Elemental potassium is an odorless silver metal solid that reacts violently with water, acids and oxygenated compounds. Potassium can ignite in moist air or because of friction or static sparks. It is highly corrosive to eyes, skin and mucous membranes. Water and conventional ABC fire extinguishers can intensify a fire involving potassium and should never be used. Potassium can form unstable and highly reactive peroxides if stored for extended periods of time.

Emergency Procedures

Skin/Eye Contact: Brush off any visible solids. Rinse with copious amounts of water for at least 15 minutes. Seek medical attention as needed. Thoroughly clean clothing before reuse.

Ingestion: Will react immediately with saliva to cause serious burns and possible local combustion and even explosion of hydrogen in the mouth or esophagus. Do not induce vomiting. Drink 2-3 glasses of water and seek medical attention immediately.

Inhalation: Not a likely route of exposure. Move to fresh air immediately. Do not administer mouth to mouth resuscitation. Seek medical attention immediately

Fire: Use Class D extinguisher such as Met-L-X or smother the fire with dry sand. Do not use water, carbon dioxide or halogenated extinguishing agents.

Spill: Control all sources of ignition. Wearing personal protective equipment, cover the spill with sand. Scoop spilled materials with spark-resistant tools and place in a container for disposal. DO NOT USE WATER or combustible materials, such as saw dust.


Wear safety glasses, impervious gloves and a fire-retardant laboratory coat. Control ignition sources and avoid dust formation. Avoid contact with water or moisture. Keep a supply of dry sand available in the work area and ensure there is a Class D extinguisher immediately available.

When large quantities of potassium will be used, work under an inert gas, such as nitrogen or argon, in a fume hood or glove box. Avoid contact with water or moisture.

Potassium is incompatible with alcohols, oxidizing agents, hydrated salts, acids and a wide variety of other materials. Potassium reacts violently on contact with powerful oxidizers and water.

Do not grind potassium or heat it. Upon contact with water, acids or alcohols, potassium produces an exothermic reaction involving release of flammable hydrogen gas. Oxidized potassium may explode upon handling.


Keep element under moisture- free toluene, kerosene and/or dry inert gas such as nitrogen or argon. Store in tightly sealed containers in a cool dry place, separate from combustible materials.  Discard unused portions that will not be needed for extended periods of time (> 1 year)


Store wastes in tightly sealed containers under toluene or kerosene. Dispose as hazardous waste. Potassium metal that has formed the superoxide or peroxide must not be handled. White precipitates are evidence of this condition. Contact EHS at 258-5294 immediately.

For More Information

See SDS for potassium from Fisher Scientific.


Stanley Howell
Program Manager - Chemical Safety

Steve Elwood
Associate Director for Laboratory Safety