Safety first

Safety first

Although these experiments use materials that are readily available the materials themselves are not necessarily inherently safe. Once these have been mixed with other substances they may produce caustic solutions, evolve heat, or fumes. In every case sufficient care must be taken. This page has some general guidelines, but specific aspects of safety are reflected in the descriptions of the individual experiments.

Under no circumstances should any of the substances used in these reactions be consumed. Always wash your hands after carrying out any experiments. Always use protective equipment. Cotton is best for protecting clothes and skin, but whatever you wear should be non-flammable. It is best to cover bare skin and to wear sensibly (closed) shoes in case of spillage. If you decide you need to use gloves then the best general purpose gloves are those used for washing up.

Whatever else you might decide always use some form of eye protection.


It is tempting to store solutions that have been used for experiments. Only do this if the bottle is properly labelled to indicate the contents and hazards involved. Under no circumstances store solutions in bottles that may be mistaken for drinks bottles. Try to keep materials in their original containers as far as possible.

Flammable liquids

When using flammable liquids in a demonstration, avoid excessive amounts. Only use the smallest amount consistent with the effect you are trying to produce. Ensure that the container in which the flammable liquid is stored is closed prior to activating your source of ignition.

Exothermic reactions and flames

Some of these demonstrations generate heat and light and are quite spectacular. Often these are the more hazardous experiments. Do not leave flames unattended. When using flames ensure that they are stable and will not be knocked over. When using sources of ignition a long lighter or a spint on a stick is a good choice.

When demonstrating an exothermic reaction only use the minimum quantity of material which will demonstrate the effect you wish to show. Also be aware of the vapours that reactions may produce. These will often require a well ventilated space for demonstrations and also the minimum amount of substance or length of reaction sufficient for the effect to be observed.

Hot liquids

Some of these experiments require the use of hot water in the demonstration or to prepare the demonstration. Take care to avoid direct contact with the hot liquids, and to avoid splashing both during preparations and during demonstrations.

Tags: Safety, storage, flames, hazards, risk, flammable, inflammable, heat, protective equipment, gloves, goggles, safety spectacles.