Hydrochloric Acid

What is hydrochloric acid?

When hydrogen chloride gas is dissolved in water, it forms hydrochloric acid.  This is a strong acid also known as muriatic acid.

Where can hydrochloric acid be found?

Hydrochloric acid is used in industry in the synthesis of plastics and as a reagent in other chemical reactions.  It is also used to clean steel prior to it being processed.  Solutions of hydrochloric acid are sold to consumers for use as concrete or masonry cleaners, metal cleaners, or toilet bowl cleaners.

How could I be exposed to hydrochloric acid?

You could be exposed to hydrochloric acid from contact with skin or eyes or through breathing the vapors.  If hydrochloric acid is drunk, do not induce vomiting but get immediate medical help.

What are the health effects of hydrochloric acid?

Hydrochloric acid can produce hydrogen chloride vapors, which have a biting and irritating odor.  In high concentrations in air hydrogen chloride can make it difficult to breathe, and at very high concentrations continuing to breathe it can be fatal.  Hydrochloric acid in contact with skin or other tissues can cause chemical burns that can be severe.  Hydrochloric acid in the eyes can cause blindness.  The severity of the burns depends upon the concentration of the acid and the amount of time it is left in contact with the tissues.  Concentrated hydrochloric acid will burn instantly, but dilute acid may take minutes to damage the skin.

How can I protect myself from hydrochloric acid?

Dilute muriatic acid properly for the desired application, and rinse it off the surface when done using plenty of water.  Wear eye protection and gloves.  For short-term low concentration exposure latex or nitrile gloves may be adequate, for other exposure heavy-duty chemical resistant gloves may be necessary.  Inspect the gloves during use for holes.  Wear long sleeves and pants when working with acid, and remove any clothing that is splashed promptly and safely.  Only use in a well-ventilated area.


Updated 2023