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Container for sodium metal

Submitted by sat on 20 March 2019

Organic chemicals may react with plastic containers when stored in them for an extended period of time. It appears that the paraffin oil in your situation may have reacted with the plastic container and/or the sodium has reacted with the oxygen in the headspace of the container, thereby creating a vacuum. Therefore, your original container has been compromised and you will need to repackage your sodium metal.

Sodium metal is highly reactive with water generating flammable hydrogen gas and sufficient heat to cause ignition. It is essential that sodium is stored so that it cannot come into contact with water, including moisture in the atmosphere. Sodium is usually supplied under paraffin oil or under kerosene. It is usually good practice to keep chemicals in the containers in which they are supplied.

Science ASSISTS recommends the following:

Transfer Procedure for establishing a new stock and classroom container of sodium:

References and further reading:

Chem-Supply. 2015. Sodium metal, Safety Data Sheet, Chem-Supply website,

‘Chemical Resistance Reference Guide’, Thermofisher website,

Chemistry Australia and Science Industry Australia. 2008. Code of Practice for Supply Diversion into Illicit Drug Manufacture, Chemistry Australia website,

Science ASSIST. 2018. Chemical Management Handbook for Australian Schools Edition 3, Science ASSIST website,

Science ASSIST. 2016. SOP: Demonstrating the reaction of alkali metals lithium and sodium with water, Science ASSIST website,

‘Storage of Sodium & Phosphorus’, Science ASSIST Q&A, Science ASSIST website, (25 May 2016)

‘Use of Sodium in Schools’, Science ASSIST Q&A, Science ASSIST website, /question/2498/use-sodium-schools (9 October 2014)