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10 Quick Tips About Working With Hydrochloric Acid

A test tube filled with chemicals in a lab

Working With Hydrochloric Acid is extremely dangerous so safety is always of the utmost importance. It is a highly corrosive and hazardous chemical that require extreme care to be taken when handling. Personnel should all be properly trained with full protective wear.

With that in mind, we’ve put together a must read list of 10 tips for working with Hydrochloric acid.

Corrosive

The first thing to note that hydrochloric acid is highly corrosive, if it makes contact with your skin you will develop painful blisters and/or rashes. The corneas of your eyes are particularly sensitive and exposure to even the vapour of the acid can cause serious irritation, which could lead to blindness.

Fumes

Due to it’s corrosive and toxic nature when using concentrated acid, especially as a cleaning chemical, for example, when cleaning out a cement mixer, toxic fumes can be released.

These fumes can cause damage to the lungs when inhaled, or cause irritation of your eyes leading to visual impairment if proper precautions or medical treatment isn’t found quickly enough.

Storage

Hydrochloric acid should be properly stored to avoid gases and toxic fumes being produced and escaping, or liquid leaking out. Store it in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area away from sources of moisture.

Hydrochloric acid has the ability to corrode metallic surfaces. Keep container tightly closed and store in a safe place.

Materials

Keep away from incompatible materials such as oxidizing agents, organic materials, metals and alkalis.

In general, non-metalic materials have better resistance to hydrochloric acid than metallic materials. Rubber-lined vessels are commonly used for hydrochloric acid storage. Polypropylene, PVC, PTFE, FEP, PFA, ECTFE, PVDF, and FRP can be used as long as it is stored in a cool place.

Another thing to note is that Hydrochloric acid reacts with many metals (including aluminum, zinc, calcium, magnesium, iron, tin and all of the alkali metals) to generate highly flammable hydrogen gas.

Safety

It is recommended that you wear the following protective gear when using hydrochloric acid:

  • Respirator
  • Rubber gloves
  • Boots
  • Full suit
  • Face shield

Warning Properties

Hydrochloric acid has excellent warning properties. Concentrations of 0.3 parts per million (ppm) can be detected by smell, and concentrations above five parts per million will cause discomfort.

OSHA has established a ceiling value of five parts.

Accidental Exposure

Depending on the concentration of the hydrochloric acid you are working with, accidental exposure can occur as skin contact, eye contact, ingestion or inhalation of acidic vapors.

Each of these types of exposure can pose serious hazards to your health and should be managed immediately.

Skin Contact – If hydrochloric acid comes into contact with your skin, flush immediately with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes, and remove any contaminated clothing. In case of serious skin contact, use water, a disinfectant soap, and anti-bacterial cream. Seek immediate medical attention.

Eye Contact – If hydrochloric acid or acidic mists get into your eyes, immediately flush with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes. Seek immediate medical attention.

Ingestion – If swallowed, do not induce vomiting. Seek immediate medical attention.

Inhalation – If you inhale hydrochloric acid vapors or mists, seek fresh air and medical attention immediately.

Cleaning spills

During operational use, transportation, and wherever an accidental spill is likely to occur, each laboratory and field unit should have, as part of their required emergency equipment, sufficient absorbent materials, such as sodium bicarbonate, soda ash or lime, to handle small spills.  

Shovel chemical waste into a container and properly label as “used hydrochloric acid.”

Wash residue from spill are with copious amounts of water. Do not allow run-off to contaminate water supplies or nearby creeks or rivers.  Do not attempt cleanup unless wearing skin, eye, and respiratory protection.

Waste material should be stored in a safe area and clearly marked for special disposal by a recycling contractor.  Record how much of the chemical was spilled and the method of clean up and proper disposal, as required by hazardous waste regulations.

Disposal

Spilled or used hydrochloric acid is considered a hazardous waste and must be handled accordingly.

It must be properly labeled and disposed of by a hazardous waste contractor. Storage should be in an assigned area that is away from general worker population, and well-marked, well ventilated and not subject to heat cycles.  

Records must be maintained on the amounts of waste hydrochloric acid, the storage time, and the contractor involved in hazardous waste recycling.

Be very careful!

And finally, just one more word of warning.

It’s a dangerous substance that requires you to be careful and properly respectful of its attributes. You should never attempt to use acid without proper safety equipment or training. However, handled properly with the proper safety precautions there should be no cause to worry.

Did you know?

There are actually much safer products you can use as alternatives to hydrochloric acid, like Consolv.

If you’re looking for further advice and support on working with safe, efficient and environmentally friendly cleaning products, get in touch with our team and we’ll happy to discuss your requirements.

To find out more about us you can read some of our cleaning case studies and discover why we are one of the UK’s leading suppliers of intelligent cleaning solutions for the most demanding applications in transport, construction and industry.