Ferric chloride is a chemical compound also known as iron (III) chloride. It’s a brown-black to orange solid that’s slightly soluble in water.
A ferric chloride solution is used for removing impurities from water and treating wastewater.
Moreover, ferric chloride is used in the manufacturing process of printed circuit boards in some parts of the world.
While this chemical has its uses, it can be hazardous if exposed to you or the environment.
Thus, if you need to get rid of it, here’s a guide on how to dispose of ferric chloride.
Step 1. Understand the Effects Ferric Chloride Can Have
It’s best to educate yourself on the effects ferric chloride can have on the environment. This way, you can ensure that you consider every factor when ultimately disposing of this chemical.
During ultimate disposal, you must consider the impact on air quality the material may have.
The material’s effects on animal, plant, and aquatic life are also of utmost importance. Moreover, you should see that there is no potential migration of the material into water or soil.
If you’re completely disposing of ferric chloride yourself, you must factor these things into the disposal process.
In addition to that, make sure to conform to public and environmental health regulations. If you’re contacting a waste disposal agency instead, make sure they take care of these factors too.
Step 2. Wear the Appropriate Attire for Disposing of Ferric Chloride
Ferric chloride is hazardous and can cause serious injury if your skin comes into contact with it.
Therefore, it is paramount that you wear the appropriate safety attire when handling and disposing of ferric chloride.
In addition to that, you should try and limit your exposure to the material as much as possible.
Wear Chemical Worker’s Goggles to Keep Your Eyes Safe
Ferric chloride can cause severe eye damage if it gets into it. Therefore, you should wear a pair of appropriate chemical worker’s goggles.
These goggles wrap under and the sides of your eyes. This way, ferric chloride dust will get into your eyes.
If you have it as a liquid solution, then the goggles will protect you from spills.
Don’t Remove Your Chemical Worker’s Googles Until the Process Is Complete
Make sure to keep your chemical worker’s goggles on during the entirety of the disposal process.
Cleaning up any spills afterward can also cause ferric chloride to get into your eyes.
Wear Your Spectacles and Your Goggles
You should also get large chemical worker’s goggles if you wear spectacles.
Do not handle or dispose of ferric chloride if your vision is compromised. You may not see some small spillages.
Thus, your chemical worker’s goggles should have enough room for your spectacles to fit inside.
Consider a Face Shield
You could wear a face shield instead of a pair of chemical worker’s goggles if that’s more comfortable.
While a face shield can protect your eyes, it may leave some of the sides of your eyes exposed. Thus, chemical worker’s goggles are more likely to be a safer option than face shields.
Wear Chemical Protective Clothes to Protect Your Skin
It’s important to note that ferric chloride permanently stains clothes. Therefore, it’s best to wear old clothes that you won’t wear again for the disposal process.
You should also ensure that you wear chemical protective clothing. There’s still a chance that some ferric chloride may spill even if you’re particularly careful.
Don’t Leave Your Skin Exposed
Solid ferric chloride can burn your skin and severely damage it. Thus, make sure that you leave no part of your skin exposed.
Wear long trousers, rubber boots, a full sleeves shirt, and a rubber apron. This way, the material will not come into direct contact with your skin.
Wear a Dust Mask or Respirator
A dust mask should suffice in most situations of getting rid of ferric chloride. However, you may need a respirator when disposing of large quantities of the material.
Inhaling the dust from ferric chloride can irritate your throat and nose. Moreover, if you breathe in any of it, you may have difficulty breathing and continuous coughing.
A Mask Helps Prevent Ingesting the Chemical
Wearing a mask or respirator also helps prevent ingesting ferric chloride. You may feel irritation in your mouth and stomach soon after ingesting the chemical due to acute toxicity.
Make sure not to remove your mask until you complete the disposal process completely.
Wear Appropriate Gloves
You should wear a pair of rubber gloves when disposing of ferric chloride.
The chemical can be severely detrimental to your skin, and your hands are at the greatest risk. Make sure to wear gloves that offer sufficient mobility for handling the material with care.
Step 3. Change the pH Value of the Solution for Disposal
You should not put ferric chloride down the drain, considering it can have adverse effects on the environment and plant life.
Residual copper and iron ions in the solution cause these effects when not controlled. Thus, you will need to change the solution’s pH value so that it’s safer to throw away.
Neutralize the Ferric Chloride Solution with Sodium Bicarbonate
You will have to neutralize the ferric chloride solution with sodium bicarbonate. Sodium bicarbonate is also known as washing soda.
Ferric chloride is a strong acid with a pH value of 1.8. Therefore, adding sodium bicarbonate to it will increase the pH value.
Keep Adding Sodium Bicarbonate Until You Reach the Desired pH Value
How much washing soda you add to the ferric chloride will depend on the amount of the acid. Keep adding a bit of sodium bicarbonate into the ferric chloride container.
If you do not have sodium bicarbonate, you can use sodium hydroxide instead. Sodium hydroxide is also known as caustic soda, and it operates the same way as sodium bicarbonate in this case.
Periodically, check the pH value of the solution. This way, you can stop adding more sodium bicarbonate when you reach a pH value between 7.0 and 8.0.
Don’t allow the solution to exceed an 8.0 pH value. Otherwise, it’ll become too basic.
Test the pH Value Correctly
You will require pH testing strips to test the pH value of the solution. These testing strips are relatively inexpensive and cannot be reused.
Thus, it’s best to purchase a few of them to keep testing the pH value.
You must understand that the strength of an acid or a base depends on how far away it is from the value 7.0.
Thus, the color change on the strip will indicate the strength of the acid. So, you’ll have an idea of how much more sodium bicarbonate solution you must add.
Make sure the solution is enough to cover at least half of the strip. Place the strip in the solution for a few seconds until it changes color.
Make sure not to let any of the solutions come onto your hands. The color on the paper will indicate the pH value.
Thus, tally the color on the end of the strip with the color chart that came with the testing kit. You will then know the pH value.
Step 4. Separate the Solid from the Solution
After you neutralize the solution, you must let it rest for a few minutes. You will begin to see that copper and iron sludge will settle at the bottom of the container.
That sludge is the hazardous part of the solution. Therefore, you must separate it from the liquid.
Pour the Liquid into Another Container
Once the sludge settles, pour the liquid into another container.
Make sure that none of the sludge’s particles stay in the liquid. Leave the sludge in the container.
Pour the Liquid Down the Drain
Add some water into the liquid to dilute it even further. This way, it’ll significantly reduce the liquid to have any potentially dangerous effect on the environment.
This is also because the pH value will be closer to neutral. After diluting the liquid, it will be safe to pour it down the drain.
Collect the Copper Sludge
Transfer the copper and iron sludge into hazardous waste bags. These bags are made of polyethylene and will prevent any residue from escaping them.
Secure the bags well, and hand them over to your local hazardous waste agency for proper disposal. Other than that, you can also dispose of it yourself in landfills.
However, make sure to first consult your local hazardous waste authority on appropriate disposal methods.
Last Few Words on Ferric Chloride Disposal
Disposing of ferric chloride can be a dangerous process if you don’t follow appropriate safety protocol.
If this disposal process is your first, there’s a good chance that some ferric chloride may spill. If that happens, do not allow the chemical to enter the environment.
If possible, moisten the solid ferric chloride before you do anything with it. This process will make sure that the chemicals dust doesn’t go airborne.
After that, sweep up all of the spilled material into a covered plastic container. You can then transfer the ferric chloride into a hazardous waste bag.
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