How to Dispose of Flammable Liquids in a Lab

Flammable liquids are often used in labs for experiments. However, they can pose a severe risk if not handled properly. A volatile liquid is defined as any chemical that has a flashpoint less than or equal to 100°F. If you have some on your desk and the temperature increases, the chemical will catch fire and cause an explosion!

How to Dispose of Flammable Liquids in a Lab

Not all lab managers know how to dispose of flammable liquids in a lab safely, but it’s essential that you do because one accident could cost someone their life. This blog post will explain proper disposal techniques for flammable liquids in the lab environment. So read to know all the information!

10 Ways on How to Dispose of Flammable Liquids in a Lab:

1. Proper Containment:

The best way to dispose of flammable liquids is not to use them at all. Instead, contain and segregate all flammable liquids and keep combustibles away from them. Don’t overfill containers, and they should not form a meniscus (a convex or concave surface).

2. Neutralize Flammable Liquids:

If you can’t just throw away flammable liquids, you should neutralize them. Mix the liquid with an alkaline substance like sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) or calcium hydroxide (hydrated lime). You can also mix it with dry sand or dirt.

3. Dilute the Substance:

Mixing it with water is not recommended because water will sink to the bottom and some of the material may end up in groundwater. Instead, a better option is mixing flammable liquids with less combustible substances like kerosene, diesel oil, motor oil, or even alcohol.

4. Use a Blotter:

Transfer the flammable liquid to a non-porous, combustible container and burn it in an incinerator. It should be transferred slowly to avoid combustion or explosion in transit. You can also use a blotter that absorbs the liquid and allows it to evaporate slowly.

Use a blotter that absorbs the liquid and allows it to evaporate slowly.

5. Electrolysis:

Add water to the flammable liquid and shake it vigorously until you see tiny bubbles forming at the electrodes, showing that electrolysis is working. If not, add more water or raise the voltage of your power source. You can also use an emulsifying agent like sodium bicarbonate or washing soda to break the surface tension of the water. The hydrogen produced during electrolysis can be used in a fuel cell.

6. Flushing with Carbon Dioxide:

Mixing flammable liquids with dry ice, liquid nitrogen, or carbon dioxide will suppress their flammability while being disposed of by evaporation.

7. Vaporization:

In a fume hood, heat the flammable liquid to around 65 degrees Celsius and use a fan to evaporate it into a gas that is slightly above room temperature. The vapors will then cool down and dissipate below the lower explosive limit. It’s also possible to mix the liquid with a less flammable solvent like kerosene or alcohol to reduce its concentration.

8. Incineration:

A standard incinerator is not the preferred method for disposing of flammable liquids because it can produce significant amounts of smoke and other dangerous pollutants if inhaled in sufficient quantities.

However, burning the liquid in an incinerator with a scrubbing system and activated carbon injection can be an effective method of disposal. This is because the flammable vapor produced during incineration is not released into the air, and the emissions are minimized.

9. Absorption:

Absorb flammable liquids with sawdust or shredded paper and allow them to dry completely. Make sure that no liquid remains before you discard the material as combustible waste.

10. Chemical Oxidation:

Mix the flammable liquid with a potassium permanganate solution and pass an electrical current through them for chemical oxidation. You can also use chlorine or nitric acid as oxidizing agents but be extremely careful when handling these chemicals.

careful when handling these chemicals

Prevention Tips to Avoid Problems With Flammable Liquids

  1. Keep all flammable liquids in approved safety cans.
  2. Maintain a flammable inventory and ensure that it is current.
  3. Do not store flammable liquids in refrigerators or freezers, except when necessary for use during the day.
  4. Keep a class D fire extinguisher within reach of any area where flammable liquids are stored, handled, used, or poured.
  5. Have a designated area for flammable liquids, which should be isolated from heat, ignition sources, and other potential fire hazards.
  6. Keep all storage areas well-lit to reduce the risk of exposure to the vapors of the flammable liquids stored there.
  7. Wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and clothing while handling flammable liquids, such as safety glasses/goggles, nonslip shoes or boots, and flame-retardant (FR) lab coats and gloves.

Precautions and Safety Measures

  1. Use a fume hood for this procedureUse a fume hood for this procedure
  2. Ensure the area around you is clean and free of chemicals and combustibles.
  3. Ensure that all flames, sparks, or electric arcs are extinguished before starting the process.
  4. Be aware that any chemicals involved in this procedure could be dangerous to your health if inhaled or come into contact with skin or eyes and that the chemicals may be carcinogenic.
  5. Be aware that flammable chemicals may spontaneously ignite upon contact with a flame or spark when exposed to the air.
  6. Use extreme caution when working with flammable liquids, as your clothes could catch on fire if they come into contact with fumes from the fluid being evaporated.
  7. Use protective gloves and protective clothing, especially if you are performing this procedure outdoors.
  8. Keep the volume of flammable liquids down to a minimum by using smaller containers or beakers when possible.


The best way to dispose of flammable liquids is by using a flame-resistant container. Use this guide as your reference on how to dispose of flammable liquids in a lab. We have also provided you with some additional resources at the end of this article to help you comply with safety regulations in your lab environment. These are just a few examples, but there are many more ways to ensure everything goes smoothly during disposals!

Always wear appropriate PPE and keep all work areas clean before any experiment begins. It’s essential to take care of things now, so they don’t become problems later on down the road! Remember these simple steps when it comes time for safe disposal practices in your laboratory or research facility. You never know what might happen if you forget one of the steps, so it’s essential to always stay on top of things!

Jennifer Branett
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