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 Acid for cleaning?, Anyone use "muric"(sp?) acid?
Tom H
Posted: Feb 14 2011, 10:33 PM


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Has anyone used "muric" acid (sp?) for cleaning badly encrusted shells? I have heard it is better than bleach, but you have to be real careful you don't let the shell sit too long in it as it will eat through the shell itself. Does it work? Where do you get it? Thanks in advance.
Posted: Feb 15 2011, 07:45 AM

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Muriatic acid is an aqueous solution of hydrogen chloride gas (HCI). It is a highly corrosive acid. It is completely solvent in aqueous solution. When exposed to the air, the muriatic acid gas will effervesce as a colorless to slightly yellow, corrosive, non-flammable, heavier than air gas that is highly irritating to the nose and eyes. On exposed skin it will rapidly eat away at tissue. Great care should be taken when working with muriatic acid. Gloves and protective glasses are a good idea. A source of running water should be immediately at hand to flush spills or splashed acid that lands on the body or in eyes.

Muriatic acid is used to balance ph in pools and spas and, therefore, can be purchased wherever pool supplies are sold. It is also frequently used to clean concrete and metal surfaces; and so, would be found at hardware stores. If used to clean shells, it should be greatly diluted before use.

If muriatic acid is use to clean shells, do not immerse the entire shell. The acid will work equally on the exposed portions of the shell (aperture) as the encrusted. The acid should be brushed only on the areas to be cleaned. If you actually try this, I suggest you first attempt to clean a few shells you really don't mind harming and develop some experience with the concentrations you use and work out a successful protocol before working with shells you prize. Always have a bucket of fresh water at hand to plunge the shell in and stop the action of the acid. The corrosive action of the acid will always be farther advanced that it appears.

Better yet, don't use this material. I'm unaware of any cleaning guides that recommend use of this material. I experimented with in many, many years ago and found it almost always caused more damage than enhancement. The surface of most heavily encrusted shells is usually damaged by the encrustment and exposing it is not usually much of an improvement. Learn to love the shell in its natural state as found. You'll want to bleach it to remove dirt and deodorize.
Posted: Mar 30 2011, 02:50 PM

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I will second Marlo's comments. I often prefer leaving attachments on shells, it gives some indication of the conditions under which they were growing.

There was a study of the effects of sodium hypochlorite (bleach) on shell microstructure. Don't recall the reference, however, there were changes with using bleach. Hydrochloric acid, being more caustic, would have more effect.

Be kind to your shells. Avoid these treatments. If I wanted to remove encrustations, I would probably use an ultrasonic method of breaking them off.
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