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Author: Subject: Starting home lab--need to worry??
NiK
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Starting home lab--need to worry??

So I've been doing a lot of reading on this forum and other sites and it seems to be a pretty common occurrence for the police to show up and investigate why you have glassware/chemicals for your home lab.

I purchased about $165 of equipment/materials from Home Science Tools and then another$45 of primarily materials but a few chemicals such as Lugol's solution and some petroleum ether (only 30ml).

The glassware that I purchased includes a set of Erlenmeyer flasks, a couple boiling flasks, a set of beakers and some test tubes. I also bought a ring stand, alcohol burner, etc. I had previously purchased Robert Bruce Thompson's Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiements; so everything I bought is listed in the book as needed to carry out the high school-level labs.

On the slightly sketchier side I have some ~12M HCl that I obtained from a wholesaler of plumbing supplier that I work for (well as a management trainee for the corporation who owns them) as well as some NaOH that I honestly can't even remember why I bought it, it's just 1lb of Lye drain cleaner...I think I just wanted a strong base to react, but maybe if I don't have a good reason I should get rid of it (I'm recently retaking up chemistry and reading a textbook to become more knowledgeable, I've always had an interest in it; did great in high school chem and took chem 101 in college).

I plan on storing all my chemicals properly (probably in an unused mini fridge) and keeping MSDS on-hand in a binder for all of the chemicals I have.

My question is whether or not I have anything to worry about? Among the other materials I bought are simple things like filter paper, chromatography strips, crucibles/tongs and other small harmless things like that. Do I need to worry about the drug squad knockin' on my door asking what I'm up to? I honestly don't have anything to hide so it would be an interesting experience to say the least, but I would had to have my equipment confiscated. If it helps, I live in Washington state, east of the mountains where it is a little more conservative. My thinking is that I have perfectly sound explanations for why I have everything I have (except the HCl) and am going to be doing my experiments on a small scale, I think the largest flask I bought was 500mL.

If anyone has any comments or advice on my situation I'd love to hear it. Also, I live in an apartment complex do you think there would be an issue with me doing small scale separation and solubility experiments there? The further chapters get into reactions and acid/base chemistry...would those be an issue in an apartment?

-NiK

“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” - William A. Foster
Magpie
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 Quote: Originally posted by NiK So I've been doing a lot of reading on this forum and other sites and it seems to be a pretty common occurrence for the police to show up and investigate why you have glassware/chemicals for your home lab.

I don't agree. I think it is a rare event, and usually based on some provocation or freak accident.

Keep your nose clean, don't do anything illegal, and don't advertise. Chemistry per se is not illegal.

[Edited on 12-11-2013 by Magpie]

The single most important condition for a successful synthesis is good mixing - Nicodem
MrHomeScientist
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This has been talked about over and over again in this subforum. Please do some looking around - I think you'll come to the same conclusion as Magpie. The only reason it seems common is because people don't post about it when they don't get raided.

There is nothing sketchy at all about muriatic acid (pool acid, concrete etchant, etc.) and sodium hydroxide (drain cleaner, soap making, etc.), especially if they are still in their original bottles. Don't be so paranoid that you can't do any experiments, but at the same time be considerate of your apartment neighbors. Avoid making copious amounts of noxious gases that could float through an open window and into a baby's crib.

I practiced home chemistry at an apartment for about a year before moving into my house, and never had any incidents. I limited myself to relatively simple and benign experiments while there.
woelen

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If you find conc. HCl and NaOH sketchy, then you probably have taken the wrong hobby. A decent home lab NEEDS these chemicals and these are really basic chemicals. You soon will find out that you also want H2SO4, and maybe HNO3 if you want to do somewhat more interesting chemistry experiments.

Over the months you will collect more chemicals and you will get used to handling chemicals which you now consider sketchy. The really sketchy ones are the precursors for drugs, which have no other applications. E.g. ephedrine, phenylacetic acid, phenylacetone, alpha-phenylacetoacetonitrile I certainly would not want to have in the lab. Unfortunately, where you live, red phosphorus and to a somewhat lesser extent iodine are also frowned upon, although I consider that a really bad thing, because these chemicals have so many other uses than making meth.

Most important is that you do not cause trouble in or around your house with your experiments. The best way to avoid unwanted attention is to assure that you do not have all kinds of nasty smells around your house and that you do not have bad accidents with fire and smoke, or have big flashes of light. If you experiment on a small scale, then you can do amazingly many things. Even making stuff like Br2, Cl2, fuming HNO3 in small quantities and other similarly corrosive things can be done at home if you get a little bit more experienced and have collected some decent apparatus and glassware.

If you want to start a home lab, then this page on my website may be of help for you:

http://woelen.homescience.net/science/chem/misc/homelab.html

The art of wondering makes life worth living...
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NiK
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 Quote: Originally posted by woelen If you find conc. HCl and NaOH sketchy, then you probably have taken the wrong hobby.

The only reason I say sketchy is because when people think of drain cleaner and "hydrochloric acid" and they don't know anything about chemistry or chemicals they react to it. E.g., I purchased the HCl from the supply house at which I work and my coworker wrote my order up under the PO "Breaking Bad"...I think that illustrates my point of ignorance and misconception. I myself do not find them to be sketchy. As for the wrong hobby, no way I've always had a love for chemistry and I'm finally to the age and maturity level where I can do it responsibly and without a desire to do any stupid (I used to be that kid you hear about in the paper, except I got lucky and the worst I ever got were 2nd, almost 3rd, degree burns on my hand).

Anyways, thanks for all the feedback from everyone; I do think I was probably being a bit paranoid. I see this forum being a great source of knowledge in the future! Thanks again everyone

“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” - William A. Foster
bismuthate
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No need to be scared just never, ever by from an illegitiment dealer and you should be mostly fine. Also there's no problem in being a very young chemist. You should also be hesitant to buy phosphorus or iodine, the D.E.A hates those.

About the ignorance of chemicals: I know some one who thinks that a methoxid is the oxide of meth. Prepare for misiterpretation, I can garuntee that it won't be the last time.

I'm not a liar, I'm just an enthusiastic celebrant of opposite day.
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Fenir
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In AP chemistry, I mentioned the fact I had recently synthesized methyl salicilate. As a result, a girl in front of me turned around and said, "that is not funny, meth is not somthing to joke about." The amazing thing is that AP chemistry supposed to be the best of the best. Chemophobia has already permeated much of society.
elementcollector1
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 Quote: Originally posted by Fenir In AP chemistry, I mentioned the fact I had recently synthesized methyl salicilate. As a result, a girl in front of me turned around and said, "that is not funny, meth is not somthing to joke about." The amazing thing is that AP chemistry supposed to be the best of the best. Chemophobia has already permeated much of society.

"The best of the best"? Hardly. It might be the top tier of high school, but that's not saying much for AP.

Elements Collected:52/87
Latest Acquired: Cl
Next in Line: Ge
Metacelsus
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I completed AP chemistry before high school, and am now taking organic chemistry at a local university. However, I have observed the AP class at my school, just to see what it was like, and, sadly, students only very rarely do anything in the lab, and when they do, the teacher is paranoid about safety, even though the class only works with dilute aqueous solutions. 0.1 M HCl is SO dangerous!

In other words, it's no surprise that AP chemistry doesn't dispel chemophobia. It's almost all theory.

As below, so above.
WGTR
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The AP classes that I was in consisted of piles and piles of homework, and the thought that you were "special". As far as I was
concerned, it meant less time available to spend in my workshop after school. Most of the kids that I was in class with were just
naturally good at taking tests, and that was in spite of the fact that they were stoned half the time. I was so glad to get out of high
school.

bismuthate, the first line in your post really got my attention when I first scanned through it. I had to read the whole
post carefully to gain the proper context.

One thing that I've learned in my short, rather non-illustrious life, is not to let people back you into a corner. If you show up at the
checkout register with a bottle of sulfamic acid, and the clerk asks what you are going to use that for...don't start getting
shifty-eyed, and looking like you're about to make a nuclear bomb. Because she will think that you are about to make a nuclear
bomb. What people think of you matters a lot in this kind of a hobby. If you can clearly communicate your thoughts on a level
that other people can understand, without exuding a lot of false guilt, then they may actually respect you.

I went to a pool supply store once and asked specifically for a particular product, because it contained pure NaBr. Because
people find it odd when you specify things by chemical name, I was asked what I needed it for. I explained that I was interested
in alternative energy, and was trying to synthesize my own fuel from scratch. This guy was really interested in this, so I was then
able to explain the different chemical pathways that I was thinking of exploring using this product. I think he said something like
"Have fun!" when I left. What I said was actually true, but if I had answered the question with "Well, I want to make
bromoform"...that sounds like "chloroform", and it would have left me in an awkward situation of trying to defend myself.

If you can explain your hobby in the context of some social issue that everyone understands, then that's a major step in
lessening people's fear of you.
Magpie
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me: placed 1 lb container of Rooto lye (sodium hydroxide) on counter at check-out of hardware store.

clerk: "Clogged drain or making soap?"

me: "Drain. It really works well to break up grease clogs."

hypothetical wrong response: "I use it as a general purpose reagent in my home laboratory."

clerk: "Yes, it is strong. It dissolved my steel drain grate. But I can't figure out why it doesn't dissolve PVC pipe?"

me: no response. Takes purchase and leaves store.

The single most important condition for a successful synthesis is good mixing - Nicodem
bismuthate
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me: goes to counter with NaOH, Cu(II)SO4 and H2SO4
clerk stares at me in shock

Magpie: Your clerk reminds me of when I thought that acid could dissolve anything.... I was six.

We should have a thread for this type of thing.
EDIT: corrected epic chemical formula fail. (I wrote H2SOH facepalm) Sorry I was tired.
[Edited on 13-11-2013 by bismuthate]

[Edited on 13-11-2013 by bismuthate]

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woelen

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 Quote: Originally posted by bismuthate Cu(SO4)2 and H2SOH
With these two chemicals I also would be shocked and probably I would run for my life

The art of wondering makes life worth living...
Want to wonder? Look at https://woelen.homescience.net
Pyro
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I got a hard time in the paint store about Al2O3, he thought it was pyrotechnics stuff

[Edited on 13-11-2013 by Pyro]

all above information is intellectual property of Pyro.
CO2AtmosphereGuy
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Quote: Originally posted by woelen
 Quote: Originally posted by bismuthate Cu(SO4)2 and H2SOH
With these two chemicals I also would be shocked and probably I would run for my life

For the chemically naive such as myself, why would somebody buying Cu(SO4)2 and H2SOH make you run for your life? Are they explosive when mixed or something?

Edit: To tell you have naive I am, I'm not even sure what those chemical symbols are. I think the first was in copper(II) sulfate, but that's only one SO4 molecule, not two. Sulfate is the closest thing I could find to the second molecule, and that's obviously not it. What should I plug into Wikipedia to find those two molecules?

Edit 2: Never mind, after reading his edit he meant copper(II) sulfate and sulfuric acid. I'm still not sure why the chemicals corrosponding to the origional two symbols (Cu(SO4)2 and H2SOH) are scary, though.

[Edited on 13-11-2013 by CO2AtmosphereGuy]

[Edited on 13-11-2013 by CO2AtmosphereGuy]
Random
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Quote: Originally posted by woelen
 Quote: Originally posted by bismuthate Cu(SO4)2 and H2SOH
With these two chemicals I also would be shocked and probably I would run for my life

Acidic sulphur hydroxide can't be a good thing.
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My number one advice for new amateur chemists is: "Don't talk openly about it." Don't be trying to impress your friends by talking about what you do. Don't try and make illegal crap just for the hell of it.

These days, you can be perfectly legal about what you are doing, and still end up getting wrapped up into a witch-hunt investigation. Keeping a low profile is paramount.

zenosx
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I agree with MMS, I am very careful about who goes into my lab, and those that are made aware are explicitly told to not talk to others, and they know why as you'll read.

On the other hand, my in laws (where I live in an apt upstairs, the lab is about 1/4 of the full basement) have brought everyone from ADT security to plumbers, phone repairmen, AC repairmen etc. into the lab, hard not to do since it's most of one side of the basement.

Note also that I live in the #1 state in the US for meth production (at least lately), that is TN. No one thought anything about the lab. My FiL always told whoever that I was a chem major etc, and no one ever asked questions other than basic stuff. I suppose that my extensive chemicals and glassware selection doesn't look like any meth lab they see in the papers so they move on without a thought.

Just keep it down-low, never make anything illegal and you should be fine. I have been building my lab for almost 4 years now and never had any issues. I have ordered lots from elemental scientific, TONS from ebay, a couple things from nuclear scientific years ago etc...

I also agree with the smells thing,, the #1 thing that busts meth labs in my state are people complaining of a "chemical odor" from next door.

A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?

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APO
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I totally agree with controling "chemical odor", back when I still had my lab, I used bubblers all the time, even inline or in series sometimes. Also lots of fans and good ventilation to prevent build up of odor helps a lot too. Just make sure no one outside can see what you're doing.

However, here are some good things to keep in mind to pipe down any "uninvited" guests, if ya know what I mean...

The main arguement that I got from the authorities that confiscated my lab was that even though the heavy door on my room was always locked and you needed key to get in, they specifically mentioned that all reagents and possibly dangerous equipment should be locked away when not in use. Additionally, keep your lab prestine, or else anyone who sees it that is unfamiliar with amatuer chemistry will immediately become much more suspicious than usual. Finally try not to use "getto" setups, as that further contributes to propagation of suspicion.

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nanobot-dnp
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No you should be more concerned with gang members and drug fiends.

evil twists what is already there
Mr_Magnesium
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The Police know about my lab and they haven't harassed me since, ordered more glassware and they don't really mind (i hope)

If you have a nice tidy lab that is well kept and doesn't have certain precursors in it, you SHOULD be fine.
Atom !
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Hello All .....

Does anyone have any experiance ordering chemicals from asia ? The supplier is aranged but how do i go about doing everything correctly of corse .

Plese tell me how can i check to make sure certain items are not listed as hazardous or restricted in my country or not sutable for home delivery .

I have serched for the list of restricted items here in the UK but this only gives catergorys of such knives porn fake tabbaco and others .

It does not specificaly list any items such as chemicals or at least i have not found that list ...

Such chemicals i need 1.0/1.5kg of each nitrobenzene aluminium oxide propiophenone dichloromethane chlorobenzene allyl bromide hexanoic acid ...

Can anyone see them being a problem or even would alarm bells ring ?

woelen

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If you are in the UK, then why order from Asia? The UK has many superb suppliers with many chemicals for the amateur chemist. Your set of chemicals you mention is not the list of chemicals which I would expect for a starting amateur chemist and I can imagine that some of the chemicals on your wishlist may raise eyebrows. Especially propiophenone is suspicious, it is a precursor to certain drugs (among others ephedrine, phenmetrazine).

What kind of chemistry do you want to do? Not all kinds of chemistry are appreciated.

[Edited on 2-3-14 by woelen]

The art of wondering makes life worth living...
Want to wonder? Look at https://woelen.homescience.net
Atom !
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Hi

[Edited on 2-3-2014 by Atom !]
Chemosynthesis
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I've ordered all sorts of equipment from China, but no chemicals that I am aware of. I know this doesn't help most in the forum that I can tell, but I would recommend hanging a relevant degree of one type or another near your lab. That should assist in assuaging any irrational fears from passersby on your property.
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 Sciencemadness Discussion Board » Non-chemistry » Legal and Societal Issues » Starting home lab--need to worry?? Select A Forum Fundamentals   » Chemistry in General   » Organic Chemistry   » Reagents and Apparatus Acquisition   » Beginnings   » Responsible Practices   » Miscellaneous   » The Wiki Special topics   » Technochemistry   » Energetic Materials   » Biochemistry   » Radiochemistry   » Computational Models and Techniques   » Prepublication Non-chemistry   » Forum Matters   » Legal and Societal Issues   » Test Forum