Of all the hazardous household products, cleaning products are some of the most toxic to homeowners and their families (including pets). This makes sense: after all, what is hard on grease, grime, limescale, and other difficult-to-remove stains isn’t going to be kind to skin. One of these products – known as muriatic acid – is used as a “last resort” in cleaning products, and with good reason, as it’s primarily made of corrosive hydrochloric acid. Learning how to use, handle, store, and dispose of muriatic acid is vital if you’re going to keep it in your home.
Is Muriatic Acid the Same as Hydrochloric Acid?
Muriatic acid is a diluted form of hydrochloric acid (HCI), though the concentration varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, with commercial grades reaching 30% or more HCI, and other household variants ranging to half that amount or less. Always read the labels of your products for warnings and pictograms. Usually, muriatic acid includes iron impurities, giving it a yellow color instead of HCI’s colorlessness.
Muriatic Acid is a Powerful and Dangerous Cleaner
Even at these reduced concentrations, muriatic acid is a powerful cleaner due to its HCI content. Extremely corrosive, this cleaning product should be the last you reach for. While it can be a powerful cleaner, it’s important to read the instructions for use, as it’s not suitable for every cleaning situation, especially where delicate materials or discoloration is a concern.
Precautions to Take Before Using Muriatic Acid
- Get the Proper Safety Gear: This acid will cause burns to the skin and eyes, and its vapors can even damage your respiratory tract. Make sure to cover all exposed skin and eyes, wear acid-resistant gloves, and use a respirator and/or work in a well-ventilated area.
- Dilute the Acid with Water: Most applications will call for diluting the muriatic acid with water (usually something on the scale of 10 parts water to every 1 part acid). Always add acid to water, not water to acid. Follow instructions on the product for exact amounts.
- Do Not Mix with Other Cleaning Products: Combining HCI with other cleaning products, such as chlorine bleach, can produce toxic chlorine gas. Never mix cleaning products, as the results can be deadly.
The disposal of muriatic acid can also be problematic due to its corrosive nature. Like with hydrochloric acid, it can’t be disposed of in the trash, as it can leak and react with other chemicals in garbage trucks and landfills, nor can it be poured down the drain. While bases can neutralize it, it’s not recommended for home use. Instead, contact your local wastewater treatment plant to see if they accept it (it’s often used in the treatment process) or take it to one of NEDT’s Household Hazardous Products Collection Centers. We accept a range of hazardous waste and can even provide pick-up! Contact us today.