Muriatic Acid: How to Use and What Precautions to Take

Muriatic acid is a slightly less-pure variant of hydrochloric acid (chemical formula – HCl). The highly versatile Muriatic Acid is easily available in high concentrations for use in a host of home restoration and maintenance projects.

Muriatic Acid is a powerful chemical agent that is available for relatively low prices, about $10 a gallon at home centers, hardware stores, and even online on stores like Amazon. However, it is extremely caustic and can easily corrode and eat into everything from some plastics and metals to clothing and skin. On top of the possibility of harming objects in your house, muriatic acid also poses a health risk to humans and pets. Working with muriatic acid poses numerous health risks: momentary skin exposure can cause severe burns, inhaling its fumes can burn lung and nose lining, and contact can also cause irreversible eye damage or blindness.

Homeowners should never reach for muriatic acid lightly. Muriatic acid should only be considered as a “last resort” when less toxic options like baking soda fail to do the trick in cleaning, prepping, deoxidizing, or removing mold from masonry, concrete, metal, and swimming pools. So, if you are planning to use muriatic acid for certain purposes in your house or store, you’ll be better off if you read the following post for guidance in using it safely, and then for its range of practical applications around the house.

Essential Safety Measures with Muriatic Acid

Muriatic acid is a really hazardous chemical and it can deal an extensive amount of damage during even the smallest of mishaps. Hence, extreme caution is mandatory when using, storing, and disposing of muriatic acid. It’d be in your best interest if you follow the following guidelines before beginning any project that involves the muriatic acid:
While using muriatic acid, ensure that your face is fully protected. Ensure that you are wearing a respirator to prevent hazardous fumes from entering your lungs. Also ensure that you wear thick, full-coverage clothing, and acid-resistant protective gloves.

Use nothing but water to dilute muriatic acid. Though degree of dilution will vary depending on the job, the generally accepted formula is adding one-part muriatic acid to 10 parts water.

When you are making the dilution of muriatic acid, pour the acid slowly and carefully into the water. Ensure that you don’t do the vice versa i.e. NEVER add water to acid. That leads to an exothermic reaction which will produce a lot of heat and spill the acid out of the container and on to you.

Ensure that you never pour muriatic acid in an empty vessel, as it can spill out /react with the container and corrode it. Don’t ever make the mistake of mixing muriatic acid with another kind of acid.

Ensure that muriatic acid is always mixed in a glass or acid-resistant plastic container.
It is highly advisable to store muriatic acid inside the container it came in.

To handle situations where you need to neutralize muriatic acid quickly, ensure that you keep baking soda or garden lime handy. While you can also sprinkle these compounds in their full fledged powder form, a more pragmatic way would be to mix half a cup of baking soda with a quart of water in a spray bottle and keep it close by.

Work with a hose or large container of water nearby to wash skin in case of accidental splashing.
When you use muriatic acid over large surface areas, it needs to be applied with the help of a plastic sprayer. The plastic is bound to deteriorate quickly, so you’ll likely need more than one to complete the job.
To find out about the different ways to dispose muriatic acid safely, contact your local recycling center.
Muriatic acid: an effective last resort

If you follow all the safety precautions mentioned above, you will be able to use muriatic acid with great success. Here are six projects where you might find it indispensable:

Neutralizing alkalinity in masonry

Masonry alkalinity can discolour or burn off paint finishes. To neutralize the extreme alkalinity, you can wash brick, concrete, or stone with muriatic acid. This will allow paint finishes to last for years. To apply muratic acid, use a brush or spray a 1:10 diluted mix of acid in water onto the surface. Let the diluted muriatic acid solution sit for up to 10 minutes, but no longer. After that, spray it with a solution of 1 cup ammonia in a gallon of water to neutralize the acid. Before you apply any paint or other treatments to the surface, ensure that the muriatic acid covered part is completely dry.

Removing efflorescence and prepping masonry for paint

Efflorescence refers to the white crystalline blooming that can occur on masonry surfaces, including brick and concrete. Efflorescence is usually a sign of the masonry containing too much moisture. Efflorescence also indicates that a sealant may be needed to contain the moisture issues. Prior to applying sealant, however, efflorescence must be removed. Likewise, if you want to paint masonry, the surface needs to be “etched.” You can remove efflorescence and etch a masonry surface in one shot: Make a 1:10 dilution of muriatic acid with water. Let the solution rest for a few minutes till you can see the efflorescence lifting from the surface. After that happens, brush all the residue away with a stiff nylon brush. To neutralize the surface of its acidity, spray with a 1:16 ammonia-water neutralizing solution.

Basement makeover

Muriatic acid can also be used to help you fight mold and mildew in your basement. Aside from getting rid of the irritating fungus, muriatic acid can also restore the surface appearance. To get rid of mold and mildew from your basement walls, apply a 1:9 muriatic acid-to-water dilution, scrub visible mold patches on hard surfaces like concrete, bricks, and on some glazed tiles. Use a stiff nylon brush, and rinse all the muriatic acid down with water. If there is excessive water, use a wet vacuum cleaner to remove the excess water. Upon the completion of the process, ensure that the basement is aired before you start using it.

Busting rust

Muriatic acid usage for removal seems to be a counter productive process since it usually speeds up the oxidation process in metals. So if you want to use muriatic acid on metals, use it only on stainless steel and never on wrought or pig iron. Ensure that the surface is painted right after the rust is removed. Brush the muriatic acid in an 1:10 acid/water dilution using a nylon brush. As soon as the rust is removed, neutralize the muriatic acid with a baking soda-water mixture. Apply the mixture generously so that it thoroughly coats the acid-washed wall. Let the mixture rest on the metal surface for 10 minutes. Then, rinse thoroughly with water, wait for it to dry and prepare for a fresh coat of paint.

Swimming pool maintenance

Muriatic acid can turn your swimming pool surface to looking like it is new again. Drain the water from the pool and spray a 1:16 muriatic acid-to-water diluted solution on the surface of the pool. Afte4 that, let the solution sit on the swimming pool floor for 10 to 15 minutes. In case the surface is riddled with stubborn stains, use a nylon brush to scrub it clean. Rinse very well and thoroughly with plain water after you are done.

Swimming pool pH balance

If your swimming pool’s pH level goes to dangerously high levels, muriatic acid can help bring balance to its water. To perform this essential maintenance task, ensure that you purchase “swimming pool acid” only. This acid is nothing more than normal muriatic acid. It even costs the same as normal muriatic acid. However, it does contain thorough instructions and formulas to help you use it in a swimming pool. Add it on the pool surface, re-test the pH levels after a few hours and once it’s back in range, you’ll be ready for that dip in clean and pH balanced swimming pool water.

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