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Old 27-02-2017, 16:56   #1
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Bleach, Vinegar, and Muriatic Acid

There've been some confusing posts recently, particularly regarding cleaning sewer systems, that have led me to consult my resident chemist (I'm married to her) for clarification.

Bleach (Clorox) is sodium hypochlorite, 8.25% and very basic.

Vinegar is dilute ascetic acid, about 5% solution, and a weak acid.

Muriatic acid is really hydrochloric acid, about 30% in solution.

What follows? If you mix bleach and vinegar, you have diluted and neutralized the bleach, and will release chlorine gas. There is no advantage to doing this in terms of cleaning, because you have made both less effective, and you have released a poisonous gas. Chlorine gas also damages just about everything we use in boats. However, used in sequence, first treating a system with one and then flushing and using the other, might be an effective approach to sewer cleaning.

Muriatic acid is nasty. Just sitting there it is releasing acidic gas. Wherever those fumes hit moisture, they produce liquid hydrochloic acid, which is harmful to carbon based life forms and just about anything we use in boats.

Mixing muriatic acid with bleach is very dangerous. It produces large quanities of chlorine gas, which aside from being able to react with just about anything (plastics, human tissue) is more dense than air, and you're about to reinact trench warfare circa 1916 in the cabin of your boat. If that doesn't grab you, go watch "All Quiet on the Western Front."

Muriatic acid does have boat uses, but not on the boat. We used it two years ago to clean the heat exchanger on our 4-53 Detroit Diesel, but we did it out of the boat on a breezy day. It has no business whatever being inside a boat. It is just too damned dangerous in a confined space.
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Old 27-02-2017, 17:09   #2
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Re: Bleach, Vinegar, and Muriatic Acid

Hmmm I appreciate your post however I very much disagree with some of it.. Of course I agree with mixing a base and acid (NEVER).

However, Muriatic is absolutely fine as long as you take precautions and have 1/2 brain. We use if often for multiple jobs. Be smart, use it wisely and you are fine. In reality a ton of the boat cleaners you buy are just Muriatic acid (On-Off for one).. If you want to pay $28 a gallon for the exact same stuff I pay $4 for, then go ahead!

Just like everything else on a boat. Understand what you are dealing with and handle it appropriately!.
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Old 27-02-2017, 17:31   #3
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Re: Bleach, Vinegar, and Muriatic Acid

It's actually bleach and ammonia that releases harmful amounts of chlorine gas. There's oxidation and reduction going on, not so much an acid/base reaction.

Mixing acids and bases generates heat. Not such a concern for weak ones - more so for strong acids and bases.

The oft-repeated canard about mixing vinegar and baking soda (sodium carbonate - a base) "to clean anything," just seems chemically stupid. You just end up with a neutral sodium acetate solution - excellent food for microbes - and fizzy bubbles. Just because it fizzes, doesn't mean that it's doing anything. Acetic acid is also volatile, btw, and the fumes will feed mold all over the boat.

I occasionally use a muriatic acid solution to flush the block of the old Atomic-4. You need to exercise some care, but not more than you would for handling bleach. You wouldn't want to store it on the boat, because it will slowly release fumes that will corrode metal. Just look at the acid storage cabinet in the lab.

But then again, I'm an old lab rat, and this stuff is like flour and sugar in the kitchen to me.
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Old 27-02-2017, 17:38   #4
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Re: Bleach, Vinegar, and Muriatic Acid

Like many things, it's not that simple.

The effectiveness of bleach as a disinfecting agent is related to pH; the more you use, the higher (more alkaline) the solution becomes, and the less effective the bleach may become. Don't believe me, Google it.

https://www.researchgate.net/post/Wh...ion_is_correct

So in fact, adding carefully measure amounts of acid can be beneficial. However, the problem is, acetic acid will also slowly neutralize the bleach, as the bleach oxidizes the acetate.

Using muriatic acid to adjust the pH is very dangerous--go just a tick too far and large amounts of chlorine can be generated. If the concentrations are very low--the few ppm typically used to disinfect water storage equipment--the risk is low. But in the volumes people (wastefully) slop around when cleaning, it's bad.

The best bet is not to mix stuff unless you have researched it and you KNOW what they do.

Really, except for a few drops in the water from time to time, bleach is NOT the best cleaning agent around a boat. You'll do a lot more damage with it than good.

(Muriatic acid and acetic acid are both what are called "trivial" names. Neither are IUPAC standard. Where the problem comes up is when dealing with people from other countries. Lime might be cal, etc.)

(They now sell green muratic acid in most hardware stores. By reducing the concentration to about 23%, the fumes are reduced something like 95%. So on one hand they are selling you less, but on the other, it is safer to use in some ways. But you have to use 1/3 more.)
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Old 27-02-2017, 17:40   #5
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Re: Bleach, Vinegar, and Muriatic Acid

I think you folks 1) know your chemicals, and 2) know not to mix them. I'll readily concede that under those intelligently controlled circumstances you can use muriatic acid by itself, briefly, in a boat, and then get it out of there before it does damage in storage.
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Old 27-02-2017, 17:50   #6
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Re: Bleach, Vinegar, and Muriatic Acid

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Originally Posted by toddster8 View Post
It's actually bleach and ammonia that releases harmful amounts of chlorine gas. There's oxidation and reduction going on, not so much an acid/base reaction.

No, that is chloramine gas. Also nasty, but different. You probably knew that.

Bleach Mixing Dangers :: Washington State Department of Health

Mixing acids and bases generates heat. Not such a concern for weak ones - more so for strong acids and bases.

The oft-repeated canard about mixing vinegar and baking soda (sodium carbonate - a base) "to clean anything," just seems chemically stupid. You just end up with a neutral sodium acetate solution - excellent food for microbes - and fizzy bubbles. Just because it fizzes, doesn't mean that it's doing anything. Acetic acid is also volatile, btw, and the fumes will feed mold all over the boat.

Not quite true. Chemically it seems stupid, but physically it can be smart. If you add the baking soda first, allow it to soak in, and then chase it with vinegar, the reaction can physically loose dirt (expanding bubbles). I would not have thought of it either. But the uses are limited.

https://crunchybetty.com/clean-your-...-soda-vinegar/

I occasionally use a muriatic acid solution to flush the block of the old Atomic-4. You need to exercise some care, but not more than you would for handling bleach. You wouldn't want to store it on the boat, because it will slowly release fumes that will corrode metal. Just look at the acid storage cabinet in the lab.

But then again, I'm an old lab rat, and this stuff is like flour and sugar in the kitchen to me.
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Old 28-02-2017, 11:33   #7
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Re: Bleach, Vinegar, and Muriatic Acid

Quote:
Originally Posted by toddster8 View Post
It's actually bleach and ammonia that releases harmful amounts of chlorine gas. There's oxidation and reduction going on, not so much an acid/base reaction.

Mixing acids and bases generates heat. Not such a concern for weak ones - more so for strong acids and bases.

The oft-repeated canard about mixing vinegar and baking soda (sodium carbonate - a base) "to clean anything," just seems chemically stupid. You just end up with a neutral sodium acetate solution - excellent food for microbes - and fizzy bubbles. Just because it fizzes, doesn't mean that it's doing anything. Acetic acid is also volatile, btw, and the fumes will feed mold all over the boat.

I occasionally use a muriatic acid solution to flush the block of the old Atomic-4. You need to exercise some care, but not more than you would for handling bleach. You wouldn't want to store it on the boat, because it will slowly release fumes that will corrode metal. Just look at the acid storage cabinet in the lab.

But then again, I'm an old lab rat, and this stuff is like flour and sugar in the kitchen to me.
I believe it is ammonium chloride gas not chlorine, both are killers. Ammonia is not really compatible with salt water in confined areas.
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Old 28-02-2017, 11:48   #8
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Re: Bleach, Vinegar, and Muriatic Acid

donot use in boat that which you donot wish to be pumped out by a pump which will be destroyed with repeated use of all but vinegar.
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Old 28-02-2017, 14:13   #9
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Re: Bleach, Vinegar, and Muriatic Acid

Wow, chemists are you all... now, my problem... I have some white stuff that's accumulated along the bootstripe at the water line. I tried buffing it off, and it doesn't want to come. I tried boat cleaner, etc. No appreciable effect. Someone said it needs to be acid treated. Great. What acid? Vinegar? Muriatic acid? How strong? Can one of you guys give me some suggestions?

Thanks!

P.S. otherwise, I'll have to paint the boot stripe, which is a royal pain.
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Old 28-02-2017, 14:21   #10
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Re: Bleach, Vinegar, and Muriatic Acid

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I believe it is ammonium chloride gas not chlorine, both are killers. Ammonia is not really compatible with salt water in confined areas.
Ammonium chloride is not a gas, it is a solid. A common use is as electrolyte in dry cell batteries.
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Old 28-02-2017, 14:25   #11
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Re: Bleach, Vinegar, and Muriatic Acid

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Originally Posted by carlheintz View Post
Wow, chemists are you all... now, my problem... I have some white stuff that's accumulated along the bootstripe at the water line. I tried buffing it off, and it doesn't want to come. I tried boat cleaner, etc. No appreciable effect. Someone said it needs to be acid treated. Great. What acid? Vinegar? Muriatic acid? How strong? Can one of you guys give me some suggestions?

Thanks!

P.S. otherwise, I'll have to paint the boot stripe, which is a royal pain.
Try a few drops of iodine in a squirt bottle of water. It may be fungal. Worth a try.
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Old 28-02-2017, 14:45   #12
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Re: Bleach, Vinegar, and Muriatic Acid

Probably a mix of tannin and rust. Yes, a weak acid is probably the cure.

Both CLR and Oxalic acid are well proven for this. Bleach and iodine will not touch it.

A more permanent solution is to lightly buff your glasses with 600 grit sand paper. Then you won't see it. Seriously, life is too short to worry over appearances.
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Old 28-02-2017, 14:46   #13
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Re: Bleach, Vinegar, and Muriatic Acid

Muriatic acid (aka hydrochloric acid, HCl) at a 30% concentration is relatively safe. Obviously it is not something you want to bathe in or drink, but it is pretty safe. All of us carry around a 1% solution of HCl in our stomachs.

The standard reaction between HCL and a salt like calcium carbonate (the stuff that clogs a boat's plumbing) is water, another salt (calcium chloride) water, and carbon dioxide. All pretty tame stuff.

Because of this reaction, HCl is rendered inert. The degree to which it is rendered inert depends on the amount of scaling and the amount and strength of the HCl. Water can dilute it even more, making it even safer.
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Old 28-02-2017, 19:21   #14
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Re: Bleach, Vinegar, and Muriatic Acid

After all is said and done in the regard of Muratic acid. It is used in dilution and can be further diluted in water. However very carefully, as water can have sulfur or iron content.
Muratic acid will clean organic matter from plastics very readily. And will clean organic material from metals also, but will react with metals readily also. I find it doubtful that systematic use would deteriorate a seawater pump before its 'activation ' point or contribute to its premature demise. Imho. I think you would have to pump a LOT of acid thru a pump to effectively ruin it. I would suspect abrasives to compromise the integrity much more effectively.
Vinegar is a great cleaner and will effectively dissolve organic matter from plastics and metals , just slower than Muratic acid.
Sodium bicarbonate, works great for baking ! And tooth brushing for fresh breath. Freshens that head in your boat and anywhere you use it. A cleansing agent you can eat. Vinegar, a food product, likewise has no skull and crossbones like Muratic acid does.
Use all these substances with due diligence.
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Old 28-02-2017, 20:13   #15
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Re: Bleach, Vinegar, and Muriatic Acid

Another use for Muriatic acid - Hydrogen balloons- Gather some scrap zinc anodes from the boat yard. Put them in a bucket and cover with Muriatic acid. Put a plastic trash bag over the bucket and let it fill with the gas produced in the bucket. Tie the bag closed and you now have a lighter than air balloon.

Don't do the following, it is really dangerous and stupid: tie a sparkler on a string hanging from the bag, light it and release the balloon. This is stupid for a number of reasons. The gas in the bag is very flammable. The sparkler is a great fire starter.
A spark from the sparkler might cause the balloon to go poof and drop the still burning sparkler to the ground. The balloon might go poof while still in your hands, this is painful and it takes a long time to grow your eye brows back. I had fun in high school.
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