Ether Safety
Ether: A Peroxide-Forming Solvent 

Guidance for the management of reactive chemicals

Ethyl Ether

PROPERTIES

Ether is a member of a class of solvents that become shock sensitive when they oxidize to form a concentration of organic peroxides.  Ethers pose a dual hazard: (1) extreme flammability (e.g. flashpoint of ethyl ether is below -30 C) and (2) formation of unstable peroxides which can explode spontaneously or on heating.

IDENTIFYING PROBLEM CONTAINERS

Caution! If ether peroxidation is visibly evident as a viscous layer or crystalline solids in the bottom of the bottle, or as crystals around the cap, then investigate no further and contact the campus Risk Management Officer for assistance.

INVENTORY MANAGEMENT

Purchase ether solvents in quantities so that it will be used up within the semester.  Ether left in opened bottles should be discarded as hazardous waste through the campus Risk Management Officer within six months.

Label containers with the date opened . Discard ether 6 months after opening container.

Store ether in a flammable - liquids storage room or cabinet isolated from oxidizing materials.  Stable temperature is critical to retard peroxide formation.  Refrigeration is neither required nor recommended.

USE

Avoid distillation of ethyl ether.  In cases where distillation is necessary, use a water bath over an electric mantle to safely heat the ether and do not distill to dryness.  Use distilled ether immediately, as it no longer contains additives that inhibit peroxide formation.


University of Wisconsin-River Falls
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