12

Now that coffee cans, and even larger glass bottles, are becoming hard to find, my workshop's pile of containers is mostly plastic. This has me wondering/worrying about which plastics might be dissolved by (or contaminate) which common woodworking solvents.

I presume that all of them are safe for alcohol and, of course, water. But I'm less sure about paint thinner, lacquer thinner, mineral spirits, the various oil-based paints and varnishes.

I know I've seen Styrofoam melt when exposed to nothing more than lemon juice. I don't know whether that means I should avoid polystyrene generally.

Any advice?

  • 3
    Since polystyrene has the structural soundness of...well...a styrofoam cup, I'd avoid it for shop use just on principle. If you need a container for temporarily holding stuff, pickle jars are pretty common (or pasta sauce, or baby food, or just about 1/4 of my grocery store's shelves). – grfrazee Oct 1 '15 at 14:15
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    Also, my dad is an organic chemist - does that count? :-) – grfrazee Oct 1 '15 at 14:40
17

A quick google search found me this website, which has a nifty compatibility chart that I've attached below.

compatibility

Cole-Parmer has a very comprehensive compatibility chart for many solvents (organic or otherwise).

For some common solvents, I've summarized some info from Cole-Parmer:

  • Turpentine is no good for ABS plastic, brass, EPDM, LDPE, rubber, neoprene, and a whole slew of others. I'd look at the Cole-Parmer list for comprehensive info.
  • Mineral spirits (aka paint thinner) are no good for ABS plastic, HDPE, and EPDM.
  • Linseed oil is no good for EPDM, rubber, and neoprene
  • Ethyl alcohol (the kind you can drink) will dissolve polyurethane but is pretty much OK for everything else
  • Methyl (wood) alcohol (the kind that makes you blind) is no good for ABS plastic and polyurethane
  • Lacquer thinner is no good for EPDM, rubber, neoprene, polypropylene, polyurethane, PVC, and silicone

For further information, I'd check the Cole-Parmer website. I've tried to summarize as best I could, but this isn't the proper format for a comprehensive scope.

  • Exactly what I was looking for and hadn't found. Tnx! – keshlam Oct 1 '15 at 17:51
  • I'd say go for PTFE containers and avoid benzene* like the plague! *unless you have a German car, then you should put benzin in the tank. – FreeMan Oct 5 '15 at 23:44
  • @FreeMan : Probably not. Most cars in Germany take Diesel. :-) – Martin Bonner supports Monica Jun 15 '17 at 12:19
  • If you are storing Hydrazine, Hydrofluoric acid, and Acqua Regia in your workshop, remind me to stay out of it! – Martin Bonner supports Monica Jun 15 '17 at 12:23
0

In Asia, solvents are generally sold in glass beer bottles with plastic stoppers. It works well, though there is some diffusion through the stopper. Not enough to smell, unless you're storing something like HCl. If you can get stoppers and glass bottles, it's the cheapest solution.

Next, I can give some rules of thumb for plastic, since I find grfrazee's answer to be a bit too conservative. The plastic bottles you'll have available are are acrylic, HDPE, LDPE, PET, or PP. Don't put solvents in acrylic. PET should generally only hold alcohol or white spirits (naphtha/lighter fluid/paint thinner). Alcohol, along with the other oxygenated solvents like acetone and MEK, seem to keep okay when they're stored in LDPE. However, the more nonpolar hydrocarbons (xylene, naphtha, paint thinner) slowly diffuse through the sides of LDPE bottles and escape. Lighter fluid is sold in HDPE, so the rate of diffusion of white spirits through HDPE should be acceptable. On paper, HDPE and PP are generally better than LDPE. So in short, polyethylene/polypropylene are your cheap choice. Oxygenated solvents will stay in anything without diffusing through the plastic too quickly in summer. Chemical compatibility charts claim the plastic will weaken, but it won't dissolve.

I haven't used turpentine, but it's normally similar to white spirits. I would not store xylene/toluene, methylene chloride, or lacquer thinner in any plastic bottle that is not specifically made for solvents.

  • Oops, this question is years old. Not sure how I found it. – piojo Jun 15 '17 at 11:38
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    Don't worry about the late Answer, that's not discouraged here. You might be interested that here acetone is commonly sold in HDPE, both in pure form and when mixed with water (nail polish remover). And when not sold in glass bottles various forms of white spirit (mineral spirits) are sold in PET containers. – Graphus supports Monica Jun 15 '17 at 21:23
  • @Graphus Thanks. And you're absolutely right. I also forgot lighter fluid is sold in HDPE. I'll update my answer. – piojo Jun 16 '17 at 9:17

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