The information below reviews how to properly label and safely store chemicals specifically 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 chemicals in containers, storage cabinets, and appliances is important for the following reasons:

  • Communicates hazards to anyone who enters a UVM lab,
  • Prevents accidental misuse of a chemical,
  • Prevents inadvertent mixing of incompatible chemicals,
  • Supports quick decision-making and action during a response to an emergency, and
  • Helps reduce the expense associated with the handling, management, and disposal of "unknown" substances.


Before storing any chemicals in the lab, ensure the labeling is complete.

Manufacturer Containers

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

  • identification of the product,
  • identification of the supplier, and
  • 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:

  1. Date the container was received,
  2. Initials of the PI, supervisor, or responsible party, and
  3. Date the container was opened.

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 a waste stream during later years.

Solutions Made in Lab

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

  • Orange labels identify containers that are filled with hazardous chemicals, such as a 10% hydrochloric acid solution.
  • Green labels identify containers that are 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, and make sure you label everything to avoid solutions becoming unknown.

There are a few 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 if they become contaminated (by drips) or become 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, regardless of what label is used:

  1. Full chemical name(s) (i.e. sodium hydroxide, not NaOH),
  2. Chemical hazard(s) listed (e.g. flammable, corrosive, toxic, reactive (air/water reactive, oxidizer, or time-sensitive). If you need help determining the particular hazards of a chemicals, Section 2 on most SDSs give hazard information.
  3. Date received (or generated), and
  4. Initials of the responsible party: PI, generator, or 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.

Research Samples

Just like manufacturer chemicals and other solutions made in lab, research samples need clear and complete labeling. 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, identical samples can be placed in appropriate secondary containment with a completed orange or green label on the outside of the secondary containment bin. The following information must be on the secondary containment label:

  • Full chemical name(s),
  • Chemical hazard(s),
  • Date received, opened, and/or created, and
  • Initials of the responsible party.

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 UVM or even just the lab.

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

Be careful when choosing longterm secondary containment, even for small samples. For example, oxidizing chemicals, such as nitric acid, react with combustible materials, such as cardboard, and can cause a fire.

Chemical Storage Cabinets

Chemical storage cabinets must be clearly labeled to identify the hazards stored inside. Signage for this purpose is made available, so contact for whatever signs are needed.

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. 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 (PDF) or contact Safety staff to help with proper chemical storage in your lab.

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 be on the front door of lab appliances to avoid any confusion.

Safety staff can create custom laminate labels for specific situations.

High Hazard Areas

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

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.

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



Once containers are appropriately labeled, storage requirements and possible limitations should be the next considerations.

Selecting the Appropriate Container

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.

It take be helpful to take notice of 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.

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


Every chemical container must have a screw top cap that matches the container. If your solution needs a container with a vented cap, there are options for you to purchase.

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.

There are a variety of solutions that may require a vented cap including super acid solutions such as piranha acid and aqua regia.

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. These containers, such as plastic milk containers or water bottles, are often unable 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, for storage, 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 mL of a solution in a 1 G container. This practice takes up valuable space in storage areas.

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

Chemical Segregation

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.

Only alphabetize chemicals AFTER they have already been segregated by hazard.

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. This includes chemicals used for cleaning.
  • Return chemicals to proper storage cabinets and/or areas daily.
Chemical CategoryStorage Consideration
Inorganic AcidsStore in an Acids or Corrosive Cabinet. Use secondary containment to separate from other acids and bases.

Organic Acids

Store in an Acids or Corrosive Cabinet and in secondary containment to separate from other acids and bases. If oxidizing acids are present move them to the flammables cabinet in secondary containment to separate from flammables.
Oxidizing AcidsStore in an Acids or Corrosive Cabinet and in secondary containment to separate from other acids and bases. (Ex: inorganic acids,inorganic bases) Remove all organic material form this cabinet.
Inorganic BasesStore in an Acids or Corrosive Cabinet and in secondary containment to separate from other acids and bases. (Ex: inorganic acids, oxidizing acids)
Flammable and Combustible LiquidsStore in Flammable Cabinet (preferable a metal, commercially manufactured cabinet designed tof storage of flammables)
GasesGas cylinders need to be secured by a chaining or strap half to three quarters of the way up the cylinder to prevent them from falling.
Organic PeroxidesThis material is an organic oxidizer. Store by itself in secondary containment to seperate from other organic and inorganic chemicals.
OxidizersStore in secondary containment to separate from other organic and inorganic chemicals.
Reactive (water, pyrophoric & explosive materials)Due to the varying characteristics of these materials contact the ESF for guidance.
Toxic and Environmentally Hazardous ChemicalsStore in separate Toxics storage area OR in separate secondary containment in the Flammables Storage Cabinet.


Common Storage Questions Answered

  • 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." 
  • Many toxic liquids 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 acidic 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, at a minimum, 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.

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 fully 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.

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 G of flammable liquids stored outside of a UL-listed flammable storage cabinet. Storage within a flammable 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 stricter limitations.  Jeffords building is designed with fire zones that limit storage of flammable liquids to 5 G per lab regardless of flammable storage cabinets. The Discovery building also has specific storage guidelines to follow.

Refrigerators and Freezers

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.  
  • Ultra low freezers (less than -40 degrees Fahrenheit) generally are not approved for flammable materials storage.
  • If a flammable-rated refrigerator or freezer is needed, purchase one that is UL listed, intrinsically safe, and specifically labeled for “flammable materials storage.”
  • Contact laboratory safety vendors to purchase the appropriate refrigerator or freezer based on the research materials you need to store.
  • Explosion proof units are expensive and sometimes unnecessary. Before purchasing a flammable refrigerator, consult with Safety staff about your specific storage needs.

Periodically Review Your Chemical Inventory

Periodic review of your chemicals in storage and routine updates to your lab chemical inventory will help 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).


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