Sulfuric acid is a powerful chemical compound widely used in various industries. It is well known for its strong odor, which can be unpleasant and potentially harmful.
When it comes to cleaning drains, the sulfuric acid drain cleaner is a massive competitor to all other cleaners. It burns away all the stubborn dirt and debris of the drain that most other drain cleaners can’t clean. But would you risk your and your family’s health to clean the drain?
Whenever a chemical agent is too strong to clean debris or kill pests effectively, there’s a higher chance of it being very harmful to human health. Therefore, it is important to find out if sulfuric acid drain cleaners have the potential to harm you or not.
Yes. Sulfuric Fumes are very harmful to human health due to their toxic capability.
In this article, I will discuss mainly the potential effects of its fumes on human health. Also, I hope to explore the characteristics of sulfuric acid and provide safety measures to protect yourself from the harmful effects of sulfuric acid.
Can Sulfuric Acid Drain Cleaner Fumes Harm You?
Yes, sulfuric acid drain cleaner fumes have the potential to harm you because it is a highly toxic, corrosive chemical. It can cause severe eye damage, and if you inhale sulfuric fume, it will also affect nose tissues and lungs.
Sulfuric Acid Characteristics
Sulfuric acid is a viscous, colourless, and oily liquid. It is soluble in water and releases significant heat upon dilution. At room temperature, pure sulfuric acid is a liquid.
Contrary to popular belief, sulfuric acid itself is odourless. However, reacting with certain substances can produce gases with a distinct rotten egg smell, such as hydrogen sulfide (H2S). This is often the source of the unpleasant odour associated with sulfuric acid.
Do you know what makes you tear up while cutting onions? It’s sulfuric acid but in a minimal amount.
The internal part of the onion emits sulfur trioxide, which reacts with tears and forms sulfuric acid but in a minimal amount within the eyes.
So, can you imagine what will happen when massive fumes come in contact with your eyes? Sulfuric acid (H2SO4) is a highly corrosive and dense liquid. Then the drain cleaners that contain Sulfuric acid are strong as they burn all stubborn debris in just one pour. It can remove water from various materials, making it a powerful dehydrating agent.
So, you should also imagine what will happen if this strong toxic sulfuric acid cleaner accidentally comes in contact with your skin.
It will completely burn your skin, along with damaging the tissues as well. Moreover, you cannot use sulfuric acid drain cleaners in drains connected to the garbage disposal.
Because sulfuric acid can damage the garbage disposal and further cause dangerous explosions if it comes into contact with it.
Also, machines like garbage disposal often push back the drained wastes and water when there’s a clog in the draining system.
So, there’s a high risk that it might also push back the poured sulfuric acid, which can lead to severe accidents.
Also, sulfuric acid causes explosions when poured onto water due to the formation of a highly exothermic reaction. That is why sulfuric acid drain cleaners are mostly professionally used to clean dryer drains.
Also, sulfuric acid can be damaging to your piping system. It can cause damage to the interior of the pipes as well since it can corrode metals, plastics, and other materials.
So, if you plan to get a sulfuric acid drain cleaner to clean your drain, think again.
What Happens if You Breathe in Sulfuric Acid Fumes?
Sulfuric acid is no less than a powerful poison and is potentially used in building explosives. It is a very highly corrosive chemical.
So, whenever any part of the human body comes in contact with it, even in a very tiny amount, it causes a lot of burns and irritation.
If you are exposed to sulfuric acid fumes, it is important to take immediate action to protect your health. Follow these steps.
- Move to fresh air to avoid further exposure.
- Remove any contaminated clothing.
- Rinse your skin with water for at least 15 minutes to remove any traces of sulfuric acid.
- If you have inhaled the fumes, cough to clear your airways.
- Seek medical attention immediately for a thorough evaluation and appropriate treatment.
Sulfuric acid fumes can severely affect human health in the short and long term.
As the short-term effects, one of the damage that can happen easily is skin burns. Sulfuric acid can cause severe burns if it comes into contact with the skin.
Prolonged contact with sulfuric acid can cause skin irritation and dermatitis as a long-term effect.
Also, even if a tiny little drop of sulfuric acid is thrown into the eyes, it will cause severe eye irritation and can even damage sensitive tissues of the eyes.
Since the eye has very sensitive tissues, direct contact with sulfuric acid can lead to serious eye damage and might gradually result in permanent blindness as well.
Sulfuric acid fumes emitted from sulfuric acid drain cleaners are potent and concentrated. They will create severe burns within the nostrils once they come in contact.
The skin of the nasal passage is susceptible and thin, and the tissues are very soft. It gets damaged very easily. And that is why when someone punches you, your nose bleeds first.
Hence, it is possible that if you inhale the sulfuric acid fumes from very or even a little close, it can damage your nose tissues immediately.
Breathing in sulfuric acid fumes can cause symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath, and severe throat pain.
Not only the nose tissues, but if the sulfuric acid fume reaches your lungs after inhaling, it might also cause your lungs to be damaged.
And so, along with severe discomfort and irritation within the nose and throat, you will also experience breathing difficulties right after inhaling sulfuric acid fumes. Repeated or prolonged exposure to sulfuric acid fumes can lead to the development of severe lung diseases.
That is why it is required to maintain a very reasonable distance from the sulfuric acid fumes right after pouring the sulfuric acid drain cleaner.
How Long Does Sulfuric Acid Smell Last?
The period of the sulfuric acid smell can vary depending on several factors.
- The concentration of the acid
- The temperature
- Humidity of the environment
- The amount of ventilation in the area
- The types of materials that the acid comes into contact with.
Considering the above factors, the smell of the acid can be different, and the period will be very long or short.
It isn’t easy to provide an exact time frame as it depends on these variables. However, in a well-ventilated area with favourable conditions, the smell can dissipate quickly, usually within a few hours.
Or if it is a covered place, once you use the sulfuric acid drain cleaner, the smell of sulfuric acid may last up to several weeks.
But you’ll need to be very cautious that the ventilation to remove the sulfuric acid fumes doesn’t connect with the place you’ll be in.
So that the fumes do not transport toward you and your family through the ventilation system.
Moreover, washing away the drain several times after the job is done is required to reduce the sulfuric acid smell.
You can use lemon extracts with water to overpower the citric smell against the sulfuric acid smell. But whatever you do, you need to ensure utmost caution.
What is the Best Way to Use Cleaners with Sulfuric Acid?
If you still want to play with sulfuric acid cleaners, as you can’t find any other option to clear the highly stubborn clog of your drain, use it in the best and safest way possible.
And for that, it is required for you to take absolute precautions wearing safety goggles, safety masks, and heat-proof aprons.
Follow the instructions below for the best way to use sulfuric acid cleaners.
- Step 1: Open the windows for proper ventilation before starting anything.
- Step 2: Pour about 200 ml of the drain cleaner slowly and carefully into the drain.
- Step 3: Wait for about 10 seconds for the sulfuric acid to do its work.
- Step 4: Turn on the faucet so the water can flush away the sulfuric acid and burnt clog residues from the pipe.
- Step 5: Lastly, pour down the drain a solution of a quarter cup of baking soda in each quart of water to neutralize the acid.
How to Use Sulfuric Acid Safely for Drain Clean?
- You should wear safety products like goggles, gloves, and masks to protect you from fumes and splashes.
- Do not pour water into sulfuric acid; instead, slowly pour acid into water. When acid interacts with water, it generates heat. Therefore when you slowly pour acid, water can absorb heat and prevent sudden boils and splashes.
- Do not mix sulfuric acid with other chemicals because we don’t know how to react.
- When using these types of chemicals, avoid use in a covered area. Always keep the door open and windows open to make a better-ventilated area.
How to Protect Yourself from Sulfuric Harmful Effects?
Always wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when handling sulfuric acid. This includes chemical safety goggles, a face shield, acid-resistant gloves, an apron, and boots.
While you are using Sulfuric drain cleaners, if you accidentally inhale the fumes, move to a well-ventilated area and seek medical attention immediately.
Store sulfuric acid in a cool, dry place. Keep the container tightly closed and out of reach of children and pets.
In conclusion, sulfuric acid is a powerful chemical compound with various industrial uses. While it is odourless, it can produce gases with a distinct smell when reacting with certain substances.
I hope I could help you with the information and instructions on using sulfuric acid drain cleaners.
No doubt it’s detrimental to human health, but if you handle it tactfully and cautiously, it can offer you the best results in cleaning your drain. Always remember to follow the proper safety measures and handle sulfuric acid cautiously.
So, the choice is yours. Choose wisely! Use safely!
James is an organic fertilizer professional who owns a successful organic fertilizer company in new jersey. He is an expert in waste management in both houses and community cases. In his free time, he loves to write about his experiences in the field.