Storing chemicals in fume hoods

Why can't I?

One of the things we find frequently when performing lab safety audits is chemicals (and other items) stored in the fume hoods.  While it might be more convenient for you to store them here for your use, it is not a good idea.  Below we list some reasons why, and offer a few alternatives.

(Keep in mind that you may keep items in the fume hood as long as you are working with them).

  • Items stored in the hood interfere with the flow of the fume hood.  This, of course, defeats the purpose of the hood, which is to protect you from harmful chemicals and their vapors
  • Storing containers with open tops in a hood is viewed as treatment of hazardous waste by EPA.  We will be cited for this when we are inspected.
  • Occasionally, the chemicals stored in hoods are incompatible with each other, setting up a possibly dangerous situation.
  • In case there is a spark or electrical malfunction in the hood, flammable or reactive chemicals could cause hazardous reactions in the hood.

What can I do instead?

First, if there are items, such as your experimental apparatus, that has to be in the hood, we suggest elevating it a few inches on a shelf -- this will allow air to flow under the shelf and out of the hood.

However, anything that you are not using should not be stored in the hood.

Here are some alternative suggestions for "stinky" chemicals that you do not want in the lab.

  • Find an alternative for the stinky chemical, if at all possible.  If that fails, then try the next suggestions.
  • Store it in a dedicated, ventilated stockroom.  Several departments on campus have such a room, but not all do.
  • Double- or triple-store your items.  Suggestions include storing the bottle in a paint can, Rubbermaid container, 5-gallon pail, etc.  You can use these in series as well (e.g. Parafilm over bottle/cap, inside a paint can, inside a Rubbermaid container).  This can virtually eliminate the odor at a minimum cost.