Alternatives to Chromic/Sulfuric Acid for Cleaning Laboratory Glassware
Regulations greatly restrict the disposal of chromic/sulfuric acid cleaning solutions due to their heavy metal content and low pH. Other disposal methods are not feasible because of the small amounts generated by laboratory operations.
EH&S encourages the use of substitutes for chromic/sulfuric acid. We recommend that users choose an alternative that:
- Removes desired contaminants from glassware.
- Is safe to handle, i.e., noncorrosive and nonirritating to skin and eyes.
- Does not qualify as a hazardous waste after use due to corrosivity (pH <2, pH >12.5) or heavy metals content.
- Is compatible with the containment device. Many concentrated acids (e.g., 60 percent sulfuric acid) will cause rapid destruction of high density polyethylene (Nalgene®). Check with the manufacturer for chemical resistance information.
Presented here are several commercially available substitutes used successfully on campus. Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) are required for each. Request an SDS from the vendor supplying the material or use the new ChemWatch Database.
When mixing any of the solutions listed below, remember:
- Reactions may give off considerable heat.
- Mix slowly in a fume hood.
- Wear goggles or a face shield.
- Cool solutions completely before capping the container.
Products Available from Primary Source Agreement Vendors:
Fisher Scientific, 999 Veteran’s Memorial Drive, Houston, TX 77038, Phone: (800) 766-7000
Versa-Clean Multipurpose Concentrate®
VWR Scientific Products, P.O. Box 7900, San Francisco, CA, 94120, Phone (800) 932-5000
Additional Product Resources:
If the above products do not meet your needs, the following products may be ordered from the distributors listed below:
Sigma-Aldrich Chemical Co., P.O. Box 14508, St Louis, MO 63178, Phone: (800) 325-3010
International Products Corp., 201 Connecticut Drive, Burlington, NJ 08016, Phone: (609) 386-8770
ESPI, 1050 Benson Way, Ashland, OR 97520, Phone: (800) 638-2581
The following product can be made from common laboratory chemicals.
Sodium Hydroxide (or Potassium Hydroxide)1 in Alcohol
- Gordon and Ford. 1972. The Chemists' Companion: A Handbook of Practical Data, Techniques and References, pp 428-429. John Wiley & Sons.