Hydrochloric Acid Basics

What Is Hydrochloric Acid?

Hydrochloric acid, which is abbreviated as HCl, is an aqueous solution of hydrogen chloride. Also referred to as muriatic acid, it is classified as a strong acid that is colorless and has a distinctive pungent smell.

Hydrochloric Acid Manufacturing

HCl can either be produced intentionally or as a by-product from other industrial chemical processes. Jones-Hamilton hydrochloric acid is produced as a co-product of sodium bisulfate production. Jones-Hamilton produces 22-degree HCl (35.21% HCl by weight), but will dilute HCl to lower concentrations based on customer request.

Jones-Hamilton Co. began producing sodium bisulfate and hydrochloric acid in 1955 and has since become the global leader in production and application development with unmatched expertise on all aspects of the product.

Where is Hydrochloric Acid Used?

While hydrochloric acid is used in a number of industrial applications such as calcium chloride production, ore processing, brine treatment as a catalyst, and with specialty products such as pigments and dyes, the three main commercial applications for hydrochloric acid are:

Steel pickling/galvanizing

When hot steel is worked above their recrystallization temperature, oxygen will react with the outside layer of iron as it cools from its molten state, resulting in a flaky layer of scale. This is often visible as rust, or iron oxide, but there are many other known allotropes of iron oxide as well. It is difficult to work with the steel when it has this layer, and also makes it inconducive to painting.

To solve this issue, the steel is pickled, which is when the metal is dipped into a solution to remove the surface impurities before further processing such as rolling or galvanizing. Using hydrochloric acid in pickling provides bright surfaces.

Oil and gas well acidizing

Oil and gas operators have relied on acidizing to improve well productivity for over a century. Acidizing is one of the most effective ways operators can improve the productivity of a well, both the initial productivity upon drilling as well as to restore productivity by essentially cleaning out the scale (ie. calcium carbonate), rust, and other debris that may be restricting flow in the well. A well’s formation type will affect the type of acid used in this process, though hydrochloric acid is most commonly used.

Corn starch / high fructose corn syrup production

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is an artificial sweetener derived from corn that first become popular in the 1970s when sugar prices were high but corn prices were low. For decades it has been used in the US to sweeten processed foods and soft drinks. Similar to sugar, HFCS is composed of both fructose and glucose. To manufacture HFCS, producers take corn starch, which is composed of glucose molecules of infinite length, and consists of amylose and amylopectin, apply heat, caustic soda and/or hydrochloric acid plus the activity of three different enzymes to break it down into the simple sugars glucose and fructose.

Players in the areas of these three main commercial applications rely on Jones-Hamilton for consistent, reliable access to the quality hydrochloric acid necessary for their daily business.

Contact us today to become a customer.

Hydrochloric Acid and Safety

Hydrochloric acid is corrosive to the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes. Therefore, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends workers in industrial settings wear personal protective equipment such as vapor respirators, rubber gloves, splash goggles and face shields when handling hydrochloric acid.

Acute (short-term) inhalation exposure may cause eye, nose, and respiratory tract irritation and inflammation and pulmonary edema in humans.  Acute oral exposure may cause corrosion of the mucous membranes, esophagus, and stomach and dermal contact may produce severe burns, ulceration, and scarring in humans.  Chronic (long-term) occupational exposure to hydrochloric acid has been reported to cause gastritis, chronic bronchitis, dermatitis, and photosensitization in workers.  Prolonged exposure to low concentrations may also cause dental discoloration and erosion.

Proper Storage of Hydrochloric Acid

Hydrochloric acid (HCl) needs to be stored in rubber lined steel tanks or in fiberglass reinforced polymer (FRP) tanks.  Tanks will need a containment to protect the environment from potential spills. All HCl tanks will require venting plus a fume scrubber to prevent corrosive vapors being released into the atmosphere.
Piping, hoses, valves, gaskets need to be compliant with HCl use.

Jones-Hamilton Co. has been manufacturing hydrochloric acid for more than 40 years. Contact our HCl experts to discuss your specific product needs.


30354 Tracy Road Walbridge, Ohio 43465


4433 Richburg Road Richburg, South Carolina 29729

(888) 858-4425


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