How to Safely Use Hydrochloric Acid (and Where You Should)

While there seem to be cleaning products that are designed for every type of stain, mess, or dirt you can think of, some people – for various reasons – choose to take a more chemical approach to cleaning their home, working directly with the acids and bases used to clean the home. production of these products.

Regular Lifehacker readers may be familiar with our roundup of household cleaning products including vinegar , lemons and lemon juice , borax , baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide . And maybe you’ve added citric acid to your cleaning routine and were impressed with the power of this low-level acid and now want to take the next step and move on to something a little more challenging. Something like hydrochloric acid.

But before you buy a gallon of it online or at your local hardware store, there are a few important things to know about how and when to use this highly toxic chemical and how to do it safely. Here’s what you need to know.

What is hydrochloric acid?

Hydrochloric acid is a slightly weaker form of hydrochloric acid that is still corrosive enough to burn skin and clothing, and corrode some types of metals and plastics. For these reasons – along with the fact that inhalation of hydrochloric acid can irritate the lining of the lungs and nasal passages – it is usually used as a last resort when no other substance can handle it.

How to use hydrochloric acid safely

Before moving on to the different uses for hydrochloric acid, we’re going to talk about how to handle a strong chemical without causing serious (or minor) harm to yourself, anyone, or anyone else. As with any cleaning or household product, read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and follow all safety instructions.

We must warn you: there are many safety rules and precautions that must be followed before using hydrochloric acid, so it is especially important to read the label. Here are some examples:

  • Use hydrochloric acid only in well ventilated areas.
  • Wear protective equipment including acid-resistant goggles, dual-cartridge respirator, face shield , acid-resistant rubber gloves, rubber boots, long pants, and a long-sleeved shirt.
  • Always dilute hydrochloric acid with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions. To do this, pour water into a plastic bucket (never metal) and gradually add acid (acid never comes first).
  • Always dilute hydrochloric acid with water (never with other substances).
  • Always have baking soda, garden lime, and a water source handy when working with hydrochloric acid to quickly neutralize it if needed.

Using hydrochloric acid

However, there are times when hydrochloric acid is the best option for a particular job and should be used, provided the person using it knows how to do it safely. These tasks include :

  • Preparing brick, concrete or stone for painting.
  • Get rid of mold and mildew on the basement walls (while significantly improving their appearance).
  • Cleaning and adjusting the pH level in swimming pools.

When you’re done with the hydrochloric acid, call your local recycling center or fire department to find out how best to dispose of it (it doesn’t go in your household waste and shouldn’t be thrown away).

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