I'm reorganizing my garage (I do metalworking and some machining), and now I have an empty white cabinet that I'd like to dedicate to chemical stuff. I'm not a chemist, and I don't have the typical assortment of chemicals that a chem lab would have; the stuff I'm referring to is typical stuff you'd find in a garage: adhesives, lubricants, solvents, paint, etc. (household cleaners are stored elsewhere).

I'd like to organize things by functional groups (like those listed above). Is there a convention/standard for organizing shop chemicals?

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to chemistry.se! If you have questions about how to beautify your posts, have a look at the help center. Do you want to know more about this site, please take the tour. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 6:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The only suggestion for organizing the cabinet would be based on safety. Put things which could potentially react dangerously far apart, would the container leak or break. If this is not the case, than the safety comes from convenient and easy use, so organize at your will. $\endgroup$
    – ssavec
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 6:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ssavec - My knowledge of chemistry is very weak. Of the types of chemicals I mentioned, are there any that stand out as "KEEP THESE APART"? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 7:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @ScottSmith: Out of the things you mentioned I do not see any problem. Household cleaners are separate, as you mentioned. Other problem could be garden chemicals (pesticides, fertilizers). As a dirty guide: If you are not afraid working with it without thick gloves then it is reasonably safe. $\endgroup$
    – ssavec
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 8:49

1 Answer 1


As mentioned in the comments, safety is the main priority. Take particular heed to the warning labels and information on the chemical label - if unsure, look up the chemical details MSDS (or SDS) = (Materials) Safety Data Sheet.

One of the most important thing to do (and is often overlooked) is to keep an inventory of what chemicals you have. The safety data sheets can be obtained from the manufacturers or by looking up the chemical SDS itself, or from general websites such as MSDS.com - an example is this one for mineral turpentine - these contain considerable information about storage, disposal and first aid. (It is always a good idea to have this readily available and updated).

Personal protective gear is a must - gloves, safety glasses etc - usually the label or the SDS will have this information.

According to the document NERC Guidance on Safe Storage of Laboratory Chemicals (2010), has information that is pertinent to a workshop environment. There are 3 main principles in regard to storage of chemicals explained in the document:

  • Segregation, from the article:

The key incompatibles to segregate from each other are strong acids from strong bases and strong oxidisers from organic or flammable materials.

The NERC document has a list in its appendix (too long for this reply)

  • Separation, related to the segregation,

In a laboratory situation adequate separation can be achieved by means of storage cupboards which physically divide incompatible classes of hazardous chemicals. The cupboards may need specific properties or provide separation by means of distance. They will also need to provide secondary containment (eg spill trays or bunded shelves) and security (eg locks / bolted to wall).

  • Ventilation (from personal experience, this one is often overlooked).

Ventilation is often an essential requirement for safe storage of hazardous chemicals. Its main function is to allow dilution and extraction of vapours or gases that may escape / seep out from containers during storage so they no longer present problems from the viewpoint of noxious smell, hazardous personal exposure or creation of an explosive atmosphere.

Also consider an appropriate fire extinguisher, note that water is probably the worst one. Here is an example of a fire extinguisher type guide - this guide suggests that powder based extinguishers may be best (but, make sure you study it and seek advice if unsure).

Some of this may seem 'overkill', but it is better to have some preparedness for if anything goes wrong, than be unpleasantly surprised by it (from personal experience), also, depending on where you are, there could be a legal requirement for a degree of proper storage, handling and protection.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.