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Need help with smells in the lab


Feb 19, 2019
Hello, I'm not sure if this is the place to ask for advice on this but I'm curious how y'all keep your labs from smelling of the compounds you have. I'm working for a startup making some mixtures and as we build things out I've noticed lingering smells becoming an issue, after a few hours I'm overly saturated with smells and can no longer effectively do my job. Is this something I can avoid with specialized hvac? do I need a sealed and vented storage cabinet? How do I go about this to ensure my success?

Any advice is greatly appreciated.


Well-known member
Jan 3, 2013
You can connect the cabinet to an extractor fan and vent with ducting. The extractor fan can be set to come on every hour, or every few minutes. If you can't install a vent through the external wall due to planning requirements, then you can ask a glazier to put a vent in the window. The other option would be to connect the extractor fan to a carbon filter. The carbon would need changing every few months or so.

I hope this helps.
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Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Dec 5, 2007
I have noticed that Personal Working Habits play a big role in this issue.
Drops made accidentally must be cleaned up, with alcohol, immediately, on every surface, including the bottle.
Your surfaces must me non-permeable, like formica countertops or stainless steel work surfaces.
Your trashcan must have a bit of a seal to it, so that you contain waste odors.
Working in capped bottles, instead of in beakers can also help keep working odors down.

When guests and apprentices work in my lab, and their habits of lack of cleaning up well come forward, the lab smells quite a bit more.
I've walked into the lab in the morning, and seen drops on the floor, when my guest is in the lab late at night, and they dropped things around, and didn't clean it up, gets tracked around with shoes too... So, a hyper vigilance, and hyper awareness, to be conscious of your own drop dropping, implement personal habits to expect drop making and accommodate prevention of making drops, and then to keep spills and drops cleaned up immediately is extremely important.

In my days of being a busboy and waiter, one of the principles drilled into me then, was to "Clean as you go."
Which meant, don't expect other people to clean up after you. You clean up what mess you make, and clean up what mess you see that someone else left too.

These are my observations in my own lab.

Bill Roberts

Well-known member
Mar 1, 2013
Agreed completely with all the above.

I am working with difficult circumstances now as I am in a VERY small living space. What I used to be able to get away with in a normal size house isn't even close to working now.

What I have done recently that has made a huge difference is that except for materials that are very low odor strength, ALL undiluted materials are stored in various sized little boxes most of which have a decent seal and all of which were purchased at the supermarket. Some small boxes (about the size of crayon boxes for quite small bottles and sample amounts) don't themselves seal but do close decently and in turn are stored inside a larger container which does have a decent seal.

Except when actually making dilutions, the bottles of raws are never directly available to the living or workspace air (same thing in my case.)

Dilutions get stored away too but while working of course are available, but capped at all times except when actually necessary.

Many dilutions get performed on the porch, as simply having the bottle of pure material open in the small space is too much. Others are performed inside but with windows open.

Al that should not be necessary IMO but can become necessary if the working space situation is unfavorable enough.


Well-known member
Nov 26, 2016
I do all of the above including things like sealing all labels in tape since spills can saturate labels. I have had to even dip bottles in alcohol to clean up certain messes.

I also clean everything up every day when I am done. That includes all trash, and washing up that needs to be done. I also have an irregular rotating schedule to deep clean parts of my organ/office. So even drops that might get left on the bottom of a bottle it's less than a month till all the individual drawers get washed.

I don't have venting but when I need it I open the window and I have a fan/carbon filter combo. I never truly get it odor free and I am in an apartment too so there's lots I can't do. However, the smell is never overwhelming it just smells warm and cozy in there.

Bill Roberts

Well-known member
Mar 1, 2013
Yes, I have a big problem with labels, as during moving there was some spillage somehow and many labels are retaining substantial scent.

If I can make the time I need to soak every smelly label off and apply new ones.

If I had in the first place done as you do and had the labels taped, I wouldn't be having this problem.

Additionally, the threads of both the cap and the bottle can be problem areas and care there, with cleaning if necessary, is definitely required.


Feb 7, 2021
Revisiting this thread in the event anyone else has found good solutions to reduce workspace odor. I work in a studio space with a window, so I try to get a positive air circulation by alternating with a window fan that brings fresh air in and exhausts stale air out. I also physically separate my raw ingredients storage from my organ where I work mostly with diluted materials. Refrigeration and bagging of particularly stinky chems help as well tape around plastic cap seals.


Active member
Jan 11, 2023
I discard things in steps. While I'm having a session, I put used disposable pipettes in a jar with a lid. Once it's full, I take the contents to the trash. I have a tiny desktop trash bin for used scent strips, small bits of labelling waste etc and I empty it after each session. In other words, don't keep smelly things around to permeate the air. Wipe down the table top with alcohol each night/as I go.

Darren Alan

Basenotes Plus
Basenotes Plus
Apr 20, 2019
I agree worth Paul & Bill’s advice on keeping your workspace clean. It makes a huge difference. I also use a HEPA filter when working within certain materials or when filtering perfumes to keep the vapor load down in my studio. I’ve found it to be extremely helpful.

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