Safety Protocols For Handling Sulfuric Acid in Laboratories

sulfuric acid

Safety Protocols For Handling Sulfuric Acid in Laboratories

Posted on the 14th of Sep 2023 by Westlab

Sulfuric acid, a highly corrosive and reactive substance, is one of the most commonly used chemicals in laboratories worldwide. Its importance spans various scientific and industrial applications, such as titration, chemical synthesis, and as an electrolyte in lead-acid batteries. 

However, the very properties that make this acid indispensable also make it dangerous to handle. Mishandling can result in severe burns, respiratory issues, and equipment damage.

Sulfuric Acid is a colorless to slightly yellow, viscous liquid that is odorless and highly corrosive. The sulfuric acid formula is H₂SO₄. It is a strong mineral acid dissociating entirely in water, forming hydrogen and sulfate ions and acting as a powerful dehydrating agent. 

What Are The Uses of Sulfuric Acid In Laboratories?

Sulfuric acid is one of the most versatile chemicals used in laboratories due to its strong acidic and oxidizing properties. 

Here are some of its primary uses in science labs.


It is commonly used in acid-base titrations, a method used to determine the concentration of an unknown solution. The sulfuric acid serves as the titrant that reacts with a base to produce a neutral solution, the equivalence point of which is measured to derive the concentration of the unknown base.

Synthesis Reactions

H2SO4 is frequently used as a catalyst or reagent in organic and inorganic synthesis reactions. For instance, it is used in the production of esters and the dehydration of alcohol.

pH Adjustment

Due to its strong acidic nature, it adjusts the pH levels of various solutions in lab experiments to maintain specific reaction conditions or neutralize essential substances.

Analytical Chemistry

It is used in various analytical chemistry techniques, like spectroscopy and chromatography, as a solvent or to modify the pH of the sample solutions.

Preparation of Other Acids

This acid is used to prepare other acids like hydrochloric and nitric acid by mixing them with their respective salts and then distilling the resulting mixture. Various other Guide to Laboratory Chemicals can be prepared using H2SO4. 

Cleaning Agent

Diluted sulfuric acid bunnings can clean laboratory glassware, though safer alternatives have generally replaced this practice. It is effective in removing residues and scales.


In electrochemical cells used for laboratory demonstrations or experiments, Sulfuric Acid often serves as the electrolyte due to its high ionic conductivity.

Dehydrating Agent

Its hygroscopic nature makes it an excellent dehydrating agent, often used to remove water from organic materials or concentrate solutions.

Sample Digestion

It is commonly used in analytical labs to digest samples for elemental analysis, especially with other strong oxidizing agents.

Given its wide range of applications, sulfuric acid is a laboratory's cornerstone chemical, although its hazardous nature necessitates strict safety protocols during handling and storage. 

Safety Protocol For Handling Sulfuric Acid In Science Labs

Handling this acid in a laboratory setting demands utmost caution due to its highly corrosive and hazardous nature. Following safety guidelines rigorously can minimize risks and ensure a safer work environment.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

One of the most crucial steps in ensuring lab safety is using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) correctly. Wearing safety goggles is non-negotiable to protect your eyes from splashes. 

Chemical-resistant gloves, typically made of nitrile or neoprene, protect your hands from contact with the acid. Additionally, a lab coat shields your body and clothing from accidental spills, while closed-toe shoes protect your feet.


Proper ventilation is crucial when working with H2SO4 because it can release harmful fumes. Always work in a well-ventilated area, ideally under a fume hood, to ensure that any released fumes are effectively exhausted.

Immediate Actions in Case of Contact

Accidental contact with skin, eyes, or clothing should be promptly addressed. The affected area should be flushed with plenty of water immediately, and medical attention should be sought. The idea is to dilute the acid and remove it from the contact area as quickly as possible to minimize harm.

Chemical Mixing Precautions

Mixing sulphuric acid with other chemicals can lead to dangerous reactions, producing harmful fumes or even explosions. Therefore, always consult the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to know the compatibility and reactivity of this acid with other substances you intend to use.

Storage Guidelines

Sulphuric acid should be kept in a cool, dark place, away from direct sunlight and heat sources. The container should be tightly sealed to stop leakage and clearly labeled to avoid confusion with other chemicals. It should also be stored separately from incompatible substances like bases and organic materials.

Dilution and Handling Specifics

When diluting sulphuric acid, always add the acid to water and not vice versa. This procedure minimizes the risk of acid splattering due to the exothermic nature of the dilution process.

Understanding Hazards at Different Concentrations

Different concentrations of sulphuric acid present varying levels of hazard. While concentrated sulfuric acid can cause severe burns upon contact, diluted H2SO4 can still irritate the skin and eyes. Being aware of the concentration you are working with helps you take commensurate precautions.

Sulfuric acid is a crucial lab reagent and a potential hazard if mishandled. The key to safe usage lies in rigorous adherence to safety protocols. Remember, when working with hazardous chemicals like H2SO4, it is better to be overly cautious than to regret an unfortunate event. 

Westlab Australia has a complete range of lab chemicals and other essential equipment. We are one of the leading Laboratory Equipment Suppliers in the region. If you want to order sulphuric acid or any other lab tool, visit our website.

2023-09-14 06:30:00
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