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Storage and handling of Glacial Acetic Acid

Method C801

  1. Intent
  2. Description
  3. Use
  4. Storage
  5. Spill
  6. Disposal
  7. Hazard
  8. First Aid
  9. Technical

1. Intent

This laboratory technique describes the processes for use, storage, spill resolution and disposal for concentrated glacial acetic acid. The technique also provides information on fire, explosion and hazards as well as first aid treatment.

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2. Product description

Glacial Acetic Acid is a Class 8: Corrosive Substance with a subsidiary risk of a Class 3: Flammable Liquid and has damaging properties as follows:

Glacial acetic acid toxicity information

Inhalation Inhalation of vapour, mist or fumes can cause severe irritation and chemical burns to the respiratory tract. May cause bronchitis, pneumonia and pulmonary oedema.
Ingestion Ingestion of this product will cause burns to the mouth, throat and stomach, resulting in extensive tissue damage and severe pain. Skin Acid is corrosive to skin. Skin contact will cause redness, irritation andsevere burns with resultant tissue destruction.
Eye Corrosive to eyes. Eye contact will cause severe burns. It can cause permanent eye damage and blindness.
Chronic Effects Chronic exposure to liquid, vapour or mist may result in harmful corrosive effects to skin and respiratory system.

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3. Use of glacial acetic acid

3.1 Mandatory PPE

When handling the acid, utilise the following mandatory PPE:

  • Long-sleeved 100% cotton shirt and full-length 100% cotton trousers. For additional protection, a knee-length 100% cotton laboratory coat (with long sleeves which clip at the wrist) can also be worn.
  • Nitrile or super nitrile gloves.
  • Eye protection: either safety glasses, spectacles, goggles or face shield (complying with AS 1337).
  • Enclosed safety shoes (complying with AS 2210).

Fig 1: PPE

Figure 1: Person wearing appropriate PPE

3.2 Precautions

When handling glacial acetic acid:

  • It is advisable to apply a barrier cream to the hands prior to use.
  • Always have at least one other person present in the laboratory.
  • Keep containers closed and in an upright position when not in use.
  • Keep containers away from sources of heat (including hot plates, Bunsen burners, ovens and sunlight) except when heating for testing purposes.
  • Maintain a high level of personal hygiene when using this product, by always washing hands before eating, drinking, smoking or using toilet facilities.
  • It is advisable to apply a moisturiser after washing hands.

3.3 Decanting and dilution

When decanting and diluting glacial acetic acid, the following must be observed:

  • Decanting must be carried out in a fume cupboard (do not inhale vapours).
  • Decanted aliquots can only be stored in reagent bottles, never return decanted aliquots to the supply container.
  • Dispose of unused aliquots in an appropriate manner (see Section 6: Disposal).
  • When diluting, add the acid to water and store the diluted acid solution in a reagent bottle (never add water to the acid).
Glacial Acetic Acid Decanting and Diluting Title Screen

Video transcript

Medium size supply containers of glacial acetic acid are to be stored in a corrosives storage cabinet which must display that it:

  • Conforms to the Australian Standard 3780
  • Highlights the capacity of the internal bund; and
  • Displays the class of the dangerous goods contained within.

Decanting and diluting of glacial acetic acid is to take place in a fume cupboard or a well ventilated area.

  • Using a plastic wash bottle, fill a measuring cylinder to the appropriate level and pour into a dilution beaker. 
  • Pour a small amount of acetic acid from the supply container into a small well labelled beaker. 
  • It is a safe work practice to work with smaller quantities of acid rather than the whole supply container and this will assist in preventing any spillage.
  • Using the beaker filled with acid, pour the required quantity into an appropriately labelled measuring cylinder. 
  • The final step is to pour the glacial acetic acid into the beaker containing the water while constantly stirring. The acid must be poured slowly into the water to reduce the likelihood of any adverse reaction. 
  • If there is any acid remaining in the small beaker, dispose of it using the appropriate disposal method for glacial acetic acid.

In summary, when decanting and diluting glacial acetic acid:

  • Ensure that vapours are not inhaled.
  • Prevent contamination by never returning decanted aliquots to the original supply container.
  • Dispose of unused aliquots in the appropriate manner.
  • Ensure the dilution of glacial acetic acid occurs by adding the acid to water and storing the diluted acid solution in a reagent bottle. NEVER add the water to the acid.

Fig 1: Diluting acid – acid to water

Figure 2: Diluting acid – acid to water

3.4 Labelling

Reagent bottles must be appropriately labelled.

Reagent bottles with capacity larger than 500 mL:

Fig 2: Labelling on reagent bottle >500 mL

Figure 3: Labelling on reagent bottle >500 mL

Labels on reagent bottles require the following information:

  • Product and chemical name.
  • Dangerous goods class (e.g. Class 8: Corrosive Substance, sub-risk Class 3: Flammable Liquid).
  • United Nations (UN 2789) Number.
  • Risk phrases.
  • Safety phrases.
  • First aid procedures.
  • Emergency procedures.
  • Details of manufacturer or importer.
  • Reference to MSDS.
  • Expiry date where provided.

Name of person responsible for preparing any dilution.

Reagent bottles with capacity 500 mL or smaller:

Fig 3: Labelling on reagent bottle <500 mL

Figure 4: Labelling on reagent bottle <500 mL

  • Product and chemical name.
  • Date prepared (for diluted solutions of acid).
  • Expiry Date (where provided).
  • Name of person responsible for preparing any dilution.

3.5 Carrying glacial acetic acid

Glacial acetic acid containers must not be carried by hand. Containers are to be transferred as follows:

Small (<2.5 L) supply containers as well as reagent bottles and beakers must be transferred using a laboratory carrier.
Medium (2.5 L and 5 L) supply containers must be transferred using a bottle carrier.
Large (20 L) supply containers must be transferred using a trolley.

Fig 4: Carrying apparatus for different size

Figure 5: Carrying apparatus for different size

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4. Storage of glacial acetic acid

To prevent injury to personnel, damage to equipment and to meet legislative storage requirements, the acid must be stored as follows:

4.1 Storage general

  • Store in an upright position.
  • Monitor containers for deficiencies such as damage or leaks on a monthly basis.
  • Store in an approved container with appropriate labelling.
  • Keep containers closed when not in use and protected against physical damage.
  • The total maximum quantity of corrosive substances kept in a single storage cabinet or bulk store must not exceed 1000 kg or 1000 L.
  • Never store with food, beverages or food packaging.

Glacial acetic acid can not be stored with any of the following substances:

Class Definition Chemicals included in this class
1 Explosives -
2.1 Flammable Gases -
2.3 Toxic Gases -
3 Flammable Liquids Alcohols
4.2 Spontaneously Combustible
4.3 Dangerous When Wet Substances -
5.1 Oxidising Agents Ammonium Nitrate, Hydrogen Peroxide, Perchloric Acid, Chromic Acid.
5.2 Organic Peroxides -
6 Toxic Substances (Where toxic
substances are cyanides and
corrosives are acids)
7 Radioactive Substances -
9 Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods Lead (metal plate), Magnesium (tooling plate/slab).

4.2 Laboratory storage

For quantities of 5 L or less, store in a bunded corrosive storage cabinet (complying with AS 3780).
Storage cabinets must be located in a well ventilated area away from sources of heat such as hot plates, Bunsen burners, ovens and sunlight.

4.3 Bulk storage

For bulk storage e.g. 20 L, store in a well ventilated, bunded, secure storage area, away from direct sunlight.

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5. Spill resolution

Spills or leaks of glacial acetic acid must be cleaned up immediately.

5.1 Mandatory PPE

Respiratory Equipment eg. Half-Face Filter Respirator Class A1P2 for spills in excess of 100 mL.

  • Long-sleeved 100% cotton shirt and full-length 100% cotton trousers. For additional protection, a knee-length 100% cotton laboratory coat (with long sleeves which clip at the wrist) can also be worn.
  • Nitrile or super nitrile gloves.
  • Eye Protection: either safety glasses, spectacles, goggles or face shield (complying with AS 1337).
  • Enclosed safety shoes (complying with AS 2210).

5.2 Immediate action

  • Stop any leak if safe to do so.
  • Evacuate all unnecessary personnel.
  • Turn off all sources of heat.
  • Keep combustibles away from the immediate area of the spill.
  • Turn off air-conditioning (if possible).
  • Open windows and doors to increase ventilation (if possible).
  • Inform the local water authority and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if contamination of sewers or waterways occurs.
Glacial Acetic Acid Spill Procedures Title Screen

Video transcript

Spills and leaks of glacial acetic acid must be cleaned up immediately. However, before attending to an acetic acid spill, it is important the correct PPE is worn.

For glacial acetic acid spills, this includes: 

  • Enclosed safety shoes which comply with AS2210
  • A knee length 100% cotton laboratory coat with long sleeves that are clipped at the wrist
  • Safety glasses; and 
  • Chemical gloves from the chemical spill containment kit.

If the spill is greater than 100 millilitres, respirator equipment such as a half faced filter respirator class A1P2 must be worn.

Following a spill, you must: 

  • Stop any leak if it’s safe to do so.
  • Evacuate all unnecessary personnel, making sure there are at least 2 people remaining in attendance.
  • Keep combustible materials like plastic, cardboard and paper away from the immediate spill area.
  • If possible, increase ventilation by opening doors and windows.
  • Turn off air conditioning and heat sources like ovens or hot plates; and
  • Gather the spill kit suitable for cleaning up the acid.

If contamination of sewers or waterways occurs, relevant local authorities and EPA must be informed in accordance with local regulations.

With the correct PPE and spill kit, the spill can now be attended to.

  • First use water spray to prevent vapours from entering the atmosphere and cover the spilled glacial acetic acid with a 1:1:1 mixture by weight of sodium carbonate, clay kitty litter and sand. 
  • When this mixture comes into contact with the acid, a reaction will occur. Keep covering with the mixture until all the acid is absorbed. 
  • Scoop the absorbed acid mixture into a bucket and remove it to the fume cupboard. 
  • In the fume cupboard, slow add the acid mixture to a bucket of cold water. 
  • If a reaction continues, add small amounts of sodium carbonate until the reaction is complete. 
  • Wait for the solids to settle. 
  • Pour the water mixture into the sewer with 50 times the volume of water. 
  • If the kitty litter remains floating on the surface of the water, pour the water mixture through a sieve as it is poured down the sewer.
  • Place the remaining solids from the bucket and those captured in the sieve into a plastic bag and seal. Place this bag into general waste. 
  • Ventilate the site of the spillage well and mop the area with water infused with sodium carbonate.

To recap the procedures following a glacial acetic acid spill:

  • Ensure correct PPE is worn.
  • Secure the site.
  • If necessary, notify any relevant authorities.
  • Use the chemical spill kit.
  • Dispose of waste correctly; and
  • Ensure personal safety is maintained at all times.

5.3 Clean up

  • Cover the spill with absorbent material (a 1:1:1 mixture by weight of sodium carbonate, clay kitty litter and sand) until all the fluid has been absorbed.
    Scoop the contaminated absorbed material into a beaker or pail.
  • In a fume cupboard, slowly add the contaminated absorbed material into a pail of cold water while stirring.
  • Continue until the reaction ceases (effervescence stops). Confirm neutralisation (pH range 6-10) using pH paper.
  • When solids have settled, decant liquid into a drain with 20 times its volume of water.
  • Place the solid residue (including precipitate, kitty litter and sand) in a sealed plastic bag for disposal (see Section 6: Disposal).
  • Ventilate the spill site to evaporate any remaining liquid and dispel vapour.
  • Mop the spill site floor with water infused with sodium carbonate.

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6. Disposal

6.1 Pre-Treatment

  • Neutralise empty glacial acetic acid containers and unused aliquots using a solution of 10% sodium carbonate and 90% water. For containers add the solution until the container is approximately 25% filled.
  • Agitate or stir the contents of the container. For containers with lids, this is best achieved by securely replacing the lid and shaking its contents.
  • Continue adding additional solution until the reaction between the acid and the sodium carbonate has reached completion (effervescence stops).
  • Labels on empty supply containers must be removed or fully obliterated.

6.2 Disposal method

The neutralised solution, containers and contaminated absorbent material can be disposed of as follows:

  • The washings obtained from containers can be washed down the sewer using 20 parts of water to 1 part of the washings.
  • Supply containers can be placed in general waste.
  • Reagent bottles and other laboratory containers such as beakers, should be further rinsed with water, dried and stored for re-use.
  • Contaminated absorbent material (in a sealed plastic bag) can be disposed of in general waste.
Glacial Acetic Acid Disposal Procedures Title Screen

Video transcript

The correct disposal of glacial acetic acid is imperative in maintaining a safe working environment.

Small quantities of glacial acetic acid may be left over when working with quantities in the decanting and diluting process or at the end of a supply container or reagent bottle.

To ensure that any leftover solution is disposed of correctly, the beakers, reagent bottles or supply containers need to be neutralised using:

10% sodium carbonate and 90% water

  • Pour the neutralising solution into the leftover solution using a funnel.
  • Shake the bottle to mix the neutralising solution and leftover glacial acetic acid.
  • Following the addition of the neutralising solution, place the solution into a beaker to test the pH level. The solution’s pH should be in the range of 6-10.
  • If it is not, continue to adjust the pH of the solution until the pH required range is met.
  • Once the solution is within the required range, wash down the sewer using twenty parts of water to one part of the neutralised solution.
  • Finally, make sure any labels are removed or blanked out and place the container into general waste.

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7. Fire and explosion hazard information

In case of fire with glacial acetic acid present:

  • Suitable Extinguishing Media: Extinguish fire with foam, dry chemical powder, carbon dioxide, water fog or water spray.
  • Hazards from Combustion Products: Combustion products include carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.
  • Specific Hazards: Flammable liquid. Vapour/air mixtures may ignite explosively. Vapours are heavier than air and may travel long distances to an ignition source and flash back. Heating can cause expansion or decomposition leading to violent rupture of containers.

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8. First aid procedures

In the case of exposure to glacial acetic acid:

  • Inhalation: Remove the source of contamination or move the victim to fresh air - avoid becoming a casualty. Ensure airways are clear and have a qualified person give oxygen through a face mask if breathing is difficult. Seek medical attention.
  • Ingestion: Do NOT induce vomiting. Wash out mouth with large amounts of water. Seek immediate medical attention.
  • Skin: Wash affected area thoroughly with soap and water. Remove contaminated clothing and wash before re-use or discard. Seek medical attention.
  • Eye: If in contact with the eye(s), hold eyelids apart and flush the eye continuously with running water. Take care not to rinse contaminated water into the non-affected eye. Continue flushing for at least 15 minutes. Seek medical attention immediately.
  • First Aid Facilities Required: Eye wash station, safety shower and normal washroom facilities.
  • Advice to Doctor: Treat symptomatically. For advice call Poisons Information Centre below.

Emergency contacts

  • Poisons Information Centre: 131 126
  • Australian Emergency Services: 000

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9. Technical information

Glacial acetic acid chemical and physical information

Molecular Formula C2H4O2
Appearance Colourless liquid, with a very strong, sharp vinegar odour.
Melting Point 16.5 °C
Boiling Point 118.1 °C
Solubility in Water Soluble in all proportions.
Specific Gravity 1.05
Flash Point 39 °C
Stability Stable under recommended storage conditions.
Incompatible Materials Incompatible with most metals, may produce hydrogen.
Hazardous Decomposition Products Carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.
Hazardous Polymerisation
Will not occur.
Hazardous Reactions May violently react with amines, strong alkalis and strong oxidising agents such as hydrogen peroxide, nitric acid,
perchloric acid or chromium trioxide.

The following controls are used by TMR to minimise risks when handling glacial acetic acid:

Current Transport and Main Roads controls

Engineering Controls / Ventilation Fume cupboard complying with AS 1807 and AS 2243.
Safe Work Procedures As per this technique/MSDS.
First Aid Facilities Eyewash station, safety shower, and normal washroom facilities.
Spill Procedures Refer to Sections 5.2 and 5.3.
Waste Disposal Procedures Refer to Section 6.2.
Fire/Explosion Hazard Refer to Section 7.
Administrative Controls -
PPE Refer to Section 5.1.
Emergency Procedures Phone 1800 638 556.
Training Provided Assessed element of competency.
Previous Monitoring Results
Storage & Handling Requirements Corrosive storage cabinet complying with AS 3780, bulk store complying with this technique.
Monitoring Required
Health Surveillance Required

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Last updated
03 June 2013