space in storage areas.

Proper sizing of containers is even more crucial when collecting waste.

Chemicals in Original Manufacturer Containers 

A manufacturer's label is often considered the best chemical label because it has:

  • the product identifier,
  • the supplier identification, and
  • the GHS* pictogram(s) and hazard statements.


Never cover up a manufacturer's label or the hazard information with an orange or green UVM label.

Three (3) pieces of information are required to be added to every stock chemical container in the lab that has a manufacturer's label. They include:

  1. the date the container was received,
  2. initials of the Principal Investigator or responsible party (who is using the chemical), and
  3. the date the container was opened.


Order Only What You Need!

Remember to only order what you need. When you get a "deal" on a case of chemicals that you may not even use, it is not a deal for the environment since these chemicals often end up in the waste stream during later years.

*Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) 

How to Label Solutions You Create In The Lab 

Orange or green labels are available for UVM labs to use when there is no manufacturer's label on a container containing chemicals.

  • orange label identifies a container that is filled with hazardous chemicals, such as a 10% hydrochloric acid solution. 
  • green label identifies a container that is filled with non-hazardous chemicals, such as buffer solutions or DI water.  

A green or orange label should never be used on a container filled with "waste" chemicals. 

Follow these basic labeling guidelines at UVM:

  • Physically inspect ALL labels on lab containers while conducting your required monthly self-inspections. Check that labels are complete.
  • Replace labels as they become contaminated (by drips) or unreadable over time.
  • Complete ALL sections of the label. 


The green and orange labels are designed to simplify chemical labeling in UVM labs. Just fill in the blanks! All chemicals must be labeled wth the following information:

  1. Full chemical name(s) (e.g. sodium hydroxide vs NaOH),
  2. Chemical hazard(s) listed (e.g. flammable, corrosive, toxic, reactive (air reactive / water reactive, oxidizer or time-sensitive). Chemical hazard(s) are listed in section 3 on most Safety Data Sheets.
  3. Date received (and/or date opened), and
  4. Initials of the responsible party: Principal Investigator or actual product user.


Please note that UVM Physical Plant personnel, custodial staff, and emergency response personnel are trained to recognize UVM color-coded labels.

Labels that have no date or are incomplete in any way pose a safety hazard and are out of compliance with UVM's Laboratory Safety Program.
Go here to find Lab Safety Supplies on campus.

Properly Label Research Samples  

Logging sample information in a lab notebook does not provide enough hazard information to Safety staff, waste disposal technicians, Physical Plant staff, or emergency responders.

To make sample labeling easier, place identical samples in appropriate secondary containment and label the outside of the secondary containment bin with a completed orange or green label. The following information must be on the secondary containment label:

  1. Full chemical name(s) 
  2. Chemical hazard(s) 
  3. Date received (and/or date opened), and 
  4. Initials of the responsible party. 


Be careful when choosing secondary containment. For example, organic chemicals, such as nitric acid, react with combustible materials, such as cardboard, and can cause a fire. 

Short-term vs Long-term Storage of Samples

Research samples should be inspected periodically so that they are not forgotten. Purge or transfer the responsibility for samples that will be stored long term or after the researcher leaves the lab or University. 

The Department Chair is responsible for approving archived storage of samples.

Label Chemical Storage Cabinets

Chemical storage cabinets must be clearly labeled to identify the hazards stored inside. Signage for this purpose is made available by Risk Management & Safety.

If multiple, compatible hazards are stored in one chemical cabinet, signage on the outside of the cabinet door must reflect this.  


Incompatible corrosive materials (e.g. organic acids and inorganic acids OR oxidizing acids and organic acids) stored in a metal chemical storage cabinet can cause cabinet hinges or inner cabinet panels to rust due to the mixing of incompatible vapors.

Refer to the chemical storage guide or contact Safety staff to help with proper chemical storage in your lab.


Label Refrigerators and Freezers  

Laboratory appliances, such as refrigerators and freezers, must be labeled with the appropriate hazard signage. 

A "No Food-For Chemical Use Only" sticker should also be on the front door of lab appliances.

Safety staff can create custom laminate labels for specific situations. Never store your lunch or drinks in a laboratory appliance that is used for laboratory chemical storage.

Cold rooms are NEVER to be used for storing cakes, pizza, food or spirits.

Safely Refrigerate Flammable Chemicals

Flammable Storage Guidelines

  • Never store flammable materials in a household appliance (Kenmore, GE, Amana, etc.); explosions, injuries and laboratory fires can result.  Contact laboratory safety vendors to purchase the appropriate refrigerator or freezer based on the research materials you need to store.
  • If a flammable-rated refrigerator or freezer is needed, purchase one that is UL listed, intrinsically safe, and specifically labeled for “flammable materials storage.”  
  • Ultra low freezers (less than -40 degrees Fahrenheit) generally are not approved for flammable materials storage.
  • Explosion proof units are expensive and sometimes unnecessary. Before purchasing a flammable refrigerator, consult with Safety staff about your specific storage needs. 


Flammable Storage Limits

A flammable liquid is defined as having a flashpoint of less than 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) code limits the amount of flammable liquids that can be stored in each laboratory area.

With few exceptions, all campus labs may have no more than 5-gallons of flammable liquids store outside of a UL-listed flammable storage cabinet. Storage within a flammable storage cabinet depends on the specific cabinet, but is generally limited to available shelf space. Please contact Safety staff if you have specific questions regarding the storage of flammable liquids in your lab or building.

Recent building codes apply more strict limitations.  Jeffords Building is designed with fire zones that limit storage of flammable liquids to 5-gallons per lab regardless of flammable storage cabinets. The STEM building will also have specific chemical storage.

Label High Hazard Use Areas In The Laboratory 

It is recommended that a special-use work station be designated in the lab when a high hazard chemical is being used. This is a best recommended practice.

Consider labeling the following areas in your lab: 

  • ethidium bromide or acrylamide work station,
  • hydrofluoric acid or reactive materials work-station, or
  • nano particles use area.

Label special-use work stations so they are clearly visible to anyone who enters the lab, including custodians, Physical Plant staff and emergency responders.  

Email Safety staff  if you would like assistance with creating or labeling high hazard use areas in your lab.



Segregate and Store Chemicals Safely

Hazardous chemicals must be segregated (stored separately) in chemical storage cabinets by chemical hazard when possible. Take time to read each chemical Safety Data Sheet (SDS) to determine the hazard(s) of your chemicals. Hazard information can be found in Section 2 of the SDS.  

segregated chemical storage within a cabinet


The following tools are available to assist UVM lab personnel with proper chemical segregation and storage decisions:





Guidelines for Segregating and Storaging Chemicals

  • Store all hazardous liquids in secondary containment
  • Physically look at chemical containers monthly, as required on the self-inspection checklist. 
  • Hazardous chemicals must be stored at or below eye level so that everyone in the lab can reach them.
  • Chemicals should never be stored underneath a laboratory sink, in the fume hood, or on the lab floor.
  • Return chemicals to proper storage cabinets areas daily. 


Common Storage Questions

  • Solid, non-hazardous salts may be stored in alphabetical order at or below eye level on open laboratory shelves.
  • Solid oxidizers and solid toxics can be stored on open shelves in the lab provided they are stored in separate secondary containment that is clearly labeled "Solid Oxidizers" or "Solid Toxics". This extra labeling effort reminds lab users to be more cautious before use.
  • Many liquid toxics can be stored in flammable cabinets in separate secondary containment.
  • Acids and bases are best stored in separate corrosive cabinets when possible. If this is not possible, separate in one storage cabinet by using secondary containment and clearly label the outside of each secondary containment bin.
  • Inorganic acids are safest when stored away from organic acids. If they must be stored in one corrosives cabinet, use secondary containment bins and clear labeling.
  • Flammable solids should be stored in a flammable materials storage cabinet. 
  • Corrosive solids may be stored on shelves with other non-hazardous salts. Separate acid solids from caustic solids and label clearly.
  • Glacial acetic acid may be stored in a flammable cabinet in its own secondary containment under certain circumstances. 
  • Nitric Acid and other oxidizing acids can react with many different chemicals. Store completely separate when possible or in separate secondary containment.

Be aware that corrosive agents stored in metal cabinets can lead to rust on the cabinet hinges and other metal parts. 

Hazardous liquids must be stored in secondary containment.

A secondary containment bin is a catch basin to contain drips and spills of any chemicals stored inside. A secondary container must be large enough to contain the liquids from the largest container stored inside the bin. 

Secondary containers can help to minimize the damage during an unexpected chemical spill. Use secondary containment to separate incompatible chemicals if they must be stored in the same cabinet. 

Label secondary containment bins so lab users can return chemicals to the proper bins. It is suggested that a list of chemicals be attached to the outside of the secondary containment bin to display all of the chemicals that can safely be stored together in that particular bin. Use the lists shown on the Hazardous Chemicals of Concern (see pages 3-6 of the Chemical Use Planning Form) for such labeling.

Be sure to train all lab workers to understand which chemicals can be safely stored together by discussing safe compatibility of chemicals by hazard class.

Periodically Review Your Chemical Inventory

Periodically review your chemicals in storage and update your lab chemical inventory.  This helps to:

 - Minimize the quantity of chemicals in storage, and 

 - Eliminate duplicate orders.

In the inventory, include a location for each chemical in storage and train lab workers to check the inventory before re-ordering chemicals. 

Be sure to also update your online chemical inventory so that emergency responders know what to expect if they need to respond to an emergency in your lab area(s). 

Need Lab Safety Supplies?










Safety labels, waste tags and lab supplies are available in the following locations on campus. If you find that a specific location is low on a specific item that you need, please email us at:

  • Given - in a box on the table near the mailboxes/mail room
  • Health Sciences Research Facility (HSRF) - in a black metal cabinet on loading dock, 2nd floor
  • Stafford - Mail room on south end of 2nd floor
  • Marsh Life Sciences - biology stockroom in basement;
  • Rubenstein Laboratory - near mailboxes as you enter from loading dock
  • STEM Discovery - 2nd floor stockroom (ask Travis Verrett)
  • Colchester Research Facility - on a shelf inside the mail room on 1st floor
  • Votey - in Room 334 (ask Courtney Giles, CEMS Lab Manager)
  • Jeffords - in each Autoclave Room on 2nd (222) and 3rd floor (316)


Be sure to check out our Chemical Waste Disposal page to find out more about proper collection, labeling and storage of laboratory waste chemicals!

UVM's storage and labeling protocol is required as part of  UVM's Chemical Hygiene Plan and Environmental Management Plan for laboratories.

Many of the best practices recommended below come from the National Research Council's "Prudent Practices in The Laboratory", a book that has served for decades as the standard for chemical laboratory safety practices.  Contact Safety staff if you would like information about this laboratory resource. 

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