Office of Research

Appendix C

Laboratory Chemical Spill Clean-Up Procedures

1.     Introduction

2.     General Procedures

3.     Spill Kit Information

4.     Spill Clean-Up Reference



The Laboratory Chemical Spill Clean-Up Procedures were developed to give guidance to knowledgeable laboratory personnel on the safe and effective way to clean up small laboratory spills. These procedures do not take the place of the Office of Research Safety (RS). If you have ANY questions or concerns about the spill cleanup process, contact us at 656-0341.


The Laboratory Chemical Spill Clean-Up Procedures were created to give researchers and laboratory personnel a starting point for developing a chemical spill kit and providing guidance for cleaning up chemical spills. Chemical spills and accidents need to be minimized as much as possible. If a chemical spill should occur, a quick response with a stocked chemical spill kit will help minimize potential harm to personnel, equipment and laboratory space. Outlined in Table 2, is the minimal equipment required for a spill kit. You may add equipment to the kit, provided all personnel are proficient in its use. An example would be adding a metallic mercury spill kit. Contact RS for information and guidance in construction of an advanced spill kit.

Note that the majority of chemical spills can be prevented or minimized by: Maintaining a neat and organized work area;

  1. Performing a laboratory procedure review prior to conducting new experimental procedures;
  2. Storing liquid chemicals in secondary containment bins;
  3. Keeping reagent chemical containers sealed or closed at all times, except when removing contents;
  4. Ordering reagent chemicals in plastic or plastic coated glass containers whenever possible;
  5. Using secondary containment to store and move chemicals.
  6. Handling chemicals properly (inside a properly operating chemical hood)
  7. Proper use of Chemical Hoods


General Spill Clean-up Procedures

In the event of a chemical spill, first decide if you are trained, knowledgeable and equipped to handle the incident. Immediately evacuate the lab and notify the University Fire Department (UFD) if there is a possibility of an acute respiratory hazard present or if you need assistance to clean up the spill. Begin alerting all others in the building. If you believe that the hazard cannot be contained within the laboratory and could adversely affect the health/safety of others, activate the fire alarm to evacuate the building.  Never proceed to clean up a spill if you do not know the hazards associated with the chemical; if you are unsure of how to clean up the spill; or if the clean-up requires the use of respiratory equipment, contact the Fire Department. If anyone is injured or contaminated, immediately notify (UFD) and begin decontamination measures or first aid, if trained.

Minor spills do not necessarily need the assistance of RS. However, all spills, regardless of size, must be cleaned up as soon as possible. Laboratory workers who have had the proper training and possess the appropriate equipment can safely and effectively handle the majority of chemical spills that occur in the laboratory. However, spills involving multiple chemicals may pose unexpected hazards. Always contact RS if multiple chemicals are involved in a spill.

If trained and prepared (the proper clean-up materials and PPE are available), except for the chemical classes in Table I, lab personnel can handle spills involving one liter or less of liquid and one pound or less of a solid. If the spill is too large, toxicity or hazards too great, or personnel do not feel that they are properly prepared or do not have proper equipment, contact the HazMat Team at the University Fire Department to assist with the clean up. Refer to the Hazardous Materials Safety Manual or the chemical spill section of the Chemical Hygiene Plan for specific spill clean-up techniques. The following procedures are specific guidelines for using the recommended spill clean-up materials. Contact RS with any questions or concerns about proper spill clean-up practices.

Initial Evaluation:

If it is safe, do the following:

  • Identity the chemical(s) involved.
  • If spill is inside chemical hood, close the sash (DO NOT turn the hood off)
  • Shut down all processes, especially ignition sources
  • Leave the lab and close the door
  • If the amount spilled does not exceed the amounts defined below; is not included in the classes of chemicals that cannot be cleaned up by lab personnel; and does not require a respirator for cleanup; the personnel involved feel that they are appropriately trained/prepared to clean up the spill and have the necessary spill clean-up materials and Personal protective equipment, then you may proceed with the following cleanup procedures:

1.     Exit the Lab.

2.     Post the Lab/Area to prevent others from entering

3.     Contact the Building Security and/or Safety Officer

4.     Consult the SDS and other available information for proper clean up procedures

5.     Don the proper Personal Protective Equipment

6.     Obtain the proper clean-up supplies and equipment

7.     The responder should then control the spread of the spill. This would be done with the appropriate material (i.e., polypropylene pads, sand, vermiculite, etc.)

8.     Check for incompatible chemicals/materials that might be nearby; move these well away from the affected area

9.     Make sure that all forms of local exhaust, i.e. chemical hoods, are operating. It is normally not advisable to open the windows—do not do so without advice from the Fire Dept. or RS.

10.  Next, absorb the free liquid.

11.  Many laboratory accidents involve broken glass. Carefully remove the broken glass with laboratory tongs and place into plastic bucket.

12.  Inspect the area. Carefully check the entire affected area for spill residue or hidden contamination.

Dispose of the gloves as waste. Dry the tools off and place back into the spill kit along with the splash goggles. Replenish all spill clean-up material/PPE used.

14.  Package and label. Place all material including any contaminated PPE, pads, paper towels, etc. into bag. Attach hazardous waste label to all bags, buckets, etc. and contact Hazardous Waste Management at 656-1770 or 633-6357 for disposal.

15.  Fill out Laboratory accident/incident form and send to the University Industrial Hygiene Manager.

16.  Review spill with laboratory personnel. Discuss the cause and possible ways to prevent future occurrences.

Note: Precautions must be taken to minimize exposure to the spilled chemical. Be careful not to step in the spilled material and track it around. Contact RS if an exposure to a chemical occurs.

If the spill is too large for you to handle, involves more than 1L of any liquid material or more than one pound of solid material, involves materials listed in the table below; is a threat to personnel, students or the public; involves radioactive material; involves an infectious agent; or involves a corrosive, highly toxic, or reactive chemical, call for assistance.

Table 1.   Types of Spills that Cannot Be Handled by Laboratory Personnel (these are examples, not an “all inclusive” list of chemical spills that cannot be handled by lab personnel).


Chemical Class


Strong Acids - Any acid that is concentrated enough to fume or emit acid gases

Fuming Sulfuric Acid
Red Nitric Acid
Hydrofluoric Acid
Perchloric Acid

Strong Bases - Any base that is concentrated enough to emit vapors

Ammonium Hydroxide

Poison by Inhalation - Any chemical that readily emits vapors / gases at normal temperature and pressure that are extremely toxic by inhalation

Phosphorous Oxychloride
Titanium Tetrachloride

Highly Reactive - Any chemical that is sensitive to air, water, shock, friction and/or temperature

Dry Picric Acid
Lithium Aluminum hydride
Sodium Borohydride

Sodium azide
Phosphorus Metal
Organic Peroxides


Metallic Mercury
Mercury Salts
Organic Mercury

Extremely Toxic - Any chemical that is readily absorbed through the skin and is extremely toxic at small concentrations

Sodium Cyanide



Table 2: Chemical Spill Kit Minimal Requirements

  • Universal Chemical Absorbent Pads
  • Universal Chemical Absorbent Powder
  • 1 gal. bucket of sand
  • Activated Carbon
  • Acid Neutralizer
  • Caustic Neutralizer
  • Clay Absorbent
  • Sodium bicarbonate
  • Calcium carbonate
  • 5 gal polypropylene container
  • Heavy-duty, leakproof polyethylene bags (minimum 10 gal. capacity)
  • Hazardous Waste Labels
  • Non-sparking dust pan, shovel, and plastic scoop
  • Laboratory tongs
  • pH indicator paper
  • Gloves—multiple pairs and sizes (Silver shield, 15mil, 12” Nitrile, and rubber)
  • Aprons (silvershield and rubber)
  • Lab Coats (Cotton and chemically resistant)
  • Goggles (several pairs; anti-fog)
  • Rubber shoe covers
  • Face shields
  • Chemically resistant coveralls (all sizes)



This table provides a synopsis of clean-up materials recommended for use in cleaning up spills of various chemical types.  This list should be expanded to add any chemicals that are not listed or that require

special procedures.  The Safety Data Sheet  (SDS)  for the particular chemical spilled is a preferable reference and will take precedence over this reference, if different.  


Chemical Spilled                                                     Clean-Up Procedures

Acids, organic 


Apply sodium bicarbonate. Adsorb with spill pillow or vermiculite.

Acids, inorganic 

Acids, inorganic  Apply sodium bicarbonate/Calcium Oxide or sodium carbonate/calcium oxide. Adsorb with spill pillow or vermiculite. NOTE: Hydrofluoric acid is an exception to the general practice, see below

Acid Chlorides 

Do not use water.  Absorb with sand or sodium bicarbonate


Absorb with spill pillow or vermiculite

Aliphatic Amines 

Apply sodium bisulfite. Adsorb with spill pillow or vermiculite

Aromatic Amines 

Absorb with spill pillow or vermiculite.  Avoid skin contact or inhalation

Aromatic Halogenated Amines

Absorb with spill pillow or vermiculite.  Avoid skin contact or inhalation


Absorb with spill pillow or vermiculite.  Neutralize with 10% ceric ammonium nitrate solution

Bases (caustic alkalis)

Neutralize with acid, citric acid, or commercial chemical neutralizers. Absorb with spill pillow or vermiculite

Carbon Disulfide 

Adsorb with spill pillow or vermiculite


Absorb with spill pillow or vermiculite.  Avoid skin contact or inhalation


Cyanides  Cover solids with damp paper towel and push onto dust pan or use a HEPA filter vacuum to collect the solids. Absorb liquids with spill pillow or vermiculite

Halides, organic or inorganic

Apply sodium bicarbonate

Halogenated Hydrocarbons

Absorb with spill pillows or vermiculite

Hydrazine  Avoid organic matter

Apply "slaked lime". Adsorb with spill pillow or vermiculite

Hydrofluoric Acid 

Some pillows contain silicates which are incompatible with hydrofluoric acid. Sodium carbonate or bicarbonate should never be used to clean up HF spills. They will form aerosols with HF that make the cleanup process very dangerous. Powdered or finely granular calcium sulfate (commercial gypsum), calcium carbonate, or calcium hydroxide are the best materials for neutralizing HF spills.

Inorganic Salt Solutions

Apply soda ash

Mercaptans/Organic Sulfides

Neutralize with calcium hypochlorite solution.  Absorb with spill pillow or vermiculite.


Absorb liquids with spill pillows or vermiculite


Pick up particles with a HEPA or ULPA filtered vacuum

Nitro compounds/Organic Nitriles

Absorb with spill pillow or vermiculite.  Avoid skin contact or inhalation

Oxidizing Agents 

Apply sodium bisulfite


Absorb with spill pillow or vermiculite. 

Phosphates, organic and related

Absorb with spill pillow or vermiculite

Reducing Substances

 Absorb with spill pillow or vermiculite



  • Know where the nearest eyewash and safety shower are located. Lab PIs (responsible faculty or assigned supervisors) are responsible for ensuring that emergency drench equipment is flushed routinely as required to ensure that it is operating properly and safely and that everyone is also trained in the use of this equipment.
  • For small spills of most chemicals on the skin, flush immediately under running water for at least 15 minutes), removing any jewelry that might contain residue.  If there is no sign of a burn, wash the area with soap under warm running water. Hydrofluoric acid is an exception, see first aid and spill information for HF—Appendix F
  • If pain returns after the 15-minute flooding, resume flooding the area. When providing assistance to a victim of chemical contamination, use appropriate personal protective equipment.
  • For a chemical splash in the eyes, immediately flush the eyes under running potable water for 15 minutes, holding the eyes open and rotating the eyeballs. This is preferably done at an eyewash fountain with tepid water and properly controlled flow.  Hold the eyelids open and move the eye uptown, and sideways to ensure complete coverage. If no eyewash fountain is available, put the victim on his or her back and gently pour water into the eyes for 15 minutes or until medical personnel arrive.
  • For spills on clothing, immediately remove contaminated clothing, including shoes and jewelry, while standing under running water or the safety shower. When removing shirts or pullover sweaters, be careful not to contaminate the eyes. Cutting off such clothing will help prevent spreading the contamination. To prepare for emergencies, shears (rounded-tip scissors) should be available in the first aid kit to allow safe cutting of contaminated clothing.
  • Consult the SDS to see if any delayed effects should be expected, and keep the SDS with the victim. Have the victim taken Redfern, or if after hours, to Clemson Health Care or the emergency room at Oconee Memorial Hospital or Anderson Memorial Hospital for medical attention. Be sure to inform emergency personnel of the decontamination procedures used prior to their arrival (for example, washing for 15 minutes with water). Be certain that emergency room personnel are told exactly what the victim was contaminated with so they can treat the victim accordingly.


Emergency Numbers : 911

Fire Dept. (656-2242)

Research Safety (656-0341)