muriatic acid and porcelain?

daninthedirtNovember 24, 2012

I'd like to have some smart advice, or a good pointer to some smart advice, about muriatic acid and porcelain.

I live in an area with high carbonate content in the water, and the toilets start to build up a tan-colored crust. A half cup of muriatic acid in the mostly drained bowl every few months does wonders for this. Cheap, easy, fast. But the question is whether this does long-term damage to the bowl porcelain.

The info on the web is concentrated in two strands. (1) muriatic acid is DANGEROUS!!!! Use with care!!!! (geez, I know ...), and (2) sure, it'll work. Neither addresses possible long-term damage to porcelain.

It may be that modern porcelain is more resistant than older porcelain.

Advice please.

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tjdabomb

I think it should be fine. Wear a mask, though, the fumes are dangerous.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 1:41PM
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greendesigns_gw

Think about the waste plumbing that receives this solution. If it's cast iron, then you are greatly shortening it's life dramatically. But then, the inside of all of your supply lines and fixtures is probably pretty bad without treating your water if your water is as bad as you describe. Treating the symptom and not the problem is rarely the solution.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 2:34PM
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daninthedirt

Thanks. I'm very careful of, and well aware of the hazards of this stuff.

I know that muriatic acid does't attack glass, and that's what porcelain is, but metal, caulk, and perhaps even ceramic are fair game. So perhaps the risk is in worn porcelain? The suggestions about using this on the web are slightly insane. You find suggestions about using a half gallon of the acid, with a suggestion to avoid using a full gallon (whaaaat??!!) and that this does a great job of cleaning the toilet but, oh, by the way, it can damage the toilet. Huh? Thanks much.

My thinking is that a half to one cup of the stuff, diluted at least with the several cups of water remaining in the bowl, is not a lot more damaging than the various commercial toilet bowl cleaners that have the stuff (hydrochloric acid). Certainly, once you flush the stuff into your metal pipes, it's hugely diluted. I can't see any risk there.

You'd think that bathroom porcelain manufacturers would be able to provide some guidance on this. Some clear recipe and instructions for using muriatic acid in a toilet in a non-destructive way.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 3:16PM
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brickeyee

Just make sure to add the acid to the water when diluting.

White vinegar is also useful, even at 'full strength' (around 4-6% IIRC).

'Glacial (anhydrous) acetic acid' used to be readily available for B&W photo developing (diluted to make 'stop' solution).

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 4:22PM
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daninthedirt

Well, when I pour half a cup of muriatic acid into the toilet bowl, which has far more water than that, that's what's called "adding acid to water".

I tried vinegar. Doesn't work. Especially when diluted in the way I described above. If I were to use at close to full strength, I'd need to dump a gallon or more of vinegar in my toilet.

The trouble with using any photo chemical is that chemical has purity I really don't care about, and certainly don't want to pay for.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 6:28PM
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woodbutcher_ca

Hi, I dont believe the acid will ruin your tolet. If you leave it in the toilet too long you could etch it. The etching process doesn't add up though. Say you leave the acid in the toilet and it etches it at two hours. If you flush it at a half hour you won't have a hour and a half to use. You will go back to square one.I wold not worry about it. I have used it many times with no problem, I however pour it down the overflow that way I also clear the holes in the rim.
I no longer purcase the acid from Home Depot. They weakened the acid. I get it at True Value
Good Luck Woodbutcher

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 9:36PM
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daninthedirt

To the extent that muriatic acid can be used to etch porcelain (it can), one wonders to what extent this etching constitutes "damage". Now, etching is usually done to make coatings stick. But would continued etching actually be harmful to the surface?

Very true about acid concentration that is sold these days. Muriatic acid ain't what it used to be. I think I last got mine at Home Depot because they weakened the stuff that was sold at Lowes. But now HD has caved as well? But it just means you have to use a little more.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 11:07AM
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brickeyee

"To the extent that muriatic acid can be used to etch porcelain (it can), one wonders to what extent this etching constitutes "damage". Now, etching is usually done to make coatings stick. But would continued etching actually be harmful to the surface? "

The surface is damaged in a controlled manner to increase the actual surfaces area available for the next coating to bond better.

If a slick glossy surface is desired, etching is damage.

If you you are making frosted glass patterns, it might not be.

Porcelain is used n toilets for sanitary reasons.
It provides a glass smooth surface than is easy to clean and cannot harbor bacteria or viruses well.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 11:22AM
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daninthedirt

That's a good point. Etching will make the porcelain less "slick". Not sure if unslickening it is good for sanitary reasons.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 2:36PM
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daninthedirt

FWIW, I see that "Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner" (which is a gel that clings to the side) is 9% muriatic acid. So I suspect that's the kind of concentration one is looking for to do it well and safely. Decent store-bought muriatic acid is 30% HCl, so about one part of that in two of water is what should hit the sides of the toilet, I guess.

You'd think that Lysol isn't too keen on damaging toilets.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2012 at 10:22PM
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brickeyee

Strength and exposure time.

9% can probbaly cause damage if you put it on the porcelain and return a week later to remove it.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 1:28PM
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brickeyee

MSDS says 10-20% HCl.

Here is a link that might be useful: Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 1:50PM
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janicedallas

Bob, at a Dallas Lowes, recently suggested a cleaner that really cleaned my tub after I had tried everything else. It says on the ingredients muriatic acid and to only leave on for 2-3 minutes and rinse off. Probably to keep it from etching. I have a hard time remembering so I set the timer. The same ZEP cleaner solution is not sold in CA at Lowes or Depot. A ZEP mold and mildew is sold in CA and it doesn't do the same job.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 4:30PM
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daninthedirt

Well, the blue squirt bottle of Lysol Toilet Bowl Cleaner that I pulled off the shelf at the store today says "ACTIVE INGREDIENT Hydrogen Chloride 9.5%". So I'm not sure what the MSDS that you link to pertains to. It's dated 2009. One wonders if, like the muriatic acid being sold in the store, Lysol started diluting the stuff for "safety".

But Janice, that's probably the key. You leave it on for just a few minutes and then rinse it off. I didn't check to see if that's what the instructions on the Lysol said, but I'll bet it is.

OK, we're closing in on a strategy here.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 5:26PM
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ionized_gw

If you are concerned about damaging the porcelain, get a used toilet at the thrift store and leave your proposed treating solution on it for a few hours or days and see what happens.

Given what happens to all of your other plumbing, and the fact that you need to use huge quantities of detergent in the laundry, bath and kitchen, I think you'd be happy with a water softener.

HCl in the tub will likely take out the drain hardware. I'd remove the strainer first, at the least.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2012 at 8:35PM
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daninthedirt

I've never had a problem with my other plumbing, nor do I use huge quantities of detergent. (In fact, I use my wash water as gray water outside, so I try to use rather little. My underwear is clean.) My water doesn't even have much of a taste. But it does, after a few months, leave deposits in the toilet. I'm not retrofitting my house with a water softener to keep my toilet clean!

What strainer? We're taking toilet tub, not bath tub.

I'm just reaching for what Lysol sells to clean toilets. If they sell a 10% HCl product to be used for a few minutes, and don't manage to get themselves sued for destruction of property, it works for me.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2012 at 6:47PM
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daninthedirt

Just a quick followup to this. I have discovered that plain, cheap, household vinegar works fine for this. Just takes longer. Drain the tank, empty out the bowl (maybe with a plunger), and put a cup of 5% vinegar in the bowl. Rinse it around the sides. Leave for a few hours. The scale will gradually come off. If the scale is high up on the bowl, saturate some tissue with the vinegar, and layer the tissue on the scale. That just keeps it wet with vinegar.

No more muriatic acid or pricey bowl cleaners for me, nor danger of porcelain etching.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2014 at 10:19AM
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daninthedirt

Just a quick followup to this. I have discovered that plain, cheap, household vinegar works fine for this. Just takes longer. Drain the tank, empty out the bowl (maybe with a plunger), and put a cup of 5% vinegar in the bowl. Rinse it around the sides. Leave for a few hours. The scale will gradually come off. If the scale is high up on the bowl, saturate some tissue with the vinegar, and layer the tissue on the scale. That just keeps it wet with vinegar.

No more muriatic acid or pricey bowl cleaners for me, nor danger of porcelain etching.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2014 at 10:20AM
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jellytoast

"Etching will make the porcelain less "slick". Not sure if unslickening it is good for sanitary reasons."

Glad you came up with a solution (vinegar). DH used diluted muriatic acid to clean an old porcelain tub and it destroyed it, ruining its "slickness."

    Bookmark   December 25, 2014 at 10:32AM
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