Time Flies! Get a Handle on Your Chemical Inventory Expiration Dates

Inventory Management Tips


“Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana.” – Anonymous

When your job is managing a laboratory that churns out research results in one experiment after another, time really does fly! There’s never a slow day, and time is one of your most important resources. How do you measure the passage of time? And does it ever catch you unawares?

Time sometimes shows itself in big, unmissable ways. We definitely notice when a grant expires, an application deadline approaches, or an upcoming conference requires advance planning. But sometimes a deadline passes, and no one really notices.

How many times have you picked up a bottle from your chemical inventory and been ready to use it, only to check the label and find the chemical to have expired? It can make you wonder how time has passed so quickly! The next thought that most likely crosses your mind is whether you can still use the chemical in question. Is it safe? Is it still effective? Or might it even be dangerous?

In the culinary world, we can immediately tell when an item is past its prime. Although labeling hasn’t quite been standardized for safety, we can use our senses to tell if something smells, looks, or even feels funny. Color can be a great indicator – if that block of Swiss cheese in your refrigerator is looking more like a late-stage Matisse than a sandwich stuffer, then toss it! Food safety is no joke, and that’s why chemical-detecting indicators and smartphone apps have been developed to track the time period that it can be safely consumed.

Back to your lab, though – how do you know when a chemical has passed its prime? It most likely won’t turn fuzzy or discolored, but it can definitely become ineffective or even dangerous. Just like prescription drugs, laboratory chemicals can change composition over time.

Because of this, lab supply companies typically give a recommended expiration date for chemicals. The chemicals themselves have a given shelf life, and depending on the storage method and the “human factor” of who is using the chemical and how often, the practical expiration date will vary. Even if a chemical is stored properly, if contamination during use is a risk, then you would be better off replacing the chemical in question.

No matter how hectic a kitchen is, chefs must always make sure their raw ingredients are in prime condition. As a scientist, the quality of your research depends in great part on the quality and condition of your chemical inventory.

Just like the apps that help you keep track of your ingredients’ expiration date, there are great apps for staying on top of your chemical inventory and its expiration dates!

ChemSW has produced a suite of inventory tracking software and mobile apps that go above and beyond standard inventory management. Not only can you keep track of what you have and where it’s located, but also the amount that remains and when you need to replace it! Check out our website today to find the best inventory-tracking software for your needs!

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