Home Chemistry Lab

How to Set Up a Home Chemistry Lab

Studying chemistry usually involves a laboratory setting for experiments and projects. While you could perform experiments on your living room coffee table, it wouldn't be a good idea. A better idea would be to set up your own home chemistry lab. Here's some advice for setting up your own home chemistry lab.

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Define Your Lab Bench

Chemistry Lab
Chemistry Lab. Ryan McVay, Getty Images

In theory, you could do your chemistry experiments anywhere, but if you live with other people you need to let them know which area contains projects which may be toxic or shouldn't be disturbed. There are other considerations, too, such as spill containment, ventilation, access to power and water, and fire safety. Common home locations for a chemistry lab include a garage, a shed, an outdoor grill and table, a bathroom, or a kitchen counter. I work with a fairly benign set of chemicals, so I use the kitchen for my lab. One counter is jokingly referred to as 'the counter of science'. Anything on this counter is considered off-limits by family members. It is a "do not drink" and "do not disturb" location.

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Beaker & Flask
Pyrex Beaker and Erlenmeyer Flask. Siede Preis, Getty Images

You're going to need to make a decision. Are you going to work with chemicals which are deemed reasonably safe? Are you going to work with hazardous chemicals? There is a lot you can do with common household chemicals. Use common sense and adhere to any laws governing chemical use. Do you really need explosive chemicals? ​Heavy metals? Corrosive chemicals? If so, what safeguards will you put in place to protect yourself, your family, and the property from damage?

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Store Your Chemicals

This is the hazard symbol for oxidizing substances.
This is the hazard symbol for oxidizing substances. European Chemicals Bureau

My home chemistry lab only includes common household chemicals, so my storage is pretty simple. I have chemicals in the garage (usually those which are flammable or volatile), under-sink chemicals (cleaners and some corrosive chemicals, locked away from kids and pets), and kitchen chemicals (often used for cooking). If you are working with more traditional chemistry lab chemicals, then I recommend spending the money on a chemical storage cabinet and following storage recommendations listed on the chemicals. Some chemicals should not be stored together. Acids and oxidizers require special storage. Here's a list of chemicals which should be kept separate from each other.

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This is a collection of different types of chemistry glassware containing colored liquids.
This is a collection of different types of chemistry glassware containing colored liquids. Nicholas Rigg, Getty Images

You can order the usual chemistry lab equipment from a scientific supply company that sells to the general public, but many experiments and projects can be conducted using home equipment, like measuring spoons, coffee filters, glass jars, and string.

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Many of the chemicals you might use can be safely cleaned from your kitchen cookware. However, some chemicals pose too great a health risk (e.g., any compound containing mercury). You may wish to maintain a separate stock of glassware, measuring utensils, and cookware for your home lab. Keep safety in mind for clean-up, too. Take care when rinsing chemicals down the drain or when disposing of paper towels or chemicals after your experiment has been completed.