I bought some very nice heavy leather boots when I was working in a solid state synthesis lab, mainly with selenium and sulfur compounds, a few years back. I probably did spill small quantities of some very basic/acidic solutions with some selenium/selenate content on them a few times.

I don't work in a synthetic lab anymore, but I wore them again this weekend. It feels strange though, perhaps just from ingrained lab safety habits, to touch my face after putting them on etc. My gut feeling is that a) rain has washed away anything which was on them b) most chemists I knew as a research student wore their normal day shoes in the lab, so it should be fine. But what are the standard safety rules on this? Is it generally okay to wear the same shoes in the lab and in daily life?

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    $\begingroup$ Frankly I'd bee more worried about biological contamination from handling my belt. You can't really wash your hands until after you pull up your pants... $\endgroup$
    – MaxW
    Apr 4, 2017 at 21:26
  • $\begingroup$ Mostly it won't matter unless you are handling very nasty or smelly compounds (and are a bit messy in your lab technique). $\endgroup$
    – matt_black
    Apr 7, 2017 at 0:19

2 Answers 2


Standard safety rules (from a pharma and semiconductor processing POV):

To follow industrial hygiene practice absolutely to the letter, you should have dedicated outer layer garments that remain in a quarantined area that would not pose a gross cross contamination risk to other things that cannot be controlled for exposure risk. This means that you should not have been able to take those boots home with you after you wore them in the lab even one time. I do not think any company enforces such a rule, in fact, it is the employer's responsibility to provide PPE to workers and the worker's responsibility to use and maintain PPE (if applicable.) If the risk of cross contamination was assessed and determined to be moderate or higher, you should have been provided shoe covers at your solid state systems lab or dedicated work shoes that had to be kept in a quarantined area.

At the lab bench level, it is my experience that people wear their daily shoes unless you work at a larger site that has a safety shoe/shoe covering policy.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for this excellent answer; this addresses my concerns. I think it's hard for me to put into perspective without this sort of info, as my lab had a typically relaxed "academic" attitude towards safety policies. $\endgroup$
    – J. LS
    Apr 6, 2017 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ You're welcome! I should note that my statements about employer responsibilities is true in most cases in the US. I can't assume you're from the US so your organization may not have been negligent if they didn't follow this program I am describing; even in the US R&D facilities either have exemptions to some safety and environmental rules or are too small to be within the scope of industry guidelines. But I digress... $\endgroup$
    – J. Ari
    Apr 7, 2017 at 12:13

I think it's not a good idea to carry them home if you were handling dangerous chemicals, this could pose a great danger to you if you get to consume them. some chemicals like Pb undergo bio accumulation and can not only affect you but also the entire ecosystem in your vicinity. so companies should take care of their employees by providing safety clothing in their areas of work only


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