Back to Ganoksin | FAQ | Contact

Safer pickles


#1

I currently use sparex pickle and have had some questions about the
safety of a steaming vat of hydrochloric acid in my house. Are there
safer pickles that work as well as sparex? If so, where do you get
them and how do you use them?

Sincerely,
Bryan Johnson
http://www.bryanjohnson.ca/
the site for my jewellery.


#2
 I currently use sparex pickle and have had some questions about
the safety of a steaming vat of hydrochloric acid in my house. Are
there safer pickles that work as well as sparex? If so, where do
you get them and how do you use them? 

A steaming vat of hydrochloric acid in your house would indeed be a
bad idea. The fumes would be very hard on your lungs, and would
quickly rust any steel in the area, such as your tools…

Fortunately, sparex is an acid salt of sulphuric acid, with no
relation to hydrochloric (grin). While it’s fumes aren’t so good to
breath either, it’s a good deal less nasty, and the salt (sodium
bisulphate) is a lot less nasty than the actual acid would be. I’d
suggest, as a first measure, just put a lid on your pickle pot. I
use a simple crock pot, rather than the commercial pickle pots, and
the crock pots come with lids that serve nicely. And while it works
more quickly when warm, it doesn’t need to be so hat as to boil or
greatly “steam”. Decently hot is enough, and even cold will work,
though a good deal more slowly.

If you’d prefer something safer, try citric acid. Available through
chemical suppliers, or maybe even in the grocery store (I’m fairly
sure that what’s sold in canning supplies, as “fruit fresh” is mostly
citric acid, though I could be wrong on that…). It’s a good deal
slower than sparex, and won’t remove quite as much, but most simple
oxides and flux residues, etc, are dealt with well enough.

Peter


#3

Hi Bryan,

You might like to give Ph Minus a try. It’s used in swimming pools &
spas to lower the ph of the water & keep your skin from itching.
Chemically it’s sodium bisulfate. It works well when mixed at about
1 cup to 2 quarts of water that’s then warmed in a crock pot or some
other glass or ceramic container.

Depending on where you live, it’s sold in pool supply stores,
grocery & drug stores. The last time I bought some, a 7 lb.
container was about $7.

Dave


#4

Hi Brian,

I see from your web site that you’re working with silver. I was
taught to use citric acid as a pickle and it has worked great.

Use approx one quarter cup of crystallized citric acid per 32oz.
water in the crock pot. When disposing of it I place the removable
bowl of the crock pot in the sink and add baking soda to neutralize
the liquid.

You can buy citric acid on line in smaller quantities at From Nature
with Love or in a larger 50 quantity from Craft Lobby. I have
purchased from both of these sites and have been happy with both.

Best of luck!
Pam from EXTREMELY COLD Massachusetts


#5

You do not need to heat the sparex for it to work…It just takes a
little longer. Therefore, no fumes.


#6

Speaking about safety, health and pickles, please understand that
the fumes of sodium bisulphate are cancerogenic. There is not a
very easy solution to this. You can keep your pickle at a safe
temperature, but when soldering and pickling a couple of pieces, the
solution will start to fume anyway. I simply do not have the patience
to use citric acid or alum - of which the fumes are not safe either.
I mean, suppose you want to reticulate or to deplete silver, you just
can’t do this with citric acid. It takes a day. But I keep myself
away as far as possible from all fumes sulphuric. Just my two
Eurocents - they’re almost worth ten dollarcents by now. Best, Will


#7
   Speaking about safety, health and pickles, please understand
that the fumes of sodium bisulphate are *cancerogenic*. 

A note that to my knowledge the fumes are corrosive (ie steel tools
rust) but are not carcinogenic. The mist of a sulfuric acid
containing solution is however carcinogenic which is one of the
reasons you should not quench hot metals into a sodium bisulfate
pickle-it produces a mist of minute droplets. Charles

Charles Lewton-Brain/Brain Press
Box 1624, Ste M, Calgary, Alberta, T2P 2L7, Canada
Tel: 403-263-3955 Fax: 403-283-9053 Email: @Charles_Lewton-Brai1


#8

A word about citric acid pickle-- When I ran out of standard
pickle, I mixed up some citric. I got impatient with it, and threw
in the tiny bit of Rio pickle I still had. I can’t give
measurements, but I would guess that it amounts to maybe 10-20%, if
each were mixed with water and combined. It seems to me that this
has produced a very effective, much safer but still fast pickle. I’m
still using that batch, so I have not had occasion to try to
duplicate it. Does anyone know any reason that this is a bad idea?
It seems to me (with no scientific basis) that the addition made the
pickle just about as fast as just the Rio pickle, despite being
mostly citric. Has anyone else tried this?

–No�l


#9
Speaking about safety, health and pickles, please understand that
the fumes of sodium bisulphate are *cancerogenic*. 

This raises a question; I have heard before that sulphuric fumes are
carcinogenic, but aren’t those of us in urban areas, particularly
those with air pollution, exposed to a low level of such fumes
constantly? Sulphur dioxide pollution in the US is measured by the
EPA in the millions of tons per year.

How dangerous are the fumes from a pickle pot in comparison to the
fumes which we have all been breathing constantly since birth?

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry
http://www.dosmanosjewelry.com


#10
   You might like to give Ph Minus a try. It's used in swimming
pools & spas to lower the ph of the water & keep your skin from
itching. Chemically it's sodium bisulfate. It works well when mixed
at about 1 cup to 2 quarts of water that's then warmed in a crock
pot or some other glass or ceramic container. 

Note that this is not safer than Sparex brand, just a perhaps better
way to buy the same chemical. The products like “Ph Minus”, or “ph
down”, or “Spa down”, are all sodium bisulphate, as is Sparex. But
packaged as a pool chemical like this, it seems to be usually quite
pure and clean, with usually just some intentional inert anti-caking
additives, while Sparex seems to often be a somewhat lower grade of
the chemical with impurities in it (some sort of waxy brown gunk)
that makes more of a mess of pickle pots, and at least at my local
dealers, the spa chemicals, in addition to mixing up cleanly, are
actually cheaper than the Sparex brand product. I buy the pool
chemical at the local hardware store. Home Depot carries one
version, for example, often located over in the garden department…

Peter


#11

Charles,

I was under the impression that while sodium bisulfate acts like

sulfuric acid that there is no free sulfuric acid generated by the
reaction of copper oxides and sodium bisulfate therefore no sulfuric
acid fumes. Actually this sounds like a question for John Burgess.
Hi John are you listening?

Jim Binnion

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160


@James_Binnion
Member of the Better Business Bureau


#12
  Speaking about safety, health and pickles, please understand
that the fumes of sodium bisulphate are *cancerogenic*. 

Will,

What do you base your assertion on? I have done an internet search
and MSDS searches and do not find any references to it being a
carcinogen. Unless you have some data to back this up you should not
just toss off a statement like that.

Here is the health hazard data from a current MSDS for sodium
bisulphate. While it is not something to be careless with there is
no indication of carcinogenic activity.

HEALTH HAZARD DATA:
Inhalation
	Irritant. Dust or mist inhalation may irritate nose, throat, and 
	lungs. Inhalation of dust will cause
Evaporation Rate: ~ 0
	% Volatiles by Volume: ~ 0
pH: 1.4 (1.4% solution)
Solubility in Water: 670 g/L
Water/Oil Distribution Coefficient: Data not available
	burns to the respiratory tract. May cause lung edema and subsequent 
	loss of breathing.
	Skin Contact/Absorption
Moderate irritant. Prolonged contact may result in pain, severe 
	redness and swelling, and
chemical burns.
Eye Contact
Corrosive. Corneal burns are possible if untreated. Blindness may result.
Ingestion
	Corrosive. Causes severe burns of mouth, throat, and stomach.
	Chronic/Acute Effects
	Chronic exposure may result in lung irritation, tracheal bronchitis, 
	persistent coughing, and
	corrosion of teeth.
Exposure Limits
	No established limits. Treat as nuisance particulates.
	ACGIH TLV = 10 mg/m3 total respirable dust
Irritancy
	Mild irritant
Carcinogenicity
	Not considered to be carcinogenic by IARC and ACGIH.
Reproductive Toxicity
	Data not available
Teratogenicity
	Data not available
Sensitization
	Data not available
Mutagenicity
	Data not available. Investigated as a mutagen.
Synergistic Materials
	Data not available
Animal Toxicity Data
	LD50(oral,rat) = 2800 mg/kg
	LD50(intraperitoneal,mouse) = 193 mg/kg

Jim Binnion

James Binnion Metal Arts
Phone (360) 756-6550
Toll Free (877) 408 7287
Fax (360) 756-2160


@James_Binnion
Member of the Better Business Bureau


#13

Here is a search with results that point out it is sulfuric acid
mists which may be problematic:

http://tinyurl.com/2wgz4

best Charles Charles Lewton-Brain/Brain Press Box 1624, Ste M, Calgary,
Alberta, T2P 2L7, Canada Tel: 403-263-3955 Fax: 403-283-9053
Email: @Charles_Lewton-Brai1


#14

Hi Lee, You raise an interesting point, indeed. One of the easiest
questions you can expect them to ask you in school is: what are the
risks of developing lung cancer? It’s smoking and living in an urban
area. As to your second question about the danger of a pickle pot in
comparision to environmental pollution, a pickle pot is environmental
pollution of your work space adding to the environmental pollution
you are already exposed anyway. I work in a little room and sometimes
I am soldering things for half a day non stop. The concentration of
fume in the room has to be gigantic, whatever the precautions. I
worry about these things. I worry about sulphuric acid, I worry about
UV light - problem solved long ago - I worry about silica and I worry
about wax fumes. Sometimes I spend hours melting little pieces of
(hard, green) wax and ‘soldering’ them to other pieces, while I am
with my nose as good as right on it. I am sure that this an hazard,
as this wax contains plastics. These fumes come in to your body and
locate themselves in your body fat. You will never get rid of them
again. Best, Will


#15

It seems that rumors of the carcinogenic properties of many
substances float around freely on the ether. I’ve heard the same
thing said (with authority and conviction) about liver of sulfur.

I agree, it is unwise to state “facts” without the research and
to back them up. Don’t we already live with enough
fear-- genuine and imagined?

Thanks Jim. Andy Cooperman


#16

Jim, We never agree upon anything. I am not the type of person to
throw statements like this in a forum unless I am sure I am right
about it. Fumes of sodium bisulphate are cancinogenic. I will look
for an article and send it to you, but for the moment I have other
things on my mind, such as leaving this country, moving to another
and starting up a business. I do not know who or what IARC and ACGIH
are, but they are wrong. I absolutely remember reading about it. Best,

Will


#17
    Here is a search with results that point out it is sulfuric
acid mists which may be problematic: http://tinyurl.com/2wgz4 

Hi Charles, I had found the cancer concerns in the MSDS’s for
sulfuric acid ( thanks for bringing that up as I did not know of it
before). I guess my question was not too clear I was wondering if
there is actually any free sulfuric acid present in sodium bisulfate
pickle solutions or in the mist from hot quenching in those
solutions? If so then it is a another good reason not to quench in
sparex. It was my understanding that the sodium bisulfate solution
acts like sulfuric acid in its ability to dissolve the copper oxide
but that there is no sulfuric acid present in the solution.

Regards Jim Binnion James Binnion Metal Arts Phone (360) 756-6550 Toll
Free (877) 408 7287 Fax (360) 756-2160 http://www.mokume-gane.com
@James_Binnion Member of the Better Business Bureau


#18

Hello, An effective and inexpensive pickle is swimming pool PH
reducer (-). I learned to use this in school. It is not nearly as
toxic or as costly as Sparex and works just as well, use 1-2 heaping
tablespoons to a crockpot. Citric acid (vitamin C) apparently works,
though I’ve never tried it. Good luck, Jeannette


#19

Jim and all, An intelligent colleague of mine from far away just
dropped me a note which is of interest. There is abundant evidence of
sulphuric acid aerosol causing cancer of the upper respiratory tract.
The MSDS for sodium bisulphate says it is not carcinogenic. This is
not correct. Even if the aerosol is sodium bisulphate rather than
H2SO4, the fumes released by the hot pickle are sulphur dioxide and
sulphure trioxide. These convert to sulphurous and sulphuric acid
respectively when they contact the mucous membranes of the
respiratory tract. Conclusion: if sulphuric acid is a problem then
sodium bisulphate is a problem for the same reason that sulphuric
acid is a problem. The thing not to do is therefore clear: do not
throw hot pieces in your sodium bisulphate pickle. Hope this
clarifies matters, Will


#20

Hi Will, FYI

IARC - International Agency for Research on Cancer (An part of the
World Health Organization) www.iarc.fr/

ACGIH American Conference of Industrial Hygienists
www.acgih.org/home.htm

They are two fairly good sources for this kind of info. However you
may be right and if so i would like to see the source of your
when you get around to it. Because we all need to be
aware of these risks and control our exposure to them when they are
identified.

But as Andy noted there are lots of myths that float around in
cyberspace about various hazards. For whatever its worth I don’t
always disagree with you :slight_smile:

Regards Jim Binnion James Binnion Metal Arts Phone (360) 756-6550 Toll
Free (877) 408 7287 Fax (360) 756-2160 http://www.mokume-gane.com
@James_Binnion Member of the Better Business Bureau