Sodium hydroxide or caustic soda is a common household detergent. It is typically used in bathrooms and kitchens to unclog drains.
Sodium hydroxide also sees use in various DIY projects, such as homemade soap. However, this chemical can sometimes be poisonous if consumed.
So, safe disposal is of the utmost importance, especially when talking about chemicals and detergents.
What Is Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH)?
Lye can be a solution of any metal combined with an alkali. So, we can consider sodium hydroxide as lye of sodium metal. However, it is typically known as caustic soda.
Typically, most homes are stocked with sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide. It helps unclog drains, is used as an oven cleaner, and much more.
Furthermore, sodium hydroxide can sometimes be used as a weed killer.
Reasons to Dispose Sodium Hydroxide
Our ecosystem benefits greatly from the proper disposal of home-based waste chemicals. Most of these chemicals can be recycled to manufacture useful and new products.
Others are carefully disposed of, keeping dangerous substances and chemicals out of the waste management facility.
Sodium hydroxide grades highly on the pH scale. As its name suggests, the solution is very alkaline and becomes acidic when it comes in contact with any surface.
Sodium hydroxide can lead to serious injuries if it comes in contact with your skin or eyes. These include respiratory tract issues, blindness, and severe burns.
It can also react vigorously if mixed with other solutions. Due to this, it must be stored and disposed of properly.
How To Dispose of Sodium Hydroxide?
Now that we know why sodium hydroxide is dangerous, here are a few ways to dispose of it safely:
Mix It with Water
Sodium hydroxide is an alkali. It can be neutralized when combined with the right volume of acid. However, this neutralization process lets off a ton of residual heat which can cause burns.
Furthermore, you can also use dilute acids such as acetic acid or vinegar. But, with this method, a large volume will be required to neutralize the sodium hydroxide.
Instead, add the right amount of water to sodium hydroxide first. But, be careful as the reaction will produce heat due to the reaction’s exothermic nature.
Once you add the right amount of water, you can dump it into your sink.
At the end of the day, sodium hydroxide is a drain cleaner. It disintegrates grease and hair, two things that typically clog your drain. It’s like killing two birds with one stone!
This is probably the most effective method to dispose of sodium hydroxide. But, as mentioned above, you must take a few precautions when following this method.
Water and salt are the byproducts when an alkaline solution is mixed with an acidic solution. These byproducts are completely harmless and can be disposed of easily.
The neutralization process is exothermic in nature. This means it lets off a ton of heat. Not to mention, this can cause burns and other health issues.
So, to carry out the neutralization process, follow the steps mentioned below:
- Find an open space to carry out the neutralization process.
- Wear a lab coat, gloves, eye protection, and a face mask to avoid injuries.
- Select the right acid type for the neutralization process. Not all types would be preferable here. Hydrochloric acid is the way to go for quick neutralization.
- But we prefer acetic acid for safety reasons.
- While a higher volume of acetic acid will be required, it is safer to handle than hydrochloric acid. Acetic acid has a higher pH than HCL. So, get a container if it’s available.
- Next, mix the acetic acid with sodium hydroxide slowly and carefully. We recommend using a Pyrex or stainless-steel container.
- While you pour the acid, keep a safe distance to avoid spillage and burns.
- Your NaOH is now neutralized.
Once you’ve safely neutralized the sodium hydroxide, you can pour it down the drain. Following this process, you can rest assured it won’t be harmful if it ends in the ocean or a landfill.
After all, the neutralization process has removed all toxicity from the NaOH solution.
Get In Touch with Your Local Toxic Materials Disposal Company
If you think you cannot dispose of NaOH yourself, contact your local toxic waste disposal company. They are professionals at chemical waste disposal.
Plus, they have the knowledge and equipment to handle hazardous waste properly. A quick Google search will allow you to find local companies with a few mouse clicks.
If the company requires dropping off the sodium hydroxide, you will have to transport it. To do this, put it in a stainless-steel container.
Moreover, you can also use plastic containers marked with an “E.” These plastics don’t react with acids or alkalis and are available at the local hardware store.
Also, Pyrex can be used for transportation. But we don’t recommend using it for long-distance transportation. After all, glass could break and cause spillage.
Hand it Over to Someone Else
It can take weeks to securely dispose of excess sodium hydroxide in the drain if you have too much of it. So, giving it to someone who can utilize it would be a preferable course of action.
Many people in your area might use NaOH regularly since it is necessary for their jobs. These include soap manufacturers, factory workers, retail stores, plumbers, engineers, etc.
Giving them NaOH will prevent the wastage of such a harmful chemical. Plus, you will also help out someone who might be searching for this chemical. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
Try Wet Air Oxidation
Wet air oxidation is the most efficient method of reducing NaOH to a non-toxic chemical. However, it is an involved and complicated process.
Furthermore, it has no smells or negative byproducts and is harmless to the environment. As sodium hydroxide is utilized as the main energy source, the method is also energy-efficient.
You can search online for the steps that go into wet air oxidation. Typically, it should only be carried out if you know what you’re doing. Still, it is a viable option for NaOH disposal.
Tips To Safely Handle Sodium Hydroxide
NaOH can corrode your skin. Hence, it is vital to know how to handle it correctly to avoid accidents and injuries. On that note, here are some things to consider when handling sodium hydroxide:
Learn the Emergency Protocols and Standards
When handling sodium hydroxide, ensure you are aware of what to do in case of an emergency.
Accidents happen for a reason! You may never know when you could find yourself needing expert assistance.
If your skin comes in contact with NaOH, rinse the affected area with cold water. If you accidentally inhale its fumes, go outside and take deep breaths.
If nothing works, then your best bet is to seek medical help.
Store It Properly
When you’re not using it, consider storing sodium hydroxide in an air-tight container. Also, ensure that it’s out of reach of children and pets to avoid accidental consumption.
Furthermore, sodium hydroxide is highly reactive, especially when it comes in contact with acids. Therefore, it should be stored away from other materials to avoid explosive reactions.
When mixed with acids or water, the resulting reactions generate a lot of heat. Furthermore, the reactions release harmful gases if mixed with sugars, including CO (carbon monoxide).
This gas can be lethal if inhaled in large amounts.
Wear Proper Protective Gear When Handling It
NaOH is a dangerous chemical and should be treated with that in mind. So, take all the safety precautions you normally would in a laboratory.
Wear a long-sleeved coat, safety goggles, and latex gloves to avoid direct contact with your body. Moreover, wear a gas mask to ensure you don’t inhale its fumes accidentally.
In the end, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Handle It in a Properly Ventilated Area
NaOH should be disposed of in a well-ventilated location. This allows for the speedy escape of any potentially dangerous gases and vapors.
If handling NaOH indoors, open every window and door. Furthermore, fans can also be used to help with ventilation.
Install an industry-grade ventilation system if you’re handling NaOH for work purposes. Typically, these systems convert the harmful fumes into eco-friendly gases.
Side Effects of NaOH
You risk your skin being burned if it comes in contact with NaOH. Consuming sodium hydroxide might lead to swallowing difficulties, chest or stomach pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and acute nausea.
The lips, throat, and stomach are immediately damaged. Breathing NaOH fumes can severely irritate the upper respiratory system. Side effects include breathing difficulties, burning sensation, and coughing.
The side effects of breathing, swallowing or inhaling NaOH vary on a few factors. These include the length of exposure and the concentration of the chemical itself.
Coming in contact with a highly concentrated NaOH solution can damage your digestive system. Furthermore, it can also affect your lungs, leading to permanent damage or death.
Moreover, prolonged exposure to the skin can lead to dermatitis and other skin issues. Similarly, constant inhalation of NaOH fumes can cause permanent lung damage.
NaOH is a highly alkaline and reactive substance. Proper disposal of sodium hydroxide requires caution and care as it can damage your health and the environment.
Equipped with the knowledge shared today, we hope now you can quickly dispose of NaOH without any issues. After all, you wouldn’t want this substance lying around your house for any reason.
So, follow these tips the next time you want to dispose of excess NaOH. You will thank us later!
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