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.