Common Uses for Hydrochloric Acid

Hydrochloric acid (HCL) is a colorless and odorless solution of hydrogen chloride and water.  Naturally found in gastric (stomach) acid, HCL is a strong mineral acid that is very corrosive. It is commonly used in industry as a chemical reagent, or a substance used to bring about a chemical reaction, and in food as an additive.

Without this help, the body can become nutritionally deficient. Many foods that have naturally occurring hydrochloric acid include black olives, kale, lemons, spinach, celery, ginger and sea salt, all of which are used to stimulate the production of HCL in the stomach.

In the industry sector, hydrochloric acid is produced by dissolving hydrogen chloride in water. This process first began during the Industrial Revolution in Europe, where there was a great need to inexpensively produce soda ash on a large scale. Using a combination of limestone, sulfuric acid, and coal, salt was converted into soda ash, leaving behind hydrogen chloride as a by-product. At first, this by-product was released into the air. However, under pressure of the British Alkali Act of 1863, manufacturers were forced to dissolve the hydrogen chloride in water, which produced the acid.

Oil Industry
Important to the oil production industry, HCL is used in a process known as oil-well acidization. This process involves injecting the acid into the cavities of oil wells to dissolve away sections of rock, leaving an open column behind. Ultimately, the method serves to accelerate oil production from the well.

Food Additive
A variety of foods are processed using hydrochloric acid additives. Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame constitute another main food-industry use of HCL. Used as a food and drink additive, aspartame in the body encourages the hormone gastrin, which is related to the hydrochloric acid secretion in the stomach. MSG, or monosodium glutamate, also known as sodium salt, is another food enhancer or additive produced by the food industry that is made with the chemical.

Hydrochloric acid(CAS: 7647-01-0) may also be used for older persons or people who are being affected by a low acid deficiency in their digestive system, which causes hair to be unhealthy and fingernails to grow soft.

Extreme care must be taken when handling this acid. In high concentrations, HCL releases an acid mist into the air. To avoid injury or irritation when working with HCL, chemical retardant clothing should be worn, in addition to PVC gloves and protective eyewear.