Hydrochloric acid is one of the strongest acids out there.
Apart from widespread commercial and industrial uses like in steel pickling, building construction, and leather processing, hydrochloric acid is also a part of many household cleaners.
One must handle hydrochloric acid with extreme caution while disposing of it, as the acid is highly corrosive and can cause serious burns in case of direct contact.
Why Should You Handle Hydrochloric Acid With Care and Caution?
You may wonder why it’s advised to handle hydrochloric acid with so much caution. Why can’t it be handled like any other chemical that may be lying around your home?
The answer is quite simple; hydrochloric acid isn’t like any other household chemicals.
Hydrochloric acid is a highly hazardous liquid that can cause serious consequences if mishandled. It’s extremely corrosive and can cause burns if it comes in direct contact with the skin.
It can also burn any fabric that it comes in contact with. Not only this, concentrated hydrochloric acid releases acidic mists that can be very dangerous if inhaled.
If the acidic mist comes in contact with the eyes, skin, or internal organs (in case of inhalation), it can result in irreversible damage, which can also be fatal.
Considering the possible consequences of mishandling hydrochloric acid, it’s advised to handle the acid with absolute care and caution.
Handling Instructions When Disposing of Hydrochloric Acid
When you’re disposing of hydrochloric acid, you’re at the highest risk of getting exposed to the consequences of hydrochloric acid mishandling.
When we talk about handling hydrochloric acid, strict guidelines are in place to ensure the handler doesn’t get hurt during the process.
Some of the most important instructions that you must follow when you’re disposing of hydrochloric acid are:
You can’t simply hold the container of hydrochloric acid with bare hands and pour it down the drain. You’ve got to make sure that you’re fully equipped with the appropriate PPE.
PPE, short for Personal Protective Equipment, comprises safety gloves, goggles, and a lab coat or protective gown. This would ensure your safety in case acid splashes during handling.
As we said earlier, concentrated hydrochloric acid produces acidic mists that can cause severe internal damage if it gets into the body.
For this reason, ensure your eyes are covered, and none of the fumes get into your body through the nose.
Ideally, hydrochloric acid must be handled inside a fume hood but if you’re disposing of hydrochloric acid at home, make sure you’re all goggled and masked up!
Never Pour Water into Acid
Most household uses of hydrochloric acid require you to first dilute it with water before using it. Even when you’re disposing of it, you’ve first got to dilute and neutralize it.
Hydrochloric acid is mixed with water to dilute it, but never pour water into hydrochloric acid. Instead, pour about a quarter to half cup of hydrochloric acid into 2 to 5 gallons of water.
If you add water to acid, the acid will bubble and splash and you might burn your skin. It’s one of the most important safety precautions that you’ve got to remember when handling hydrochloric acid.
Never Work with Hydrochloric Acid If You’re Alone
Handling hydrochloric acid is very dangerous, and you can never be sure when something may go wrong. For this reason, never work with hydrochloric acid alone.
Always ensure you’ve got someone around so that if you get in direct contact with acid accidentally, there’s someone around to help you.
How to Dispose of Hydrochloric Acid
The most important part of the discussion is how to dispose of hydrochloric acid.
Well, this is the tricky part. Different states have different guidelines for disposing of hydrochloric acid.
Some states permit you to drain diluted hydrochloric acid down the sink, while others require you to first neutralize it before pouring it down the drain.
It’s best to check with your local authorities to see what your state guidelines say before you use any method of disposing of hydrochloric acid.
The first and the simplest way of disposing of hydrochloric acid is by diluting it and then pouring it down the sink or flushing it away, provided that your state guidelines allow you to do that.
As we’ve already said, you can’t mix acid and water directly to dilute it. It’s a highly risky step, and you might end up hurting yourself if you aren’t careful.
If you pour water into acid, splashes can burn your skin, get into your eyes, or damage your clothes. You should never pour water directly into acid.
Instead, always pour a small quantity (about one quarter or one-half cup) of acid into 2 to 5 gallons of water, and that too while you’re fully equipped with your PPE.
Also, you’ve got to ensure that you’re pouring acid slowly into the water. Don’t just empty the cup into the water. Pour it slowly against the walls of the container with water to avoid any splashes.
You can then pour this diluted solution down your sink or flush it into your toilet without any worries.
Not all states deem it permissible to pour diluted hydrochloric acid down the drain. You’ve got to first neutralize the acid before disposing of it.
You’ll need an alkali to neutralize acid (it’s a basic concept of chemistry). If you’re looking for ways to dispose of hydrochloric acid at home, you can use baking soda.
Baking soda is chemically sodium bicarbonate, a strong base that will react with hydrochloric acid to produce salt, water, and carbon dioxide gas.
Again, ensure that you’re wearing all the protective gear because as soon as you add the base and acid, there will be aggressive fizz due to the release of carbon dioxide. There may also be some splashes.
Add about 1 lb. of baking soda to a large container containing water. Make a solution and then add hydrochloric acid to this solution slowly. Continue to add baking soda solution till the fizz stops.
When the fizz stops, it’s a sign that there’s no more hydrochloric acid left to produce carbon dioxide and that all of the acid has been neutralized.
At this point, you can flush this neutralized acid directly into your toilet or drain it down your kitchen sink.
How Not To Dispose of Hydrochloric Acid?
When we say disposing of hydrochloric acid is very tricky, we really mean it. You now know the right way to dispose of hydrochloric acid.
But to make sure you’re doing it right, we’ve listed some of the common practices that we’ve seen people do that aren’t right! These are the ways in which you shouldn’t dispose of hydrochloric acid.
Don’t Drain Hydrochloric Acid Down the Septic Tank
You can drain the diluted or neutralized hydrochloric acid down the drain but not if your flush and sink are connected to the septic tank.
The septic tank system has an active bacterial process that eats away the waste in the septic tank, and pouring hydrochloric acid into the septic tank will ruin that bacterial process.
Don’t Drain Hydrochloric Acid Directly Into the Ground
Many people assume that it’s okay to drain diluted hydrochloric acid into the ground. But it’s not!
You should never pour diluted hydrochloric acid (let alone concentrated acid) into the ground or gutters because the acid can contaminate groundwater and drinking water supplies.
When the water gets contaminated with hydrochloric acid, it doesn’t remain suitable for consumption and can also affect plant and marine life.
Don’t Drain Hydrochloric Acid Directly Into the Trash Can
Many people often dump unused hydrochloric acid-based cleaning products in the trash can. This is not the right practice.
This is because, in case of acid leaking, it can injure someone. It could be the children playing around, or it could be your pet.
What’s The Best Way to Dispose of Hydrochloric Acid?
If you ask us the best way to dispose of hydrochloric acid, we suggest you get in touch with professional disposal companies.
Many professional disposal companies provide the service of disposing of hydrochloric acid for you. You simply have to give them a call. They’ll come and pick it up from your house and take it to their facility.
They’ll treat the acid the right way in their facility and then discard it the right way.
These professionals are highly trained in handling and disposing of hydrochloric acid, so you can rest assured that the job will be well done.
Handling hydrochloric acid is scary because it poses a serious safety threat to the one handling it. For this reason, disposing of hydrochloric acid products isn’t the easiest task.
If you’ve got hydrochloric acid or hydrochloric acid-based cleaning products at home that you wish to dispose of, we would suggest you hire professionals if you’ve never done this before.
If you have prior experience handling hydrochloric acid, even then, we’ll suggest you be extremely careful! Follow the precautions closely and ensure you comply with your state’s guidelines.
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