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Storage and handling of Hydrochloric Acid

Method 802

  1. Intent
  2. Description
  3. Use
  4. Storage
  5. Spill
  6. Disposal
  7. Hazard
  8. First Aid
  9. Technical

1. Intent

This laboratory technique describes the processes for use, storage, spill resolution and disposal for concentrated hydrochloric acid. The technique also provides information on fire, explosion and hazards as well as first aid treatment.

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2. Product description

Hydrochloric acid is a Class 8: Corrosive Substance and has damaging properties as follows:

Hydrochloric acid toxicity information

Inhalation Irritating to respiratory system. Inhalation of product vapours will cause irritation of the nose, throat and respiratory system.
Ingestion Will cause severe irritation and chemical burns to the mouth, oesophagus and stomach. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, perforation with severe abdominal pain and bleeding, breathing difficulties, shock, convulsions, collapse and possibly lead to death.
Skin Will cause severe irritation and possible burns to the skin, which can result in redness, itchiness, pain and swelling. Repeated or prolonged contact may also lead to dermatitis.
Eye Will cause severe irritation to the eyes, which can result in redness, stinging, pain, loss of colour vision (blue vision), corneal oedema, lachrymation and possibly irreversible eye damage including corneal burns.
Chronic Effects Prolonged or repeated skin contact may cause defatting leading to dermatitis.

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3. Use of hydrochloric acid

3.1 Mandatory PPE

When handling hydrochloric acid, utilise the following mandatory PPE:

  • Long-sleeved 100% cotton shirt and full-length 100% cotton trousers. For additional protection, a knee-length 100% cotton laboratory coat (with long sleeves which clip at the wrist) can also be worn.
  • Nitrile or super nitrile gloves.
  • Eye protection: either safety glasses, spectacles, goggles or face shield (complying with AS 1337).
  • Enclosed safety shoes (complying with AS 2210).

Fig 1: PPE

Figure 1: Person wearing appropriate PPE

3.2 Precautions

When handling hydrochloric acid:

  • It is advisable to apply a barrier cream to the hands prior to use.
  • Always have at least one other person present in the laboratory.
  • Keep containers closed and in an upright position when not in use.
  • Keep containers away from sources of heat (including hot plates, Bunsen burners, ovens and sunlight) except when heating for testing purposes.
  • Maintain a high level of personal hygiene when using this product, by always washing hands prior to eating, drinking, smoking or using toilet facilities.
  • It is advisable to apply a moisturiser after washing hands.

3.3 Decanting and dilution

When decanting and diluting hydrochloric acid, the following must be observed:

  • Decanting must be carried out in a fume cupboard (do not inhale vapours).
  • Decanted aliquots can only be stored in reagent bottles, never return decanted aliquots to the supply container.
  • Dispose of unused aliquots in an appropriate manner (see Section 6: Disposal).
  • When diluting, add the acid to water and store the diluted acid solution in a reagent bottle (never add the water to the acid).
Hydrochloric Acid Decanting and Diluting Title Screen

Video transcript

Medium sized supply containers of hydrochloric acid are to be stored in a corrosives storage cabinet which must display that it

  • Conforms to the Australian Standard 3780/
  • Highlights the capacity of the internal bund; and
  • Displays the class of the dangerous goods contained within.

Decanting and diluting of hydrochloric acid is to take place in a fume cupboard or a well ventilated area.

  • Using a beaker containing water and a plastic wash bottle, fill a measuring cylinder to the appropriate level and pour into a dilution beaker.
  • Pour a small amount of hydrochloric acid from the supply container into a small well labelled beaker. 
  • It is a safe work practice to work with smaller quantities of acid rather than the whole supply container.
  • Using the beaker filled with acid, pour the required quantity into an appropriately labelled measuring cylinder. 
  • The final step is to pour the hydrochloric acid into the beaker containing the water while constantly stirring. The acid must be poured slowly into the water to reduce the likelihood of any adverse reaction. 
  • If there is any acid remaining in the small beaker, dispose of it using the appropriate disposal method for hydrochloric acid.

When decanting and diluting hydrochloric acid:

  • Ensure that vapours are not inhaled
  • Prevent contamination by never returning decanted aliquots to the original supply container; and
  • Dispose of any unused aliquots in the appropriate manner.

Ensure the dilution of hydrochloric acid occurs by adding the acid to water and storing the diluted acid solution in a reagent bottle. NEVER add the water to the acid.

3.4 Labelling

Reagent bottles must be appropriately labelled.

Reagent bottles with capacity larger than 500 mL:

Fig 2: Labelling on reagent container >500 mL

Figure 2: Labelling on reagent container >500 mL 

Labels on reagent bottles require the following information:

  • Product and chemical name.
  • Dangerous goods class (e.g. Class 8: Corrosive Substance).
  • United Nations (UN 1789) Number.
  • Ingredients and formulation details where relevant.
  • Risk phrases.
  • Safety phrases.
  • First aid procedures.
  • Emergency procedures.
  • Details of manufacturer or importer.
  • Reference to MSDS.
  • Expiry date where provided.
  • Name of person responsible for preparing any dilution.

Reagent bottles with capacity 500 mL or smaller:

Labels on reagent bottles require the following information:

  • Product and chemical name.
  • Date prepared (for diluted solutions of acid).
  • Expiry date (where provided).
  • Name of person responsible for preparing any dilution.

Fig 3: Labelling on reagent bottle <500 mL

Figure 3: Labelling on reagent bottle <500 mL

3.5 Carrying hydrochloric acid

Hydrochloric acid containers must not be carried by hand, containers are to be transferred as follows:

  • Small (<2.5 L) supply containers as well as reagent bottles and beakers must be transferred using a laboratory carrier.
  • Medium (2.5 L and 5 L) supply containers must be transferred using a laboratory carrier.
  • Large (20 L) supply containers must be transferred using a trolley.

Fig 4: Carrying apparatus for different sized

Figure 4: Carrying apparatus for different sized containers

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4. Storage of hydrochloric acid

To prevent injury to personnel, damage to equipment and to meet legislative storage requirements, the acid must be stored as follows:

4.1 Storage general

  • Store in an upright position.
  • Monitor containers for deficiencies such as damage or leaks on a monthly basis.
  • Store in an approved container with appropriate labelling.
  • Keep containers closed when not in use and protected against physical damage.
  • The total maximum quantity of corrosive substances kept in a single storage cabinet or bulk store shall not exceed 1000 kg or 1000 L.
  • Never store with food, beverages or food packaging.

Hydrochloric acid can not be stored with any of the following substances:

 Class  Definition  Chemicals included in this class
1 Explosives -
3 Flammable Liquids Acetone
4.3 Dangerous When Wet Substances  -
5.1 Oxidising Agents Ammonium Nitrate, Hydrogen Peroxide, Perchloric Acid, Silver Nitrate, Potassium Permanganate, Chromic Acid.
5.2 Organic Peroxides  -
6 Toxic Substances (where toxic substances are cyanides and
corrosives are acids)
 -
7 Radioactive Substances Americium/Berylium, Cesium.
8 Corrosive Substances Sodium Hydroxide, Potassium Hydroxide, Sulphuric Acid, Nitric Acid.
9 Miscellaneous Dangerous Goods Lead (metal plate), Magnesium (tooling plate/slab).

4.2 Laboratory storage

For quantities of 5 litres or less, store in a bunded, corrosive storage cabinet (complying with AS 3780).

  • Storage cabinets must be located in a well ventilated area away from sources of heat such as hot plates, Bunsen burners, ovens and sunlight.

4.3 Bulk storage:

For bulk storage e.g. 20 litres, store in a well ventilated, bunded, secure storage area away from direct sunlight.

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5. Spill resolution

Spills or leaks of hydrochloric acid must be cleaned up immediately.

5.1 Mandatory PPE

  • Respiratory Equipment eg. Half-Face Filter Respirator Class A1P2 for spills in excess of 100 mL.
  • Long-sleeved 100% cotton shirt and full-length 100% cotton trousers. For additional protection, a knee-length 100% cotton laboratory coat (with long sleeves which clip at the wrist) can also be worn.
  • Nitrile or super nitrile gloves.
  • Eye protection: either safety glasses, spectacles, goggles or face shield (complying with AS 1337).
  • Enclosed safety shoes (complying with AS 2210).

Fig 5: Respirator A1P2

Figure 5: Respirator A1P2

5.2 Immediate action

  • Stop any leak if safe to do so.
  • Evacuate all unnecessary personnel.
  • Turn off all sources of heat.
  • Keep combustibles away from the immediate area of the spill.
  • Turn off air-conditioning (if possible).
  • Open windows and doors to increase ventilation (if possible).
  • Use a water spray to prevent vapours from entering the atmosphere.
  • Inform the local water authority and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) if contamination of sewers or waterways occurs.
Hydrochloric Acid Spill Procedures Title Screen

Video transcript

Spills and leaks of hydrochloric acid must be cleaned up immediately. However, before attending to a hydrochloric acid spill, it’s important the correct PPE is worn.

For hydrochloric acid spills, this includes: 

  • Enclosed safety shoes which comply with Australian Standard 2210.
  • A knee length 100% cotton laboratory coat with long sleeves that are clipped at the wrist.
  • Safety glasses; and 
  • Chemical gloves from the chemical spill containment kit.
  • If the spill is greater than 100 millilitres, respirator equipment such as a half-faced filter respirator class A1P2 must be worn.

Following a spill, you must:

  • Stop any leak if it’s safe to do so
  • Evacuate all unnecessary personnel, making sure there are at least 2 people remaining in attendance.
  • Keep combustible materials away from the immediate area of the spill.
  • If possible, increase ventilation by opening doors and windows.
  • Turn off air conditioning and heat sources like ovens or hot plates; and
  • Gather the spill kit suitable for cleaning up the chemical.

If contamination of sewers or waterways occurs, the relevant local authorities and EPA must be informed in accordance with local regulations.

With the correct PPE and spill kit, the spill can now be attended to. 

  • First cover the spilled hydrochloric acid with a 1:1:1 mixture by weight of sodium carbonate, clay kitty litter and sand.
  • When this mixture comes into contact with the acid, a reaction will occur. Keep covering with the mixture until all liquid is absorbed. 
  • Scoop the absorbed acid mixture into a bucket and remove it to the fume cupboard. 
  • In the fume cupboard, slowly add the acid mixture to a bucket of cold water. 
  • If a reaction continues, add small amounts of sodium carbonate until the reaction is complete. 
  • Wait for the solids to settle. 
  • Pour the water mixture into the sewer with 50 times the volume of water. 
  • If the kitty litter remains floating on the surface of the water, pour the water mixture through a sieve as it is poured down the sewer.
  • Place the remaining solids from the bucket and those captured in the sieve into a plastic bag and seal. 
  • Place this bag into general waste 
  • Ventilate the site of the spillage well and mop the area with water infused with sodium carbonate.

To recap the procedures following a hydrochloric acid spill, 

  • Ensure correct PPE is worn.
  • Secure the site.
  • If necessary, notify any relevant authorities.
  • Use the chemical spill kit.
  • Dispose of waste correctly; and
  • Ensure personal safety is maintained at all times.

5.3 Clean up

  • Cover the spill with absorbent material (a 1:1:1 mixture by weight of sodium carbonate, clay kitty litter and sand) until all fluid has been absorbed.
    Scoop the contaminated absorbed material into a beaker or pail.
  • In a fume cupboard, slowly add the contaminated absorbed material into a pail of cold water while stirring.
  • Continue until the reaction ceases (effervescence stops). Confirm neutralisation (pH range 6-10) using pH paper.
  • When solids have settled, decant liquid into a drain with 50 times its volume of water.
  • Place the solid residue (precipitate, kitty litter and sand) in a sealed plastic bag for disposal (see Section 6: Disposal).
  • Ventilate the spill site to evaporate any remaining liquid and dispel vapour.
  • Mop the spill site floor with water infused with sodium carbonate.

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6. Disposal

6.1 Pre-Treatment

  • Neutralise empty hydrochloric acid containers and unused aliquots using a solution of 10% sodium carbonate and 90% water. For containers add the solution until the container is approximately 25% filled.
  • Agitate or stir the contents of the container. For containers with lids, this is best achieved by securely replacing the lid and shaking its contents.
  • Continue adding additional solution until the reaction between the acid and sodium carbonate has reached completion (effervescence stops).
  • Labels on empty supply containers must be removed or fully obliterated.

6.2 Disposal method

The neutralised solution, contaminated absorbent material and supply containers can be disposed of as follows:

  • The washings obtained from containers can be washed down the sewer using 50 parts of water to 1 part of the washings.
  • Supply containers can be placed in general waste.
  • Reagent bottles and other laboratory containers such as beakers, should be further rinsed with water, dried and stored for re-use.
  • Contaminated absorbent material (in a sealed plastic bag) can be disposed of in general waste.
Hydrochloric Acid Disposal Procedures Title Screen

Video transcript

The correct disposal of hydrochloric acid is imperative in maintaining a safe working environment. Small quantities of hydrochloric acid may be left over when working with quantities in the decanting and dilution process or at the end of a supply container or reagent bottle.

To ensure that any leftover solution is disposed of correctly, the beakers, reagent bottles or supply containers need to be neutralised using:

10% sodium carbonate and 90% water

  • Pour the neutralising solution into the leftover solution using a funnel.
  • Shake the bottle to mix the neutralising solution and leftover hydrochloric acid
  • Following the addition of the neutralising solution, place the solution into a beaker to test its pH levels. The solution’s pH should be within the range of 6-10.
  • If it’s not, continue to adjust the pH of the solution until the pH required range is met.
  • Once the solution is within the required range, wash down the sewer using twenty parts of water to one part of the neutralised solution.
  • Finally, make sure any labels are removed or blacked out and place the container into general waste.

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7. Fire and explosion hazard information

In case of fire with hydrochloric acid present:

  • Suitable Extinguishing Media: Extinguish fire with foam, dry chemical powder, carbon dioxide, water fog or water spray.
  • Hazards from Combustion Products: Non-combustible material.
  • Specific Hazards: Heating can cause expansion or decomposition leading to violent rupture of containers. The product is strongly acidic and hence may react with metals to produce hydrogen, a flammable gas.

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8. First aid procedures

The following steps must be taken to apply first aid to required areas when in contact with the chemical:

  • Inhalation: If inhaled, remove from contaminated area. Apply artificial respiration if not breathing. SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION.
  • Ingestion: If swallowed, do NOT induce vomiting. Wash out mouth with large amounts of water. SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION. Immediately call the Poisons Information Centre on the phone number at end of document.
  • Skin: Wash affected area thoroughly with soap and water. Remove contaminated clothing and wash before re-use or discard. SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION. Use moisturiser after prolonged use.
  • Eye: If in contact with the eye(s) hold eyelids apart and flush the eye continuously with running water. Take care not to rinse contaminated water into the non-affected eye. Continue flushing for at least 15 minutes. SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION IMMEDIATELY.
  • First Aid Facilities: Safety showers, eye wash and normal washroom facilities.
  • Advice to Doctor: Treat symptomatically as for strong acids. For advice, call the Poisons Information Centre below.

Emergency contacts

  • Poisons Information Centre: 131 126
  • Australian Emergency Services: 000

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9. Technical information

Fig 6: Hydrochloric Acid

Figure 6: Hydrochloric Acid

Hydrochloric acid chemical and physical information

Molecular Formula HCl
Appearance Clear colourless to light-yellow liquid.
Melting Point -40 °C
Boiling Point 110 °C
Solubility in Water Soluble in all proportions.
Specific Gravity 1.16
Flash Point N/A
Stability Stable under recommended storage conditions.
Incompatible Materials Will react with water or steam to produce toxic and corrosive fumes. Keep away from strong oxidising agents and strong bases.
Hazardous Polymerisation Will not occur.
Hazardous Reactions Avoid contact with metals. Reacts with zinc, brass,galvanised iron, aluminium, copper and copper alloys. Keep away from cyanides and sulphides.
Hazardous Decomposition Products Hydrogen chloride

The following controls are used by TMR to minimise risks when handling hydrochloric acid:

Current Transport and Main Roads controls

Engineering Controls / Ventilation Fume cupboard complying with AS 1807 and AS 2243.
Safe Work Procedures As per this technique/MSDS.
First Aid Facilities Eyewash station, safety shower and normal washroom facilities.
Spill Procedures Refer to Sections 5.2 and 5.3.
Waste Disposal Procedures Refer to Section 6.2.
Fire/Explosion Hazard Refer to Section 7.
Administrative Controls Nil
PPE Refer to Section 5.1.
Emergency Procedures Phone 1800 638 556
Training Provided Assessed element of competency.
Previous Monitoring Results Nil.
Storage & Handling Requirements Corrosive substances cabinet complying with AS 3780.
Monitoring Required No

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Last updated
18 September 2013