and static electricity discharges, and since the vapor is heavier than air, it may travel a considerable distance to an ignition source and flash back. Ether vapor forms explosive mixtures with air at concentrations of 1.9 to 36% (by volume). Carbon dioxide or dry chemical extinguishers should be used for ether fires. Diethyl ether forms unstable peroxides on exposure to air in a reaction that is promoted by light; the presence of these peroxides may lead to explosive residues upon distillation.

Reactivity and Incompatibility

Diethyl ether may react violently with halogens or strong oxidizing agents such as perchloric acid.

Storage and Handling

Diethyl ether should be handled in the laboratory using the ''basic prudent practices" described in Chapter 5.C, supplemented by additional precautions for dealing with extremely flammable substances (Chapter 5.F). In particular, ether should be used only in areas free of ignition sources (including hot plates, incandescent light bulbs, and steam baths), and this substance should be stored in tightly sealed metal containers in areas separate from oxidizers. Because of the tendency of diethyl ether to form peroxides on contact with air, containers should be dated upon receipt and at the time they are opened. Once opened, containers of diethyl ether should be tested periodically for the presence of peroxides according to the procedures described in Chapter 5. Diethyl ether is generally supplied with additives that inhibit peroxide formation; distillation removes these inhibitors and renders the liquid more prone to peroxide formation. Material found to contain peroxides should be treated to destroy the peroxides before use or disposed of properly.


In the event of skin contact, immediately wash with soap and water and remove contaminated clothing. In case of eye contact, promptly wash with copious amounts of water for 15 min (lifting upper and lower lids occasionally) and obtain medical attention. If diethyl ether is ingested, obtain medical attention immediately. If large amounts of this compound are inhaled, move the person to fresh air and seek medical attention at once.

In the event of a spill of diethyl ether, exercise extreme caution because of its highly flammable nature. Remove all ignition sources, soak up the diethyl ether as quickly as possible with a spill pillow or absorbent material, place in an appropriate container, and dispose of properly. Respiratory protection may be necessary in the event of a large spill or release in a confined area.


Excess diethyl ether and waste material containing this substance should be placed in an appropriate container, clearly labeled, and handled according to your institution's waste disposal guidelines. For more information on disposal procedures, see Chapter 7 of this volume.

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