Safety guide for conducting chemical reactions at home

How to carry out chemical experiments at home

[Deposit Photos]

Be­fore you start work­ing on chem­i­cal ex­per­i­ments at home, it’s im­por­tant to make sure you ob­serve the nec­es­sary safe­ty mea­sures. You should take care of stor­age of reagents and equip­ment, and the safe­ty of par­tic­i­pants. It’s easy to find the nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion on­line, but you should also read the in­struc­tions for the reagents and equip­ment be­fore­hand.

Let’s look at the list of rules that we should ob­serve when we at­tempt to pre­pare sub­stances at home.

Thor­ough­ly fa­mil­iar­ize your­self with the spec­i­fi­ca­tions of the ob­jects and sub­stances you may need dur­ing the ex­per­i­ment. You should read the in­struc­tions care­ful­ly (many sub­stances may evap­o­rate eas­i­ly), and use them with care, as some­times sub­stances can re­lease poi­sonous va­pors or cause burns to the res­pi­ra­to­ry tract – make sure you know how to store sub­stances prop­er­ly. Some­times prob­lems may arise if stor­age rules are bro­ken. At the very least, the sub­stance will not cause the de­sired ef­fect. The process may be un­pre­dictable and so you can­not an­tic­i­pate the con­se­quences– make sure that all con­tain­ers and de­vices are clean. Even traces of mois­ture may dis­rupt the course of the re­ac­tion. When mix­ing dif­fer­ent types of sub­stances in an ex­per­i­ment, it is im­por­tant to have a fair idea of the ef­fect they will cause – how the process will take place and what the prod­uct of the re­ac­tion will be. You should pre­pare a suit­able con­tain­er for it. You should also think about dis­pos­ing of it af­ter­wards (tak­ing into ac­count the phys­i­cal state and chem­i­cal prop­er­ties of the prod­ucts of re­ac­tions). De­pend­ing on the chem­i­cal and phys­i­cal prop­er­ties of sub­stances, you should take ad­di­tion­al safe­ty pre­cau­tions. For ex­am­ple, if a sub­stance is flammable, even light sources should be moved as far away as pos­si­ble, and pow­ders should be kept away from draughts and sources of me­chan­i­cal im­pact.

[Deposit Photos]

Pre­pare ad­di­tion­al pro­tec­tive equip­ment (gloves, pro­tec­tive glass­es, breath­ing masks). There should be plen­ty of equip­ment avail­able, so that the ex­per­i­ment does not have to be in­ter­rupt­ed at an im­por­tant mo­ment be­cause of un­fore­seen cir­cum­stances.

In any case, even if a sim­ple and safe ex­per­i­ment is planned, you should al­ways have a first-aid kit and nec­es­sary med­i­cal sup­plies at hand.

Read the in­struc­tions care­ful­ly, or even bet­ter watch a video of the ex­per­i­ment. Like this one:

This should help to give a clear idea of the ef­fect you should ex­pect (what the re­sult should be and how it should take place). The re­sult can some­times be un­ex­pect­ed (an ex­plo­sion, a flame), and you should be pre­pared. You should re­mem­ber how sub­stances in­ter­act. It is even worth pay­ing spe­cial at­ten­tion to nu­ances. Some­times you can car­ry out an ex­per­i­ment prop­er­ly, but an un­fore­seen re­ac­tion may take place from us­ing a con­tain­er made of un­suit­able ma­te­ri­al – sub­stances may re­act in­cor­rect­ly, not re­act at all, or form sub­sidiary prod­ucts.

Each stage con­tains a list of prob­lems which may of­ten arise when con­duct­ing the ex­per­i­ment – you should re­mem­ber what to do in this sit­u­a­tion.

[Deposit Photos]

Par­tic­i­pants of the ex­per­i­ment should be in­formed about what as­sis­tance is re­quired from them, so they know in ad­vance what will be re­quired at a cru­cial mo­ment.

Even if this is a home­made so­lu­tion which is com­mon­ly made, you should al­ways in­form oth­ers about safe­ty pre­cau­tions (an il­lus­tra­tive ex­am­ple: ev­ery­one who cooks at home of­ten ob­serves the re­ac­tion of vine­gar with bak­ing soda, but if you want to show this in­ter­est­ing ef­fect to chil­dren, you should warn them be­fore­hand not to taste the mix­ture, and also make sure it doesn’t get in their eyes).

What­ev­er dis­cov­er­ies you are plan­ning to make, at the ini­tial stage you should care­ful­ly fol­low the in­struc­tions and re­peat the ex­per­i­ment pro­ce­dure pre­cise­ly. When adding a sub­stance, even when you know what it will turn into, it is im­por­tant to ob­serve pro­por­tions pre­cise­ly. If you add a large amount of one sub­stance, the re­ac­tion may lead to the for­ma­tion of com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent sub­stances. Here you’ll find lots of safe ex­per­i­ments to car­ry out at home.

Work­ing area

[Deposit Photos]

You shouldn’t have to ask why this as­pect is so im­por­tant for safe­ty. Mak­ing a new sub­stance re­quires suf­fi­cient space, and so ev­ery­thing should be or­ga­nized ac­cord­ing to the fol­low­ing rules:

  • pre­lim­i­nary prepa­ra­tion re­quires clean­ing the ta­ble thor­ough­ly. Re­move un­nec­es­sary items, wipe down sur­faces and dis­pose of any garbage;
  • en­sure you have plen­ty of space. It will be­come clear why this is nec­es­sary as soon as you start the ex­per­i­ment: nec­es­sary items and reagents should be with­in reach, but they should not re­strict your move­ment. Some­times you need to add sub­stances quick­ly, and so you can eas­i­ly tip over things that are placed in­cor­rect­ly;
  • place the ta­ble in the mid­dle of the room, far from draughts and sources of heat and elec­tric­i­ty. If a prod­uct with a caus­tic odor may form, be close to a source of fresh air;
  • think about where the peo­ple who are help­ing you will be;
  • if you're us­ing a de­vice, then make sure you know how it works be­fore­hand. If it uses bat­ter­ies, then it's best to have spares ready.

Rec­om­men­da­tions are sim­ple, but some­times peo­ple for­get about these rules, or sim­ply do not fol­low them. With such a care­less at­ti­tude, even a safe ex­per­i­ment can eas­i­ly lead to in­juries. In any case, chem­i­cal reagents re­quire care­ful han­dling.