The 10 Best Acid Cleaners
This wiki has been updated 19 times since it was first published in October of 2016. Some of these acid cleaners are very dangerous and toxic, coming in extremely high concentrations, so make sure you select the right one for your needs and wear proper protective gear to keep yourself safe. They are particularly good as cleaners for everything from hard water scale to grout to concrete pavers and other masonry surfaces, and for removing mold or mortar residue. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. If you'd like to contribute your own research to the Wiki, please get started by reviewing this introductory video.
December 19, 2020:
Acid cleaners can be both effective and dangerous, so make sure you always wear proper protective equipment and have adequate ventilation when using any of these. Ideally, it is great if you can get effective cleaning properties without exposure to potentially harmful chemicals and fumes, which is exactly what Milliard Citric offers. However, for extremely stubborn issues, like heavily rusted items or efflorescence on bricks, you may need to turn to something more potent, such as Duda Energy Phosphoric or Custom Building Products TLSAC1, respectively.
March 22, 2019:
Acids can be some of the most effective cleaners, but they can also be very dangerous. This is why it is important to be knowledgeable about the product you are using and take proper precautions. We recommend always wearing gloves and eye protection when using every item on our list, even if not specifically stated in the description. Pants and a long sleeve shirt wouldn't be a bad idea either. That being said, some of the options on our list can actually be very gentle, like FDC Pure Oxalic Powder, which is safe to use in a garden when diluted, and Milliard Citric, which is safe to use on food as a preservative and flavoring agent. Duda Energy Phosphoric and Duda Energy Hydrochloric/Muriatic fall on the opposite end of the spectrum and are extremely potent formulas. Both are suitable for processing the byproducts of bio-diesel, etching metal, and removing rust, but the utmost care should be taken when using them. If you want something that cleans effectively, but you don't have to worry so much about injuring yourself or others when using them, Zep Toilet Bowl and Certol International Acid Magic are probably more your speed. They are designed not to burn skin on contact and can be used straight out of the bottle without being diluted. Certol International Acid Magic also has 90 percent less harmful fumes than non-buffered solutions. If you need to remove grout haze or concrete splatter from masonry, turn to Custom Building Products TLSAC1 and Miracle Sealants Heavy Duty.
Types Of Acid Cleaners And Their Uses
There are several different types, and the best one to tackle the task at hand depends on what you plan to use it for.
For extra tough jobs, sometimes a regular household cleaner just doesn't cut it. In those cases, an acid cleaner can take care of stubborn stains, mold, and mineral buildup. They may sound scary, but these cleaners are almost always diluted before use, and they can be extremely effective when used properly. There are several different types, and the best one to tackle the task at hand depends on what you plan to use it for.
Citric acid is excellent for use in the kitchen. As the name suggests, it's found in citrus fruits, especially lemons and limes. It's a natural disinfectant that kills mold and bacteria, so it's perfect for cleaning your counter tops and cutting boards to get rid of germs after prepping raw meat. It can remove soap scum, hard water stains, calcium deposits, and rust, and is often used as a flavoring and preservative for foods. In home canning, it can be added to foods to increase their acidity and inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria.
Phosphoric acid is a weaker acid that is often used to remove mineral deposits and rust from ceramic, porcelain, and concrete. It's noncorrosive, making it relatively safe to work with, but it can damage natural stones such as marble, granite, and limestone.
Oxalic acid is primarily used as a bleaching agent and rust remover. It occurs naturally in many plants, including parsley, rhubarb, and spinach. It's great for lightening wood in preparation for staining and can remove many types of stains from stone, linoleum, and vinyl surfaces.
Sulfamic acid is commonly used in household cleaners to remove limescale from metals and ceramics. It's also effective at dissolving hard water deposits and removing dried cement and mortar residue from concrete and masonry.
Muriatic acid is a less pure form of hydrochloric acid. It's extremely corrosive and is one of the more dangerous acids to work with, so you should only use it in cases when a weaker cleaner won't work. It's frequently used in masonry to remove dried cement from brick, stone, and other surfaces, but it's very damaging to plants, so try to keep it away from grass and other greenery. It can also help to clean particularly ornery stains from the walls and floor of your swimming pool and balance the pH level of the water.
Safety First: How To Protect Yourself When Cleaning With Acid
When you're working with acid, there's no such thing as being too careful. Even at low concentrations, these cleaners can cause discomfort if they come into contact with your eyes and skin, and inhaling the vapors can be very irritating to your throat. Higher concentrations can give you chemical burns that may even require a trip to the hospital. That's why it's important to take every possible precaution to protect yourself.
Open doors and windows and turn on a fan to allow for better ventilation.
First and foremost, never store your acid cleaners anywhere that kids can access. Find a spot that's too high for them to reach or, better yet, has a door that locks.
Wear a long-sleeved shirt and full-length pants to minimize the amount of skin that is exposed. And don't wear any clothes you don't mind getting dirty — acid cleaners can easily discolor most fabrics. You'll also need safety glasses and a thick pair of rubber gloves. Open doors and windows and turn on a fan to allow for better ventilation. When working in an enclosed space, be sure to wear a mask or respirator so you don't inhale the fumes. If you have longer hair, pull it back into a bun or ponytail to prevent stray pieces from falling into your acid cleaner.
Always keep a bucket of clean water nearby when working with acids. This comes in handy for rinsing surfaces after cleaning and makes it easy to neutralize the acid if you accidentally splash some on your skin or clothing. It's also a good idea to keep baking soda or another neutralizing agent on hand when using stronger acids.
When you're diluting acids, you should always pour the acid into the water, and not the other way around. Adding water to acid can cause a dangerous chemical reaction that makes it bubble up and potentially spill over. You should also make sure you're using a container made of glass or acid-resistant plastic.
Dos And Don'ts Of Disposal
Getting rid of used or leftover acid cleaners can be almost as complicated as using them safely, and you should always wear the same safety gear that you wear when cleaning with them.
In some states, it's legal to pour acids down the drain once they've been neutralized.
It's important to never pour undiluted acids down the drain. They can corrode your pipes, causing damage that's very expensive to fix. If your house has a septic tank, even a small amount of acid can destroy beneficial bacteria that are needed to break down waste. Likewise, acid cleaners should never be poured out on the ground outside, as they can seep into the soil and contaminate groundwater. Plus, it's actually illegal in many states.
You may also be tempted to just seal the container and throw your leftover acid cleaner out with the rest of your trash, but this can be dangerous for garbage handlers if the container leaks or is punctured. It can also cause unexpected chemical reactions with other materials in the landfill where it eventually ends up.
In some states, it's legal to pour acids down the drain once they've been neutralized. While it's possible to neutralize most acid cleaners with baking soda, it can be a dangerous process if you don't know what you're doing, and we don't recommend trying it at home.
Instead, find out if there are any collection programs or drop-off sites for hazardous waste in your area. Most cities and counties have places where you can take unused chemicals to be recycled or disposed of. If you have any questions, contact your nearest waste facility for advice or check the website for your state's hazardous waste management division. Local pool companies and masonry contractors may also be willing to take unused acids off your hands.