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Chemicals In the Classroom – A Quick Guide to Safety and Purity

Chemicals in the classroom

Chemical substitution

Chemicals are a necessary part of a science curriculum, but the dangers they pose to students, staff, and the environment don’t need to be. One of the most effective ways to minimize risks is by using alternatives to hazardous chemicals – letting you provide the same learning opportunities in a safer classroom environment.

Click to download the chart below for recommended substitutions for common hazardous chemicals.

What Are Chemical Grades?

Chemical grades tell us how pure and suitable chemicals are for different uses. Each grade has its purpose, and the choice depends on what the experiment or process needs while considering the balance between cost and purity.

Here's a breakdown of the grades, in order of purity levels, and common applications for each:

ACS Grade Meets or exceeds the purity standards set by the American Chemical Society (ACS), ≥ 95%. It has a very high purity level and is suitable for food, drug, or medicinal use. It is often used in analytical chemistry, where precise, consistent results are critical, like quantitative spectroscopy and chromatography.
Reagent Grade High-quality substances suitable for use in many lab and specialized industrial applications. Fewer impurities than lab grade or technical grade . Usually 96–98% pure, which is similar to ACS-grade chemicals. Often used in labs for analytical research and food and medicine production. Appropriate for use in general scientific applications where the presence of impurities is not likely to cause harm.
Lab Grade Lab-grade chemicals are less pure than reagent-grade chemicals. Suitable for educational purposes and some general lab applications but not for all types of research and analysis, particularly where trace contaminants could cause issues. The perfect balance between cost and quality makes them a practical choice for most high school labs.
Technical / Commercial Grade Suitable for industrial and commercial applications, where chemical purity is less critical than in lab settings. With a typical purity of 85-90%, these chemicals are used in processes where the exact chemical composition and impurities do not affect the outcome, such as manufacturing or industrial cleaning.  Typically, it is too low for a high school classroom.

Because chemical purity can affect cost, it’s important to know the purity differences in the chemicals available to you, so you can make your school’s limited budget go further. Think about the type of results you’re looking for in your chemistry activities, then choose the purity grade accordingly.

As always, if you have any questions about chemicals or anything else, just ask the Ward’s Science Plus Us team at Our in-house scientists and technicians are ready to answer even the toughest inquiries.

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