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Reagent bottles or storage bottles are containers made from glass, plastic or rarely metal, used for storing chemical reagents.
Storage bottles come in various sizes, the most common being 5 ml, 10 ml, 20 ml, 25 ml, 30 ml, 40 ml, 50 ml, 100 ml, 200 ml, 250 ml, 500 ml, 1000 ml (1 liter), 2000 ml (2 liter), 2500 ml (2.5 liter), 4000 ml (4 l) and 5000 ml (5 liter). Larger bottles exist, but are less commonly used, as they are harder to handle properly. For storing large volumes of liquid, kegs or barrels tend to be more often used, while bags are sometimes employed for bulk solid materials that don't react with paper or plastic materials.
Glass bottles intended for liquids tend to be screwed and present a Teflon (PTFE) seal, while the ones for powders tend to be either glass with plastic lid or ground glass. A relative chemically inert foam plastic is used as sealant for most plastic bottles, though these seals are not as good as PTFE ones and are unsuitable for very corrosive and volatile reagents. For plastic they are both screwed, while metal is rarely screwed due to corrosion issues, though aluminium bottles do exist. Metal bottles tend to have the lid made from a different material, usually plastic (PE).
Some transparent bottles tend to be graduated, like this model, but this is less common with original reagent amber bottles. Plastic containers have no graduations, nor do metal ones. However most bottles have markings for the volume of liquid they're designed to store.
A reagent bottle must resist chemical attack, have a good lid, good mechanical and thermal resistance, should be sturdy and easy to handle. The lid should be made of the same material the bottle is made of (though in case of glass bottles this only works for ground glass) or inert plastic. A sealant, like PTFE is a good choice if volatile or air-sensitive reagent is kept.
Most common type of bottle, comes in two types: transparent and amber. The amber glass bottle is commonly used for storing organic solvents, though mineral acids are also usually stored in such bottles. Transparent bottles tend to be used mostly for non-volatile liquids and light-resistant compounds, like aq. solutions and cleaning solutions. Solvent bottles are always screwed.
Glass bottles used for storing corrosive solids are similar in aspect, though their opening is generally wider and some have a jar-like appearance.
Plastic containers tend to be made of PE or rarely PTFE (mainly for very corrosive reagents) and are generally suited for storing salts or solid reagents with little reactivity, or which do not attack plastic. Thick all-PTFE or all-PE bottles are used for storing hydrofluoric acid.
Plastic containers will turn brittle if exposed to strong sunlight or other UV light source, so it's best to keep them away from light. However, even with limited light exposure, they will slowly degrade in contact with air. Most plastic containers change color and become brittle after at least 10-20 years of use and need to be replaced (except for PTFE).
Apart from gas cylinders, metal containers are rarely used for storing reagents as most tend to corrode it or accelerate the corrosion. Old metal containers were used to store metal powders or non-hygroscopic solids, though this practice has largely being discontinued due to the risk of contamination, especially since most metal containers were made of common steel coated in tin or paint. Metal kegs are sometimes used for shipping and storing large amounts of solvents. Stainless steel containers can be used for storing organic compounds.
Ceramic jars are less commonly used for storing reagents, but are sometimes encountered. Glazed ceramic is almost always preferred. Non-glazed containers cannot be washed properly and therefore cannot be reused without risk of contaminating the new reagent.
Wooden kegs are often used for storing energetic materials, such as black powder or smokeless powder as they offer spark-free conditions. Hygroscopic materials are incompatible with wooden containers.
Round bottom flasks or Schlenk flasks are often used for storing air or water sensitive compounds, when an adequate storage bottle is not available or not suitable.
- Apothecary bottle
- Boston round bottle (aka Winchester bottle)
- Carboy bottle
- Glass stoppered bottle
- Narrow neck reagent bottle
Availability and reusing
Reagent bottles can be purchased online. Some types can be found in pharmacies or medical supply stores.
Hardware stores usually sell various plastic or glass jars for storing food, though some have questionable quality. Metal containers used for storing tea, coffee or even sugar or spices however are almost always of good quality, especially the stainless steel variety. SS coffee tin cans like this model are cheap and offer a good air-tight storage medium and good corrosion resistance, making it suitable for storing various mild corrosive and smelly reagents.
Beekeeing stores will sell many types of amber bottles. The same types can also be found in natural product stores or pharmacies.
Everyday glass, plastic or metal containers such as jars can be used for storing reagents, as long as they don't attack the material the container is made from. Glass with metal caps are unsuitable for storing corrosive chemicals, especially volatile ones, like acids, as the metal lid will rust.
SpecialtyBottle is one good seller, with good quality bottles.
Vitamin and supplement bottles are also a good choice, as they're sturdy, have acceptable chemical resistance and are readily available. Large supplement bottles are ideal for storing bulk chemicals.
Bottles used for storing oil and creams, such as this one are the same model used by some chemical suppliers for storing reagents and as such can be safely used for storing chemicals.
Paint cans are excellent for storing air or water sensitive chemicals, though they are prone to rusting if not properly coated. Just make sure you clean them properly before reuse. All-metal instant coffee cans, like this one are also suitable for storing various reagents, and since they provide a relative effective air seal, they can be used for storing water-sensitive chemicals, such as calcium carbide, though if the lid is improperly opened, it will deform and may not seal properly after repeated uses.
- If you're reusing reagent bottles, make sure you wash and dry them properly, to avoid contaminating the new substance you're adding.
- If you're reusing bottles that have previously stored food, make sure you remove all the previous labels, to avoid confusion.
- A very important safety rule is never storing chemicals in any containers resembling those of food products or medical drugs. If you absolutely must use food, drink or internal medicine bottles, modify them in a such way that they won't be confused for food items or drugs. For example, you may completely remove the label from a bottle and replace it with a clearly legible chemical label with all required warnings such as "Corrosive!" or "Toxic!". Write them in a way that even a child would understand, no hazard diamond mumbo jumbo, only clear words and exclamation marks. The skull and crossbones symbol is good, too: it takes a very unwise mind to think that is pirate rum.
- Bottles from topical or intravenous medicines are, however, safe because the original contents of the bottle aren't intended for swallowing, either, and the container itself usually doesn't look "edible". Bottles from disinfectant ethanol or saline solution are generally good for use in the lab.
- If you want to precisely know the quantity of reagent from a bottle, it's a good idea to weight it empty and write down the weight of the flask, best on the reagent bottle itself. Just make sure the bottle isn't damaged over time, and if possible to weight it periodically, best after it was cleaned up.