What Is Hydrochloric Acid Used For?

Hydrochloric acid is an aqueous (water-based) solution of the gas, hydrogen chloride.
Hydrochloric acid is an aqueous (water-based) solution of the gas, hydrogen chloride.

Hydrochloric acid is an aqueous (water-based) solution of the gas, hydrogen chloride. It is a strong corrosive and has several applications.

Household cleaners

Due to its corrosive nature, hydrochloric acid or HCL is useful in cleaning tough stains. Hence, it is found in most household cleaners, such as:

  • Toilet bowl cleaners
  • Bathroom tile cleaners
  • Porcelain cleaners

Food production and processing

The food industry used hydrochloric acid to process various food items, such as:

  • Corn syrups used in soft drinks
  • Cookies
  • Crackers
  • Ketchup
  • Cereals

Hydrochloric acid can also be used as an acidifier to enhance flavor and reduce spoilage in:

  • Sauces
  • Vegetable juices
  • Canned goods

Building and construction industry

Hydrochloric acid is beneficial in removing rust and other impurities from:

  • Carbon
  • Alloy
  • Stainless steel

The resultant steel is used for final applications in building and construction projects, car bodies, and household appliances.

Other applications of hydrochloric acid include:

  • Aluminum etching
  • Metal cleaning applications

Medical applications

Hydrochloric acid has various applications in the medical field. It is used as a:

  • Tuberculocide (for disinfecting surfaces potentially contaminated by tuberculosis bacteria).
  • Disinfectant.
  • Sanitizer.
  • Virucide.
  • Fungicide.
  • Microbicide (against slime-forming bacteria).

Hydrochloric acid is the main component of gastric juice. Excessive secretion of the acid causes gastric ulcers whereas significant deficiency of hydrochloric acid impairs the digestive process and sometimes causes iron deficiency anemia.

Bleaching agents

Hydrochloric acid is used as a bleaching agent in food, textile, metal, and rubber industries.

Production of chemicals

Hydrochloric acid is used to produce various chemicals, including:

  • Chlorides
  • Tin
  • Vinyl chloride
  • Phosphoric acid
  • Ammonium chloride
  • Calcium chloride

Other uses

Hydrochloric acid is used in the production of:

  • Batteries
  • Photoflash bulbs
  • Fireworks

HCL is also used in:

  • Leather processing
  • Oil well acidizing
  • Producing gelatin products
  • Manufacture of fertilizers and dyes

What are the safety concerns with hydrochloric acid?

If concentrated hydrochloric acid comes in contact with your skin and eyes, you may experience:

If you accidentally ingest concentrated hydrochloric acid, you may experience:

If you accidentally breathe a large amount of hydrochloric acid fumes, you may experience:

What is the treatment for hydrochloride poisoning?

If you encounter hydrochloric acid, you can follow some first aid instructions before seeking medical help. If hydrochloric acid contacts the skin and eyes, immediately flush the area with lots of water for at least 15 minutes.

If anyone ingests hydrochloric acid, give the person water or milk. Avoid giving milk or water to the affected person if they show symptoms that make it hard to swallow, which include:

  • Vomiting
  • Convulsions
  • Decreased level of alertness

If the person breathed the chemical, immediately transfer them to fresh air.


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Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Summary for CID 313, Hydrochloric acid. https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Hydrochloric-acid

Medline Plus. Hydrochloric acid Poisoning. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002498.htm

ChemicalSafetyFacts.Org. Hydrochloric Acid. https://www.chemicalsafetyfacts.org/hydrochloric-acid/