Chemical Inventory


Note: this is an internal document I produced to help properly organize the chemicals in my conservation lab for safety and inventory purposes.  In some cases I’ve made extra notes for myself about what the chemical may be used for.  For a few of them, I’m not sure.  Many of these pre-date my time here, as there has been a conservation lab at the Alaska State Museum since 1976.  I am in the process of determining how many of these chemicals to keep, as good lab hygiene suggests not keeping more than is needed.  However, some of these chemicals have been used on collections, and keeping them may help inform future conservation treatments.  There are also many things on this list that I will likely never have again if I get rid of them now.  I’m posting the list for you here to show what kinds of chemicals a typical objects conservation lab might have, and to invite commentary on either my safety decisions or the uses (maybe obsolete?) of these substances.  Please feel free to comment, as it would make the posting more useful.



(Strong acid storage under fume hood)

Sulfuric Acid in 500mL glass reagent bottle, nearly full

Hydrochloric Acid 500mL in glass reagent bottle, nearly full

Nitric Acid 500mL in glass reagent bottle, nearly full in separate secondary container



(Yellow flammables cabinet, plastic tub, middle shelf)

 Ammonium Hydroxide 500mL glass reagent bottle (80% full) NH4OH cleanser, dyemaking, wood stain

Ammonium Hydroxide 4L glass reagent bottle (30% full)

Calcium Hydroxide 1 lb glass jar dry chemical (80% full) CaOH is used to bleach or buffer paper

Calcium Hydroxide saturated solution in small glass jar full

Chloramine T 1/2lb plastic jar (60% full) Chloramine T is N-chloro tosylamide, used as a bleach, disinfectant, and paper fungicide

Potassium hydroxide in a small amber glass bottle Used in arsenic testing

Sodium Hydroxide 5% 1L plastic bottle full NaOH aka caustic soda, soda lye

Sodium Hydroxide pellets 1lb glass jar (80% full)

Sodium Hydroxide in H2O in small glass dropper bottle full

Sodium Hydroxide 10% solution in small glass dropper bottle (80% full)

Sodium Perborate  Dec 1997 in a plastic cool whip tub Mild bleaching solution used in textile conservation?

Trisodium Phosphate (TSP) in water 2%, small glass jar (70% full) Sequestrant, emulsifier , paint remover



(Low cabinet across from fume hood, in a secondary container)

Keep separate from flammable solvents, glycerol, and reducing agents

Carusorb pellets 400g glass bottle full 5 % potassium permanganate on alumina filter for organic gases such as formaldehyde and acetic acids, turns from purple to brown when used.

Iodine crystalline 25g glass jar unopened for spot testing

Iodine, Sublimed 125 g jar unopened in plastic bag for spot testing

Potassium Ferrocyanide 10g small glass jar.  K4Fe(CN)6 Iron and copper spot tests and paper fungicide

Silver nitrate  5g powder in small glass bottle  For chloride testing.  Keep away from ammonium compounds



(Low cabinet below counter, under cabinet one)

Keep away from oxidizing agents

Formic acid sometimes used in electrolytic reduction

Activated Carbon 16oz in a plastic jar, unopened Filtration, odor reduction



(Yellow flammables cabinet, some in plastic tub, middle shelf)

Arsenic H20 in plastic film canister empty

“Badger + arsenic” water in plastic film canister (40% full) Known positive for arsenic testing

Ascorbic Acid, Sodium Molybdate Dihydrate, Potassium Antimony Tartrate, Potassium Pyrosulfate in small plastic jar Spot testing?

Boric Acid powder in 16oz plastic lab wash bottle Insect killer

Dimethyl Sulfoxide DMSO small glass jar full  (CH3)2 SO Dipolar aprotic solvent, penetrates membranes, less toxic than DMF.  Good paint stripper

Dimethylforamide DMF small glass jar (20% full)  Dipolar aprotic solvent.  Universal solvent.  HCON(CH3)2

Diphenylamine 25g glass jar unopened  Diphenylamine is a spot test for cellulose nitrate

Hydrogen sulfide test paper  Spot testing

Manganese Sulfate Monohydrate small plastic jar  Spot test for oil

Potassium Iodide, Lithium Hydroxide monohydrate small plastic jar spot test?

Phenyl Arsene Oxide in plastic bottle approx 60mL (50% full)  for arsenic tests, but better to use a true sample

Roach Prufe 1lb can (50% full) Orthoboric acid H3BO3  Insect killer

Sodium Carbonate, Sodium Sulfide, Ammonium Chloride, Erichrome Dye plastic jar spot test?

Sudan III .5g in 100cc 70% alcohol large glass canning jar now dry powder possible toxin.  Biological stain.  Sudan III is a fat soluble dye used as a test for triglycerides

Sudan III 0.5% in 100cc ethanol in a 30 oz Ragu glass jar (20% full)

Sudan III 25 g glass jar (80% full)

Sulfamic Acid small plastic jar H3NSO3  spot testing

Triton X-100 1 plastic bottle in plastic bag under sink Nonionic surfactant Octylphenoxyl polyethoxyethanol possible teratogen “Suspect Reproductive Hazard”

Xylamon wood worm killer 4.2 fl oz metal bottle (60% full)  Contains Lindane (gamma benzene hexachloride) C6H6Cl6 100x more toxic than DDT and an organic pollutant.  Possible carcinogen.



(Yellow flammables cabinet, top shelf)

Spot testing solutions

Cacotheline C21H21N3O7 solution 0.6% in small glass dropper bottle (80% full) spot test for tin

Cacotheline solution in glass dropper bottle Oct. 2002

Diacetone Alcohol small glass jar (70% full)  Properties of both acetone and ketone

Dithiozone in trichloroethylene .01% in small glass dropper bottle nearly empty

Ethylene glycol small plastic dropper bottle

Hydrochloric Acid 5% in small glass dropper bottle (90% full)

Also here: Adhesives in solvent solutions, mostly in ethanol and acetone solutions.  See adhesives inventory


(Yellow flammables cabinet, second shelf)

Proprietary products

Brasso in two 8 fl oz metal cans (full and half-full) Petroleum distillate, silica, and ammonia.  Causes stress cracking in brass

Ceresin Leather Dressing 1 pint glass bottle (70% full)   Ceresin is a wax similar to paraffin, probably in ethanol.  Used for paper and textile sizing and for leather dressing.

Energine Spot Remover in 8 fl oz metal container with Naptha (80% full)

Incralac in toluene (?) large glass reagent bottle (60% full) Used with Paraloid B-44 and BTA as a lacquer for bronze

Incralac diluted in toluene, small glass flask (30% full)

Loctite Extend Rust Neutralizer 8 fl oz plastic jar mostly full

Polane HS Juneau Turquoise gallon metal can full  Polane is an epoxy paint for Nimbus outdoor sculpture (Epoxy paint)

Polane A exterior catalyst in metal bottle

Preval aerosol spray in a box 3 oz Converts a jar of paint to an aerosol spray

Sodium dodecyl sulfate 100g dry powder in a glass jar July 2010

Wei T’o Solution No 3 30 fl oz glass jar, mostly full EMEC (Ethoxyl magnesium ethylcarbonate) or MMMC (methoxy magnesium methyl carbonate) used as a nonaqueous neutralizing agent for paper.  Avoid with coated, colored, or lignin papers


(Yellow flammables cabinet, third shelf and bottom shelf)



Acetone 16 oz plastic lab washbottle

Acetone 2 oz plastic lab bottle

Acetone 3 4L glass reagent bottles (two full, one almost empty)

Acetone in a large glass dropper bottle  (10% full)

Amyl Acetate, mixed isomers 1pt glass bottle (90% full) Solvent for cellulose nitrate, cellulose acetate, metallic paints.  Was used in AJK Dough (Alvar Jute Kaolin) and BJK Dough (Butvar Jute Kaolin) 

Butyl alcohol 500mL glass jar nearly full

Butanol medium glass jar (30% full) CH3(CH2)2CH2OH aka butyl alcohol solvent for paint, fat, oil, wax.  Stronger than ethanol

CitrisSolve in 150mL glass lab jar full

Ethanol 2 oz plastic lab bottle

Ethanol in medium size glass jar (50% full0

Hexane small glass jar (60% full) Hexane is the major component of ligroin

Isopropyl rubbing alcohol in two 32 oz plastic bottles (70% and 30% full)

Stoddard’s Solvent 4L glass reagent bottle (80% full)

Isopropanol 50% full

Muriatic Acid in large plastic jug weak hydrochloric acid

Punctilious Ethyl Alcohol 190 proof 5 gallon metal can (75% full)

Used Punctilious Ethyl Alcohol 190 proof 5 gallon metal can (20% full) Used to dewater Princess Sophia Camera

Toluene 4L glass reagent bottle (40% full)

Toluene 16oz red plastic lab wash bottle

Varsol 30 fl oz glass jar (80% full) Varsol contains mineral spirits similar to VM&P naphtha or dry-cleaning fluid

Xylenes 4L glass reagent bottle nearly full

Also on shelf: Box with small plastic dropper bottles used for site visits: toluene, Stoddards, xylene, distilled water, acetone, and ethanol. 

Also on bottom shelf: Large red metal safety can, nearly empty, Small red metal safety can labeled  “acetone

Small red metal safety can labeled  “varsol



(Cabinet one, top shelf)

Alizarin Crimson Red solution 0.1%  in glass dropper bottle Oct. 2002 spot test for aluminum

Ammonium acetate 500g amber glass jar dry crystals July 2010

Ammonium citrate dibasic 500g amber glass jar dry crystals July 2010 iron stain removal from certain substrates

Ammonium citrate dibasic 50g plastic bag dry crystals July 2010

Benzotriazole 100g plastic jar (50% full)

Benzotriazole 100g glass jar (50% full)  BTA is a corrosion inhibitor

Cacotheline powder small glass jar (10%full) Cacotheline is a spot test for tin

Calcium Carbonate 1/2lb glass jar (50% full) CaCo3 base, also used to polish metal

Citric Acid Anhydrous 1kg dry crystals in a plastic jar

Copper Sulfate solution 2% w/v 1L plastic bottle full CuSo4 Used as a protein test with NaOH, or as a dye mordant

Ferrous Hexametaphosphate 1kg plastic jar (almost full) NaPO3 Ie Calgon, Graham’s salts: detergent, emulsifier corrosion inhibitor,

Ferrous Sulfate 1lb glass jar (80% full)  FeSO4 Used as a spot test for tin or as a dye mordant

Magnesium Carbonate 500mg glass jar (80% full) MgCO3Magnesium carbonate is used to neutralize paper and to dry clean

Ninhydrin, Monohydrate 5 g jar unopened in plastic bag spot test for ammonia or proteins

Potassium Iodide 25g plastic jar unopened

Potassium Iodide 100g glass jar unopened Iodine and KI are combined as a spot test for starch

Sodium carbonate anhydrous 1kg dry in a plastic jar July 2010

Sodium bicarbonate 3 g dry powder in plastic jar July 2010

Sodium sesquicarbonate 1000g dry powder

Tannic Acid 1 lb glass jar (90% full) Tannic acid is a rust converter, but turns it black

Tannic Acid l lb glass jar (25% full)

Tannic Acid 100g plastic jar unopened

Thymol approx 500g glass jar (70% full) Thymol was commonly used as a fungicide in pastes, but dissolve soil paints and varnish

Versene Fe-3 Flake 1 lb glass jar (50% full) Versene is a chelating agent, possible to remove rust stains? 

Box of spot test papers:

Lead acetate paper

Cuprotesmo paper

Plumbtesmo paper

Quantofix nitrate test

Nickel test paper

Chromium paper

Oil test paper

Silver papers

Alka-Seltzer two packets



(Cabinet two, top shelf)

British Museum Leather Dressing 1pint plastic bottle (50% full) BMLD includes lanolin, oil and beeswax in hexane

British Museum Leather Protector 1 pint plastic bottle (30% full)

British Museum Leather Protector 1 pint plastic bottle full BMLP contains potassium lactate and paranitrophenol

Unidentified Furniture Oil plastic bottle (50% full)

Glycerin, Anhydrous 4fl oz plastic jar (90% full) Glycerin is an emulsifier and plasticizer

Glycerin in a 2 oz glass jar (70% full)

Lanolin, Anhydrous 1 lb plastic jar (80% full)

Lanolin, Anhydrous small glass jar from Harry Race Druggist, Sitka

Mineral Oil 32 fl oz large glass bottle (90% full)

Mineral Oil 32 fl oz large plastic bottle (90% full)

Mohawk Lemon Oil Polish 2 fl oz plastic jar (50% full)

Mohawk Lemon Oil Polish 2 fl oz plastic jar (50% full)

Neutralfat SSS in a glass jelly jar, full

Neutralfat SSS in large lab glass bottle w/ ground glass stopper (50% full) Neutralfat is a stabilized oleine soap

Old English Furniture Polish Lemon oil 8fl oz plastic bottle (90% full)

Saddle Soap, one metal tin Saddle soap is a combo of castile soap and Neat’s Foot oil

Sorbitol 500g glass jar (90% full) Sorbitol is a simple sugar used as an emulsifier or humectant.  More absorbent than glycerol.



(Under counter with sinks)

Igepal Ca-630 8oz in plastic bottle  Non ionic surfactant from Talas July 2010

Orvus Paste 3 plastic jugs 7 ½ lb each  Pure sodium lauryl sulfate.  In hard water or acids, can form scum

Orvus Paste 1 pint plastic jar (30% full) Orvus is an anionic detergent, sodium laurel sulfate?



(Small refrigerator)

EM Quant Nitrate test strips, 2 jars 100 each

EM Quant Arsenic test kits, 2 expired 2000

Contain small glass containers of zinc powder and hydrochloric acid

Enzyme Lipolase in glass jar with plastic bag.  Full.

Fat decomposing enzyme Hydrolysis of triglycerides

Enzyme Alcalase in glass jar with plastic bag.  Full.

Protein stain removal

Enzyme Celluzyme in glass jar with plastic bag.  Full.

Can enhance food stain removal



(Cabinet under fume hood)

Anhydrous Glycerine in 1 gallon plastic jug (80% full) Emulsifier, plasticizer

BoraCare 1 gallon plastic jug solidified (80% full) Disodium Octaborate Tetrahydrate  for totem pole care

Impel Rods in box, only 6 left.   Anhydrous Disodium Octaborate (Na2B8O13) for totem pole care

X-100 Natural Seal 1 gallon plastic can half full? Comes in both paraffinic oil or water based.  Contains UV inhibitors and borates, used for totem pole care



(Cabinet under the sink)

  • 10 Chemsorb Universal sorbents, 16” x 9” grey pads in a clear plastic bag
  • 3M P-110 Chemical sorbent pads 11” x 13” yellow in a yellow box of 50 pads
  • Hazorb chemical spill kit from Lab Safety supply with six small packs, gloves, bags in a white box marked “HAZORB” in blue



5 Responses to Chemical Inventory

  1. Chris Hanson says:

    Great overview of outdoor totem pole care and maintenance! Keep up the great work…

  2. joseph says:

    I have just cleaned a few “antique” tables with varsol
    It worked well but the finish is a bit flat
    Can I polish them with lemon oil?
    Is there another commercially available product to do this job that you can recommend?

  3. ellencarrlee says:

    Hi Joseph, thanks for the question, it gives me an opportunity to clarify that I’ve kept various out-of-favor products in my lab for testng and research purposes, even though we would no longer use them. I’m not a furniture expert (I’m mostly archaeological and ethnographic objects) but I would point you toward the National Park Service Conserve-O-Gram on the subject or the info provided by the Canadian Conservation Institute as a jumping off point.

  4. Katie Mullen says:

    Hi Ellen,

    We’re building a new sotrage facility, which will also include an artifact conservation lab. Our state DOA said, among many other things, “what type of chemicals are likely to be in an artifact lab?” Not being an objects conservator, and know you all usually have a lot more and less innocuous stuff than is in a paper lab, I did some asking around — but I also thought this was incredibly helpful! Thank you for posting! Best, Katie

  5. ellencarrlee says:

    Hi Katie,
    Thanks so much for your comment. I’m especially happy to be helpful in some small way to the Wisconsin Historical Society, as the paper lab there let me do a little volunteer work there when I was an undergrad trying to get into conservation grad school. What comes around goes around!

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