The five common acids have several uses in medicine, industries, and at home.
The five common acids have several uses in medicine, industries, and at home.

The five common acids have several uses in medicine, industries, and at home. The five common acids are sulfuric acid, hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, lactic acid, and acetic acid.

Sulfuric acid

Sulfuric acid is an oily and highly corrosive liquid. It is formed naturally in sulfide minerals in the process of rock oxidization. It is used to produce fertilizers, clean metals, remove impurities from oil, and manufacturing chemicals (nitric acid, hydrochloric acid, dyes, drugs, detergents, explosives, etc.). It is a dangerous chemical and should be handled with caution.

Uses of sulfuric acid:

  • Industrial uses of sulfuric acid: Sulfuric acid has various industrial uses, such as wastewater processing, potato farming, dehydrating, manufacturing cleaning agents, fertilizers, processing of minerals, producing explosives, detergents, perfumes, disinfectants, and in the paper industry, manufacturing aluminum sulfate.
  • Sulfuric acid in the production of drugs: Sulfuric acid can damage the cancerous cell DNA, hence used to manufacture chemotherapy drugs.
  • Sulfuric acid and skin: Sulfuric acid is used as an ingredient in skin ointments to treat skin infections, such as canker sores. Concentrated sulfuric acid is harmful to the skin. It can cause severe skin burns, injury, and pain.

Hydrochloric acid

Hydrogen is formed when chloride is dissolved in water. It is a strong acid, which is colorless and viscous. It is extremely corrosive and has a distinctively pungent smell. It is used as a laboratory reagent. It is also used in several industries, such as leather processing and the production of gelatin.

Hydrochloric acid in the stomach: It is a component of stomach acid. Stomach acid is composed of hydrochloric acid (HCl), potassium chloride (KCl), and sodium chloride (NaCl). The hydrochloric acid concentration in the stomach is approximately 0.5%, meaning the pH is generally 1.0-2.0. This low pH means the stomach acid strong. The low pH levels place stomach acid almost in the same category as battery acid, which can melt steel. However, the acid produced in the stomach does not cause harm and is essential for the body. It protects the stomach lining as well as helps break down and digest foods, such as calcium. It also helps kill harmful stomach bacteria and viruses, hence reduces the risk of several infections.

Uses of HCl:

It is used in the following:

  • Production of chlorides
  • Rubber industries
  • Production of fertilizers
  • Textile industries
  • Dye manufacturing
  • Refining of metals
  • Production of organic compounds, such as polyvinyl chloride or PVC
  • Regulate the pH of solutions


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Nitric acid

Nitric Acid is a strong acid. It is colorless, highly corrosive, and toxic. It causes severe skin burns. It reacts with hydroxides, metals, and oxides to form nitrate salts.

Uses of nitric acid: 

  • Production of ammonium nitrate to manufacture plastic, dye, and fertilizers
  • Making explosives, such as Trinitrotoluene or TNT
  • Liquid-fueled rockets
  • Removal of skin warts
  • Used in electrochemistry

Lactic acid

Lactic acid is an organic acid, also known as milk acid. When milk sugar (lactose) undergoes fermentation, lactic acid is formed. It is found in cottage cheese, sour milk, yogurt, etc. The soluble salt of lactic acid, such as calcium lactate, can be used as a source of calcium.

Uses of lactic acid:

Lactic acid is used in the following:

  • Food industry
  • Pharmaceutical industry
  • Skin products, such as creams, serums, and chemical peels to exfoliate and lighten skin
  • Making plastics
  • Coagulation of protein in milk
  • Textile dyeing
  • Leather tanning

The release of norepinephrine in the brain is signaled by lactate. Lactate plays an important role in the healing of traumatic brain injuries.

Acetic acid

Acetic acid is also known as methanecarboxylic acid and ethanoic acid. It is a clear, colorless liquid with a pungent smell. Vinegar is the dilute form of acetic acid. Acetic acid is a main component of vinegar and gives vinegar its characteristic smell.

Uses of acetic acid:

  • Industrial use: Acetic acid is used in the production of various chemical compounds, such as acetic anhydride, ester, vinegar, and many other polymeric materials.
  • Medical use: Acetic acid has a lot of uses in the medical field. It can be used as an antiseptic against pseudomonas, enterococci, streptococci, staphylococci, and other microorganisms. It is also used in cervical cancer screening and for the treatment of infections. It is used as an agent to break down red blood cells before white blood cells are examined in the lab. Vinegar has also been said to reduce high concentrations of blood sugar.
  • Food industry: It is most commonly in commercial pickling, making condiments, such as mayonnaise, mustard, and ketchup. It is also used for seasoning various food items, such as salads. Vinegar can react with baking soda; it produces a gas that helps in baking.
  • Household use: Acetic acid is widely used for cleaning, laundry, cooking, and many other household uses.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/10/2021
The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. Acids and Bases. February 25, 2021.

PHET Interactive Simulations. Acid-Base Solutions. University of Colorado.