Consolidating Chemistry Labs

Our lab is consolidating into 2/3 of the space we once had to make room for a new faculty hire starting this fall. That means finding room for all the things that used to fit in much more space. We started by consolidating our inorganic shelves by combining duplicate containers and submitting waste for things we’ll never need.

All of which allowed the opportunity to uncover some really, um, interesting bottles of things.

Talc.  Maybe we’ll refinish our lab counter tops.

Chunk marble.  Seriously.  Quarter sized chunks of marble.  In a labeled bottle.

But the best…..

Oh… 50-75 milliletrs of elemental mercury.  Nice.

Have a great week, everyone.


  1. Gosh 50-75 mL of Hg is nothing compared to the amount that used to be around most labs not that long ago. Thermometers, Manometers and even bubblers used to use Hg before digital and other replacements came along. Most labs had open jars that would collect broken items or spilled Hg and typically had 1 or 2 500 mL bottles of “fresh” Hg on the shelves.

    Having been involved in several lab moves the biggest headache was finding containers that were not labeled well (illegible hand-written Sharpie or faded/obscured vendor label) so had to figure out what it was. Often such items had remained around for years, pushed way back in shelves, because no one wanted to deal with them.

    • You’ve got a good start. Now go to the other labs, add their waste mercury to the pot and sell it to a recycler. We did this back in grad school and had free doughnuts for a couple years of seminars.

  2. I just heard on the radio that the fire department was called on scene to clean up spilled mercury on the sidewalk of a residential area. Living in a town where majority of the people are either lab employees or some kind of support to the labs, it doesn’t sound too out of place, except I wonder how someone got a large quantity of it spilled in a suburbian area.

    Lab cleanup is super fun. I used to work for the feshman chemistry demonstration lab. We used to dig up reagent bottles with labels so old that the company addresses don’t have zipcodes. 🙂

    • We had a similar incident in our city last year.

      Some former student knowingly spilled a 1 gallon container of mercury in front of an engineering firm. The whole city went crazy and immediately blamed the chemistry department. It turns out the mercury actually came from some boathouse (don’t know why) abandoned since the late 1970’s. The kid was apprehended days later when someone noticed he has mercury dripping from his backpack.

      Then I found a $5 bill..

  3. We had a similar situation in our lab.

    I found NaCN 500g and a very crusty looking bottle of Arsenic chloride in the back corner. An unlabeled bottle of mercury, nice.

    A 500 ml RBF of dried ether with Na pieces and the stopper is stuck. So an undergrad proceeded to warm the joint with hot water, which I stopped immediately.

    I suppose everything else placed in one heap ie. oxidizing with reducing agents, flammable etc. Removing lewis acid especially with the original plastic cap all corroded or stuck are alot of fun.

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