Acid Cleaners

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Acid cleaners are powerful and versatile substances. Whether your mixture falls under the category of mild or strong in terms of how intense its cleaning power is, as long as you know the difference and use them safely acid cleaners can work miracles.

They can remove tarnish and hard water deposits from surfaces, and since acids act to neutralize alkalis, a homemade acid cleanser can even be used to address alkaline discoloration or corrosion on metals. The following ingredients and procedures should give you a clear idea of how you can create your own cleaning solution and just how tough it will be.

  • Caution: Acids can injure eyes, skin, and fabrics; stronger acids are highly toxic and can eat through metal. Acids can etch surfaces and porcelain enamel.

Mild Acid Cleaners

These are useful for handling minor blemishes like hard water deposits on a shower door, mild rust stains, or soap film on brass and copper. For these kinds of issues something as simple as lemon juice (citric acid) or vinegar (acetic acid) can be all you need. Note that occasionally acids can have a bleaching effect on some stains.

Another common woe that can be solved with a mild strength acid cleaner is discoloration on aluminum pans. This is caused by regular use and cooking with common ingredients like tomato sauce, which is a natural alkali. A mild option like tartaric acid, more frequently called Cream of Tartar can neutralize the base effects on the aluminum and make your discoloration disappear.

Strong Acid Cleaners

These are meant for tougher situations and are usually commercially bought acidic chemicals or a diluted mixture of a very specific acid. These things may be lying around your home, but they're not going to be as innocent or accessible as our lemon juice.

For a heavy duty task like removing iron rust, oxalic acid will do the trick. Oxalic acid is part of the recipe for commercial rust removers, so a weak solution including it will remove rust stains from tubs and sinks.

If you are looking for a toilet bowl cleanser or etching compound, a strong acid cleaner is also the way to go. In this case dilute hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, muriatic acid, and sodium bisulfate. These remove hard water and iron deposits and even organic matter, which is why they are found in many commercial toilet cleansers.

Caution: These acids are highly toxic; follow label instructions exactly. Do not mix with other cleaners. Avoid contact with skin or your eyes, and do not get it on materials other than what you are attempting to clean.

If you have any cleaning needs not suited for an acid cleaner, familiarize yourself with the many other substances in the basic cleaning families: Alkalis, Abrasives, Detergents, and Solvents.