Setting up your laboratory

Chemistry home laboratory

Chemistry home laboratory

In some ways, a laboratory is very much like a library; but instead of looking up information, the laboratory worker find out about it for himself. In both places the working conditions are similar. Librarians must catalog books in a library and store them in a neat and orderly fashion. Chemists must label their equipment and chemicals in a laboratory and store them in an equally neat and orderly manner. Silence in a library is essential, so the people using it can concentrate on their work. Chemistry tutors say silence is essential in a laboratory too, so the workers can give their complete attention to their work.

For these reasons, and also for the sake of safety and convenience, you will want to find some special place at home in which to establish your laboratory. It must be reasonably quiet and out of everyone else’s way. It must be well lighted and there must be a sink in the laboratory, or very close by, so you can easily get water. To be completely on the safe side, it should be in a place that the younger children can’t get to easily. Your fascinating collection of apparatus and chemicals may tempt them to try things that might prove dangerous.

Once you have chosen a good location you will need these things:

  1. A large table on which to perform your experiments. You should cover it with a heat- or chemical-proof substance, such as linoleum, glass or tile. If this is not possible, several layers of newspaper, which you must change regularly will do.
  2. Above your work area, there should be one or two shelves on which to keep your chemicals – all, of course, properly labeled and stored, either alphabetically or in groups according to the type of experiment in which you may use them. There is one important exception to this, however. Do not place an acid, such as vinegar, near an alkali, such as ammonia. Enough molecules of each substance can escape even from closed bottles to cause a chemical reaction in the surrounding air. The reaction could contaminate the outside of the bottles and the chemicals nearby.
  3. Your laboratory apparatus will include those items which you can make yourself, a few things you will have to purchase, plus many things you can collect, such as baby-food jars, small plastic bottles and corks of different sizes. Keep all of these in separate places on the shelves, or in drawers or boxes which are clearly labeled.
  4. Be sure to have at least one ceramic or pottery waste container for discarded, used, or unwanted solid chemicals, for broken glass, and for the remains of successful experiments. To get rid of liquid wastes, you must pour them into a sink, with the water constantly running, or put them into a separate metal waste container.

Your laboratory, like your desk, is essentially yours. It should meet your needs and convenience and should suit your methods of working. It is also your responsibility. You must see that the work you do there doesn’t cause danger, inconvenience, or worry to anyone else.

Above are two pictures of students’ laboratories, one in a garage and the other in the corner of a basement playroom. Either one is a good model.

Equipment you will need
Equipment you may find at home or easily buy:

  • aluminium foil
  • aluminium pie cans
  • apron, rubber or plastic
  • asbestos pad
  • candles, large and small
  • cellophane tape
  • cigarette lighter
  • coffee can
  • colorless nail polish
  • construction paper, black
  • copper wire
  • cord or string
  • corks
  • dishpan

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