DMSO is the classic polar aprotic solvent. It's used in lots of known reactions. Why should I worry?
DMSO decomposes with heating, and the decomposition products catalyze further decomposition, resulting in a runaway reaction that has caused explosions resulting in injuries and deaths. A wide range of other reagents (oxidizers, reducers, bases, and especially acids) can accelerate the decomposition, or cause the decomposition to occur at much lower temperatures (some as low as 20°C), thus increasing the hazard whenever DMSO is used as a solvent.
In situations where a safer solvent cannot be substituted for DMSO, evaluate the usage conditions within the context of the following papers and review:
If the reaction conditions have any potential to initiate DMSO decomposition, your lab must develop a written Standard Operating Procedure that specifies safeguards, such as limitations on reaction scale and the use of a blast shield, and send the SOP to your lab manager and FSE Safety for review (see the new/changed chemical approval process for details).
Dimethyl Sulfoxide Standard Operating Procedure Template (coming soon; in the interim, please use the FSE Liquids & Solids SOP Template)
DMSO Poses Decomposition Danger – C&EN article
Potential Explosion Hazards Associated with the Autocatalytic Thermal Decomposition of Dimethyl Sulfoxide and Its Mixtures – Organic Process Research & Development
Study on Autocatalytic Decomposition of Dimethyl Sulfoxide – Organic Process Research & Development