Laboratories in every industry use a variety of chemical reagents throughout the process of testing, analysis, and discovery. There are a virtually limitless number of uses for chemical reagents: In educational settings, reagents are used for the purpose of demonstrating chemical reactions and properties.
In testing facilities, reagents are used to assess materials for resistance to specific chemicals. In organic chemistry, reagents are often used to test for the presence of certain substances within sample materials.
Though most laboratories utilize reagent chemicals in some form, a common question we come across involves the safe storage of these common chemical reagents. At OnePointe Solutions, we specialize in creating custom storage and lab furniture for labs in every industry. Our storage solutions help our customers to safely and effectively store and organize important equipment, tools, chemicals, and so on.
When storing chemical reagents, it is important to do so in such a way that minimizes impurity build-up, and part of this process requires the timely and safe disposal of chemical reagents that have exceeded their shelf life. Keeping reagents beyond their shelf life can impact test results, or may be unsafe to use or handle.
In this guide, we’ll provide an overview of the shelf lives of common chemical reagents, and cover some important considerations when selecting appropriate reagent storage.
Shelf Life vs. Expiration Date
“Shelf life” and “expiration dates” are often used interchangeably, but if you want to get technical, these terms are distinctly different. Shelf life refers specifically to the amount of time a properly sealed and stored reagent will last without degrading in quality.
Expiration Date refers to the amount of time an opened reagent will last before needing to be disposed of. Tracking and adhering to both of these dates can help guarantee the standard of your laboratory’s data, and can help ensure all reagents meet safety and testing standards.
Here is an example of shelf life vs. expiration date in action:
Imagine you acquire an unopened container of acetic acid, which has a shelf life of 3 years. It is currently April 2020, which would mean that our hypothetical reagent will reach the end of its shelf life in April of 2023.
If the container of acetic acid is opened in October of 2021, the reagent will now need to be thrown away in January 2022, just 3 months later, since the expiration date of acetic acid is 3 months. However, if the container is not opened until February 2023, the reagent will need to be disposed of within only 2 months, since it will then have reached the end of its shelf life.
To keep things simple, many labs prefer to distinguish shelf life and expiration dates by using the term “after opening” as an alternative.
Guide to Recommended Chemical Reagent Shelf Life
- Acetic acid: 2 years
- Ammonium hydroxide: 2 years
- Azobisisobutyronitrile: 5 years
- Butylated hydroxytoluene: 3 years
- Carbon disulfide: 3 years
- Ceric ammonium nitrate: 5 years
- Chloroform: 2-3 years
- Chromic acid: 2 years
- Chromium trioxide: 3 years
- Citric acid: 6 months
- Diethyl ether: 2 years
- Dimethylformamide: 2 years
- Dodecylbenzenesulphonic acid: 6 months
- Ethanol: 2 years
- Formaldehyde: 1 year
- Formic acid: 2 years
- Hyamine: 2 years
- Hydrochloric acid: 2 years
- Hydrofluoric acid: 2 years
- Hydrogen peroxide: 2-3 years
- Imidazole: 6 years
- Iodine: 2 years
- Isopropyl alcohol: 3 years
- Nitric acid: 1-3 years
- Perchloric acid: 2 years
- Phosphoric acid: 3 years
- Potassium dichromate: 2 years
- Potassium hydroxide: 2 years
- Potassium permanganate: 2 years
- Silver nitrate: 2 years
- Sodium chloride: 2 years
- Sodium hydroxide: 2 years
- Sulfuric acid: 2 years
- Tetramethylammonium hydroxide: 2 years
Chemical Reagent Storage
Most chemical reagents should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place to maximize shelf life and prevent premature degradation. Room temperature is suitable for the majority of chemical reagents, though some may require specialized storage like refrigeration.
To ensure safe and long-term storage, lab designers should be careful to select appropriate materials that won’t corrode or react to regular chemical exposure. At OnePointe Solutions, we offer tons of storage options that can easily be customized or made modular to perfectly fit the needs of your busy facility.
Our high-quality laboratory casework and storage systems come in a variety of configurations, from tall floor-to-ceiling cabinets to suspended cabinets that provide added storage under workbenches. Our casework is also available in a number of surface materials, each designed to be sturdy and reliable under unique conditions.
Choose from metal and stainless steel cabinets, wood and laminate, or select antimicrobial casework for your BSL-3 or BSL-4 laboratory. Need help determining what kind of casework will be the right fit for your facility?
We offer custom design services that start with an in-person consultation with our design team on-site in your lab. We’ll take a look at your space, analyze your needs, and develop custom 3D renderings and a quote so you’ll feel comfortable moving forward knowing what to expect.
Need Help Figuring Out Proper Storage for Acids in Your Lab?
Give us a call at (866) 222-79494 to speak to our experienced lab designers. They can help you determine what kind of lab equipment is best to store and organize acids in your lab.