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By Kim Dinh

Hydrochloric acid


What is Hydrochloric Acid?

Hydrochloric acid, also known as muriatic acid, has the chemical formula HCl and exists as a colorless, nonflammable liquid or gas. HCl has a pungent odor that can be irritating to the eyes or upon inhalation. It is widely used in various applications due to its high corrosivity which allows for it to break down a variety of materials. HCl acid occurs naturally in the human digestive process as the main component of gastric acid. This helps to break down food in the stomach.

Top 5 Uses of Hydrochloric acid

The uses of hydrochloric acid are far-reaching, from home to industrial applications. Below are the 5 most common uses of HCl.

1. Pickling of Steel

Hydrochloric acid is used in the pickling of steel by which impurities, rust, and scale is removed from the surface of steel or iron before being sent for further processing. Pickling using hydrochloric acid removes iron oxides from the surface of these metals prior to it being galvanized. The most common concentration of hydrochloric acid for pickling of steel is 18%.

2. Laboratory Uses (Analytical Reagent Grade)

Hydrochloric acid has many uses in the laboratory. It is one of the main six strong acids used for pH adjustments via titrations, dissolution of materials, chemical precursors, trace analysis, and regeneration of ion exchange resins. HCl is especially useful for determining the base concentration, as stronger acids yield more precise results in titrations.

3. Cleaners, Food Manufacturing, Industrial Applications

Due to its corrosive properties, hydrochloric acid serves as a useful ingredient in common household cleaners to remove hard stains such as those accumulated on bathroom tiles, porcelain sinks, and toilet bowls. It is also used in gelatin products and processing of corn syrups that are then added to various soft drinks and confectionaries. Canned goods, juices, and different sauces contain hydrochloric acid to prolong shelf life and optimize flavor. HCl is used in industrial applications such as in the production of PVC plastic, polyurethanes, oil production, and purification of table salt.

4. Neutralization

Hydrochloric acid is commonly used to regulate the acidity of solutions. It is generally used to control the pH of liquids such as water streams, waste streams, and backyard swimming pools. Additionally, limestone, or calcium carbonate, is used to neutralize HCl which yields calcium chloride. The main use of calcium chloride is in de-icing highways to make them safe for vehicle travel.

5. Ore Processing

Hydrochloric acid is used in mining operations to extract, separate, and purify. Large quantities are consumed in the recovery of elements such as gold and molybdenum. HCl is used in the conversion of high grade scheelite concentrate and crude sodium tungstate to tungstic acid, which can then be used to produce tungsten metal and chemicals.

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