A major spill of hydrochloric acid is an emergency. Evacuate the area and call 911 immediately. Minor spills can be cleaned up with appropriate precautions. Hydrochloric acid, also called muriatic acid, is often used to clean metals or in pool maintenance. Use extreme care in handling this extremely corrosive, poisonous acid, which can cause severe damage to all body tissues. If a small amount of the acid is spilt, it should immediately be cleaned up to prevent harm to anyone or damage to whatever it was spilt on. When using hydrochloric acid, always wear protective clothing and gear, such as eye goggles and gloves.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
Things you need
- Absorbent barrier
- Garden lime, carbonate granules, bicarbonate salts, cat litter or talc
- Broom and plastic dust pan
Set up an absorbent barrier around the minor hydrochloric acid spill to prevent the acid from spreading. Absorbent materials that can be rolled to create a barrier include such items as rags, towels, or socks.
Neutralise the spill. Garden lime or crushed limestone are excellent for the purpose, or use other carbonate materials such as carbonate granules or bicarbonate salts. Not only does the carbonate material neutralise the acid in sufficient quantity, it also helps to absorb the liquid. If carbonates or bicarbonates are not immediately available in the case of minor spills, use cat litter or talc to help absorb the liquid.
Allow the neutralising agent to sit on the spill for 8 hours. After 8 hours, use a broom and a plastic dust pan to sweep up and absorb the neutraliser. Sprinkle the area again, until all the acid is absorbed.
Tips and warnings
- Hydrochloric acid is poisonous and extremely corrosive. Inhalation or ingestion can cause severe damage to body tissues and can be fatal. If a spill occurs, ventilate the area. If the spill is more than minor, evacuate the area.
- Do not get hydrochloric acid in your eyes or on your skin. If such an accident occurs, flush with copious water for at least 15 minutes, and seek immediate medical care.
- Hydrochloric acid itself is not flammable, but in reactions with other substances, it can release hydrogen gas. Never light a fire or use anything with sparks around any acid spill.
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