Our goal with the intermediary rinse is to prevent citric acid from
going down the drain little by little.
why? It’s not like citric acid is toxic or a pollutant, any more
than tossing an uneaten orange in the trash would be. Unless you’ve a
closed system like a septic tank, in which case you’ll have more
restrictions than just the pickle, which would be a minor issue,
citric acid can go down the drain without harm. If you were using a
stronger more potentially polluting material, then perhaps. But even
sodium bisulphate, the standard “safety pickle”, isn’t really
harmful in small amounts in the sewage stream. And citric acid most
Now, if you’re trying to avoid loosing the citric acid, that only
works if the rinse is where you get the water with which to top up
the pickle as it evaporates. THAT works, though given the material
and low cost, it’s only barely worth the effort. But it’s common
practice in some electroplating setups, like rhodium, where the very
costly bath looses material to that “drag out”, so topping up the
plating bath from the rinse container, helps to not waste it. But
citric acid? Hardly worth that effort.
1. One person says that we should so that we are neutralizing the
piece before it gets washed in the sink or touches anything else
in the studio.
Now you’ve hit on a valid reason for a pre-rinse tank. The baking
soda is more effective at neutralizing any remaining pickle in the
piece than is simple rinsing in water. With some pieces, pickle can
be trapped in pores, or small cavities, etc, and not be rinsed out,
so then you have pickle remaining on what should be an acid free
piece. That’s the usual reason why people might use a baking soda
pre-rinse. The other might be if you’d otherwise have to walk across
the shop, dripping pickle on the floor or elsewhere, before you get
to the sink. That too, simple shop cleanliness, is a good reason.
2. Another person says that the copper tongs that go back and
forth between the pickle and the rinse are slowly diluting the
pickle--it's better to use straight water.
theoretically, perhaps. But I think you’d have a very hard time
measuring this dilution in practice. It would be a very tiny amount,
and even less in the usual situation where, after the rinse
container, the work then goes to the sink for a final rinse,
meanwhile the copper tongs either go with, or are set down, perhaps
on a shop towel, instead of living in the pickle. So they drain off
there, or they get rinsed along with the work in the sink.
It’s kind of a "don’t make mountains out of molehills situation, I
Any insight is much appreciated. How do you rinse your pieces?
In water. Wherever it happens to be handy. I don’t bother with a
baking soda rinse, since my pickle pot is next to the ultrasonic, so
if I’m worried about residual pickle on the piece, a quick dip in the
sonic (which is not running, usually, for this), also neutralizes any
acid (the cleaning solutions are alkaline)
But a comment. In general, the sometimes habit of having a bicarb
rinse next to the pickle pot originates in schools where lots of
people, some with sloppy working habits, use the pickle, so
preventing it’s spread all over is good. And generally, that is also
rooted in the use of the much more aggressive sodium bisulphate
pickles, rather than citric acid (A fairly recent innovation, and
generally still used only by those who’ve decided they have to be
afraid of the pickle pot. For most, the fear is unfounded, but
there’s no harm in switching to citric acid if it makes you happy.
But again, remember this is basically the same stuff as is in lemon
juice. pretty safe stuff. I’ve never met a cook who’s worried about
the safety issues of lemon juice beyond not squirting it in your
eyes when squeezing the lemon. The same degree of casual attitude to
citric acid pickle would not be unwarranted. Spills cause no harm to
people or clothing, only to steel tools, the same (well, maybe a bit
more) as any other water based solution.