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Nitric Acid Disposal Dilemma

Dear All

A couple of years ago I put away a glass jar with small amount of
nitric acid and water and then completely forgot about it. Well I
discovered it the other day, and the lid had completely rusted, but
not so much that I could get it off. I figure that the water om in
the solution would have evaporated through the small holes and that
solution would now be quite strong. There is however no way of
getting water to it and to dispose and so this is what I am

Please give me some advice as to whether this is right!

If I immerse the whole thing in a very big tub of water - it is a
stainless steel laundry sink, with a huge amount of bicarb of soda
in it, say 1 1/2 kg, is this a dangerous thing to do, given that the
solution is probably no longer that diluted (there is about 1/4 of a
jam jar of liquid, or something like that). Would there be a
dramatic reaction with the H2o and bicarb or will it just neutralise

I would be so happy with any thoughts or suggestions.

Many thanks in advance



STOP, do not place Nitric Acid in a metal sink. I am not sure whether
or not your idea of placing this bottle in a water filled tank will
work or not but Nitric Acid and Steel is not a good combination.

Greg DeMark

We have arguements about this type of thing on the post but I will
still tell you what I was told to do by a chemist. He told me to
simply dilute the acid into oblivion. Increase the water content
slowly [is it water to acid or acid to water] but get the ratio to
about 1 cup of whatever your solution to about 10 gallons of water.
If you started with a 10 percent solution of acid in a cup of water,.
If my math is correct by increasing the water ration by 32 times the
acid is now.003 percent strength. The pharmicist said that this was
so low that fertilizers have more nitric content. If you want to add
baking soda then it wouldn’t hurt but if you do it earlier you will
have a heat generating reaction and could spill acid all over the

Good luck.

What I would suggest is the following. While wearing proper
protective equipment (Face shield, Rubber apron, and long gloves
etc.) Put the jar in a large pail and take a small chisel or a punch
and hammer and punch a hole trough the rusted cover. If the cover is
truly Once that is done you can decant the acid into another
container and dispose of has you have in the past. Don’t forget once
you have drained the acid from the old container to rinse it toughly
to remove any traces of acid before disposing of it.


is it water to acid or acid to water 

AAA - ALWAYS ADD ACID to water!!!

NEVER add water to acid, this can cause a violent reaction causing
acid to spew everywhere.

You can always call your city recycling program, many have disposal
sites that will gladly take the acid off your hands.



NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, NEVER add water to acid! NEVER. You
might be inviting a sudden and very violent explosion.

Why on Earth would you make a recommendation to someone that might
cause them loss of an eye or worse?

These second-hand and “he told me” opinions have NO PLACE here.
PLEASE research your better.

There, I said it.
Wayne Emery

Be VERY careful with Nitric! Adding water to concentrated nitric acid
can be explosive! It’s always add acid to water the other way around
can be disastrous. Check to see if your community has a hazardous
chemical disposal facility or dilute the solution to oblivion but be
darn careful, wear all the proper safety gear and good luck

Bruce Morrison

Rubber gloves, Apron, mask and eye protection are a must. Have
Baking Soda and Water ready in case of any spill.

I would stay away from any metal containers.

Rather than attempting to do the whole thing at once it is better to
neutralize this acid in small quanties

In a ventilated area. Get a small Plastic tub half filled with

Add acid in small quanities to this water atleast 1:3 1part acid to
3 parts water.

Sprinkle Baking Soda till there is no more reaction (fumes).

Repeat this as necessary add some more water and then more acid
reduce the quantity of acid if you see a lot of fumes

Once it is neutralised you can get rid of this easily.

For your

  1. Commercially Nitric Acid is shipped in Special Stainless Steel

  2. Plastic containers have to be Specially treated to hold the acid.

  3. Nitric Acid comes in various degrees of strength I would predict
    yours to be 42’ or less.

Kenneth Singh
46 Jewelry Supply
46 West 46 St,
New York, NY 10036.

Add Acid to water. Memorize – Dump the acid in the ocean. Burn that
phrase into your brain and you will not have to debate which is added

To find a place to dispose of your nitric acid, check out You can put in your state or zip code and
it will give you for disposal as well as tons of info on

Good luck!
Linda Blumel

I wrote “is it water to acid or acid to water?” I ask the question
because I wasn’t sure. I never would tell someone to do it wrong.
That is why I ask which was which. I knew somone would clarify.
Thanks, but maybe you should reread my post.

thanks Dennis

Dear All

To those who have offered their thoughts so far on this issue, many
thanks! I just need to clarify something: Yes I know I must add acid
to water, but I can’t get to the acid because of the rusted lid on
the container. If I try to pierce a hole it it, or open it the bits
will fall in and react. Turning what is left of the lid will just
just cause lots of little bits to fall off and I still won’t be able
to open it.

So my thinking was that because there are some tiny holes - the
corrosion is that bad (!) that if I put it in a huge container with
water - have found a massive glass vase and let the water seep into
the container that it would dilute slowly. If I did it ouside and
kept pouring water into it with a hose, then eventually it would be
well and truly watered down. But then, you are still adding water to
acid and there will be air in the jar which is not going to be good
either. I am really at a loss!

Initially I thought if I put bicarb in the water it would neutralise
the acid but maybe that is too sudden and there will be reaction
which is what some of you suggested.

There is nowhere in the wild West of Australia (!) where the public
can bring hazardous waste without being charged astronomical amounts
as this is only done privately by waste management companies. You
would think that it would be important to make it easy for the
public to get rid of this stuff so that they don’t just go and dump
it somewhere!

Any more thoughts anyone. Thanks so much for all your input so far!

Christel in West Oz

Do not do this, you have no idea at this point how water tight the
cap is and if even a small amount of water hits the acid the heat of
the reaction will turn the water to stem and you could have both the
containers shatter when the water hits the acid. With rubber gloves,
face mask, and rubber apron place the acid container in a plastic try
to contain the acid incase the jar does shatter when you pierce the
lid. Carefully pierce the lid in a couple of places and pour the acid
out into a water bath to dilute the acid. The reaction of the iron
bits from the lid into the acid is no where near as violent as water
into the acid.


James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts



The lid is rusting because of its reaction with the nitric acid. As
long as you don’t splash the liquid around and into your eyes, there
is little or no danger in piercing the lid further, creating a hole
large enough to pour the (now probably very weak) acid out. You can
use a plastic bucket of cold water, into which you have dissolved
four tablespoons of baking soda; simply pour the contents of the jar
into the bucket, while stirring the liquid into the bucket.

In all likelihodd, the acid has probably long since broken down and
does not present an extreme hazard.

If you are that concerned about this material, why not soak an old
towel in the solution you made for the bucket, invert the jar on the
towel and the jar’s contents will seep into the towel, then you can
simply hang it to dry then discard it.

An open jar of nitric, even weak nitric, will corrode everything
ferrous within many feet of the source. Never store any acid or
alkali in a container with a metal lid.

Incidentally, once neutralized or even strongly diluted with water,
the nitric will cause no harm to the environment as it breaks down
into simply Nitrogen and Oxygen.

Again, for safety’s sake DO NOT add water to this container.


There is nowhere in the wild West of Australia (!) 

Christel - since it is, I gather, a very small quantiy of acid - 1/2
jam jar, you said? 100 ml?, I’d suggest just taking it outside,
either on the ground or dig a small hole, and turn it upside down
over night (gloves, etc., of course). Let the acid remove the lid. The
rule is alphabetical - a before w. That doesn’t count flooding,
though. If you pour SO much water into a small quantity of acid, it
will overwhelm the problem, mostly of heat. You’re talking 100:1 water
to acid in that case, and fast. A pint of somewhat diluted nitric is
no match for a garden hose cranked up.

Hi Christel,

Yes I know I must add acid to water, but I can't get to the acid
because of the rusted lid on the container. 

if you carefully make a few more holes in the lid - any bits of lid
that fall into the acid shouldn’t matter- then repeat the process in
a circle of holes over a few days- you will end up with a part of the
lid you can remove so that you can pour the acid into the water-
how’s that for an idea?

cheers and happy Christmas to you, from Christine in SA

ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, acid to water.

10 Gallons of water is a lot of water to be hefting around, and then
what do you do, pour it into the ground? Down the drain?

First, call your local town hall and ask if they have a method for
hazardous waste disposal. IF yes, ask them the best way to pack and
transport your nitric to them. Your town doesn’t want you messing
with this stuff, so bug them until you get an answer. Talk to the
fire department. They are also informed on chemical stuff.

When I worked in a bio med company, we would sometimes have chemical
spills. Vermiculite (sp) is a spongy, woody material which will soak
up chemicals.

Get some of this stuff and a deep dish glass casserole dish or the
interior of a crock-pot. Pack your bottle of death into the
vermiculite to stabilize the contents until you can dispose of it

Every state regulation is different. Let the experts handle it.

I’m amazed that there would be a metal cap on nitric acid.


School for Jewelry and the Metalarts
50 Guinan St.
Waltham, MA 02451
781 891 3854

Once it is neutralized flush it down the toilet. No harm even if you
have a septic tank. Would matter only if you had an industrial

We manufactured Nitric Acid based Gold testing solutions handling 20
gallon Steel Drums.

Kenneth Singh
46 Jewelry Supply,
46 West 46 St,
New York, NY.