Household Uses for Sulphuric Acid

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More sulfuric acid (sometimes spelled sulphuric acid) is made annually than any other manufactured chemical. Sulfuric acid uses are countless, including many products you use in your home. You likely already have sulfuric acid household products on hand, but being aware of the chemical and how to use it safely is important.

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About Sulfuric Acid

Sulfuric acid is a colorless, oily liquid that is water soluble when heated. This means that sulfuric acid will dissolve in water and can be diluted to different strengths depending upon the intended application. If not diluted, sulfuric acid is corrosive to metal and tissues. It also can be used to char wood and other organic matter, which can be done to create a product for mass consumption or for art applications.

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If it's not diluted, sulfuric acid can be hazardous to your health. Prolonged contact on the skin can cause burns, and if you inhale it, it can cause other health complications. For these reasons, always wear gloves and a mask when you work with sulfuric acid.

Sulfuric Acid and Batteries

Sulfuric acid uses are virtually endless. Because it's easily diluted, it can be used for anything from skin care to construction jobs. In addition, you can use sulfuric acid when you need to cause a specific chemical reaction. For this reason, sulfuric acid is a major component in batteries.

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Large-power batteries such as those found in hospital imaging equipment, car batteries, and farm equipment batteries contain sulfuric acid. Batteries like these rely on the chemical reaction that sulfuric acid has when it meets lead. The electrons that are generated from that combination are what the battery needs to produce voltage.

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When this happens in a battery, there is also an inert compound created. Because of this, all sulfuric acid batteries have a lifespan of use, and you'll get diminishing returns with the battery until it's spent.

Sulfuric Acid and Drain Cleaner

Another common use of sulfuric acid is for drain cleaning products. Many industrial-strength drain cleaners or drain openers are extremely corrosive. They can cause severe burns on the skin if spilled. Some of these drain openers come in a powder that needs to be activated with cold water.

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To use them, you must first pour a certain amount into your drain without getting it on your skin and then rinse with cold water to activate the chemicals. If you accidentally get this product on your hand, do not thrust your hand immediately into cold water. Instead, lather with soap and then rinse with warm water.

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Household Products Containing Sulfuric Acid

Sulfuric acid is commonly found in household cleaning products, such as products to clean aluminum, though it's not limited to that use. The reason that sulfuric acid household products are so common has to do with its corrosive properties. This makes it an excellent choice for products such as toilet bowl cleaners and drain cleaners/openers.

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Other sulfuric acid uses include additives in powdered laundry detergents, hand soap, dishwashing liquid, and pet products. Not all of these products contain sulfuric acid. If you're curious about what products in your home contain sulfuric acid, check the product labels.

Using Sulfuric Acid Safely

Always follow all instructions given during use. Typically, it's advised to wear gloves, a breathing mask, and eye protection. If a product states that you should use any protective gear, assume that it can cause severe skin burns. If you have any product with sulfuric acid, don't transfer the product out of the original container for storage.

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If you do so, you risk having the sulfuric acid break down the new container. When storing anything with sulfuric acid, store it on the floor or in lower cabinets. This reduces the risk of people pulling down the product and spilling it on themselves. Products containing the acid can also cause sulfuric acid stains on various surfaces if not stored or used correctly.

Can Sulfuric Acid Kill You?

Sulfuric acid can be deadly if ingested. Externally, it can cause severe burning and even disfigurement. In its powdered state, sulfuric acid will still burn when it comes in contact with the skin. When that powder is mixed with cold water, it will break down skin with shocking speed.

If sulfuric acid is put in a glass of cold water, the glass will very quickly become too hot to hold in your bare hands. If dumped on a person, it will cause disfiguring chemical burns that may need multiple surgical procedures to treat.

Accidental Sulfuric Acid Ingestion

If sulfuric acid is ingested, do not attempt to throw up. Contact emergency services immediately. To make certain that you'll get the correct treatment, take a picture of the container or bring it with you to the emergency department if possible. You can also contact poison control at 800-222-1222 for other instructions.

Sulfuric acid is dangerous in all of its forms, so take caution to not inhale or ingest it. If you inhale sulfuric acid, you should still contact poison control. If breathed in, sulfuric acid can burn soft tissue like the eyes or throat, so it's very important to NOT rinse your mouth out with cold water. Before doing anything, contact poison control or your emergency health services.

The Importance of Sulfuric Acid

Without sulfuric acid, we wouldn't have access to a whole host of products that most people use daily. Car batteries, for example, wouldn't be as powerful. That would limit horsepower and reduce fuel efficiency.

In addition, most drain cleaners and toilet bowl cleaners contain sulphuric acid because of its ability to break down organic components such as hair. Some cleaners that are available at hardware stores are so corrosive that there has been discussion about needing a license to purchase it.

Sulfuric acid household products are some common that life without it would be noticeably different. Even cosmetic chemical peels and scrubs make use of extremely diluted sulfuric acid. The use of sulphuric acid even in beauty products can be very dangerous if it gets into your eyes or gets ingested. To make sure that you're getting the most out of your skin care products, follow all instructions closely.