5 Tips for the Hobby Chemist

5 Tips for the Hobby Chemist

Sometimes the third time’s the charm. Outside of high school and college, you will find a number chemistry enthusiasts who are known as “home” or “hobby” chemists, who enjoy chemistry the same way that amateur astronomers enjoy the study of the stars and planets. Setting up your home lab for exciting and challenging experiments takes some work, plus some equipment and elbow grease, but with a few hours work, you can have your very own laboratory!

  • Choose a well vented space, or set up a vent hood over your workspace. You can also construct a charcoal “scrubber” to make sure that any vented odors do not alarm the neighbors.
  • Investing in a sampling pump can keep your work area safe. A sampling pump can detect gases, vapors, dusts, or aerosols and can tell you that there’s a problem before things get out of hand.
  • Be organized. An organized space is a space where fewer things can go wrong, get knocked over, or be improperly stored. Make sure that all your chemicals and equipment are labeled, and that chemicals are stored in the proper conditions.
  • Chemically resistant surfaces. You might not be able to afford a phenolic countertop, but a rubber mat has a surprising amount of chemical resistance. Try ordering the ones used for anti-fatigue mats in warehouses and kitchens, or the ¼ inch thick gym mats. Silicone, neoprene, and other materials are also a good replacement for phenolic surfaces.
  • Storing your chemicals. Mind the ABCs and 123s on this, and keep a solid reference handy when designing your storage areas, and follow it exactly. If you can’t store it safely, do not keep it in your lab.

Above all, discuss with your family that this is a laboratory, and make sure that kids and pets can’t access it. Accidents happen, but having children and animals who do not truly understand risks in your laboratory is not a recipe for happy experiments. The first and best safety equipment you can invest in is a door and a keyed deadbolt lock.

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