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The Joy of Citrus pickle


#1

Hello group,

I know that nobody has really brought this topic up but given the
discussions of cats in the studio and all I thought it might be worth
the bump.

Citrus pickle: cheap; reasonably safe; very effective; easy to use;
easy to find; even better than Sparex for some things; less harsh
than Sparex on your hands, clothes, tools, bench, etc.

I’ve been using citrus acid pickle for a couple months now and I’m
really impressed. Given that it’s basically a food product you’d
think it wouldn’t really do the job but it does. Sure, it’s slower
than Sparex but we’re talking a three or four minute soak instead of
two minutes, or whatever. I’ve adapted by having two projects on the
go at once so while one soaks in the pickle I’m designing or
polishing or whatever on the second.

I got my citrus acid powder at an East Indian supermarket for about
$10 a pound. I’m told you can get it cheaper at brew houses and other
convenient places (see Orchid post
http://www.ganoksin.com/orchid/archive/200305/msg01326.htm).

I’m using a mix ratio of 40 ml of citrus acid powder to 400 ml
distilled water warmed to just below boiling on a hot plate in a $6
Pyrex oven dish that came with a Pyrex lid. I’ve marked the dish to
indicate the proper water level since an amount of water does steam
off. I top off the dish with distilled water to the fill line at the
beginning of each work day.

“Better than Sparex”? I can hear the skepticism crackling in the air
as I type this but I’d swear that the citrus works better for things
like depletion guilding on Sterling than Sparex does. My Sparex always
seemed to start taking really long after the second or third
pickling. Maybe Sparex is going deeper or something. My observation is
that on the second or third round in the citrus your Sterling is
almost powder white and burnishes up to a super gloss very quickly
after a gentle scrubbing with a mild abrasive (eg. baking soda).

Of course citrus has the well known advantages of being ferrous metal
safe (binding wire and tongs can be used in and around it without
unpleasant side-effects) and not eating holes in things.

Another advantage --gut feeling not scientific observation- is that
the citrus pickle seems to last a LONG time, as if it had a much
longer life cycle while in use or something. Also seems to have a
longer shelf life while in solution, not that that really matters to
most of you.

One downside that I can think of is that you must heat the citrus
solution in order to get reasonable pickling times. Cold citrus
pickle works at glacial speeds. Actually I suspect that it’s neutrinos
that get rid of the firescale when it’s sitting in the cold citrus
pickle but I don’t have that kind of instrumentation in my studio. :slight_smile:

Those of you who’ve seen my ramblings for a while now know that I
was, not so long ago, extolling the virtues of hydrochloric acid
(HCl) as a pickle. I still use in on occasion for really stubborn
firescaling --just a dip between rounds in the citrus, rinse between
pickles-- but given the nasty vapours, rust-fogged tools, and low
penetrating power due to insoluble salts on the surface of the
workpiece I went looking for alternatives and thus discovered the
citrus acid. One moves on as necessity and providence dictate.

I suppose I should mention that I use Sterling and base metals only,
no gold these days.

Usual disclaimer: I am not now nor have I ever been a seller or known
to a seller or manufacturer or known thereto of citrus acid powder. I
do however like citrus fruit and strongly encourage their judicious
consumption. Apples are nice too. Bananas are okay once in a while.
Passion fruit were thusly named by a cruel and very cynical person.

Cheers,
Trevor F


#2

I may have missed something…what are the proportions of acid to
water?

Eve Welts,
certified PMC Instructor


#3

If you want to try a citric acid pickle without having to buy in
bulk, just check out your grocery store. Look in the the Kosher
section, maybe the spice/salt section. It is usually called “sour
salt”. If you read the label, it’s pure citric acid. You can play
with it and if you don’t like it, you haven’t made much of an
investment. A buck or two.

Regards,
Cindy


#4

Hello all,

Ok, so I’ve gotta confess that chemistry is not exactly one of my
primary skills.

I’ve been asked to clarify whether I’ve been talking about "citrus"
or “citric” pickle.

The stuff I’ve been using has a label that says “Citric Acid” and I
got it at an East Indian grocery store.

Sorry for any confusion I may have caused.

Cheers,
Trevor F.

PS. on request I tested the stuff on gold, a 14K yellow gold wedding
band with sterling silver rails on either side. I torched the ring to
get a good firescale on it and tossed into lukewarm citric pickle. The
gold was clean before the silver was.


#5

In an emergency situation I once cleaned some copper coils with
plain lemon juice…slow, but it worked.

Betsy
(in cool (!!) soggy (!!) Texas- go figure.)


#6
I may have missed something...what are the proportions of acid to
water? 

Hello Eve,

I’m using 40ml of citric acid granules to 400ml of distilled water.
It is by no means a hard and fast rule since I’ve seen recipes that
cover the map. I have found however that distilled water yields a much
more effective solution than when using tap water.

Over the course of say 5 or 6 hours at the bench I probably lose
close to half of the water to steam, etc. It seems to me that the
pickle is a little less effective at this heavier concentration. Once
I refill it to the 400ml point and the solution is back up to
temperature the effectiveness seems to return to “normal”.

Cheers,
Trevor F.


#7

I have used citric pickle, and it is great stuff. It took longer to
clean my silver than did the sparex, but it was nice to work with.
Only problem I had, was that I was trying to rush the process and
added much too much of the citric acid to the water and it
crystalized overnight cracking my little crock pot. As it is
expensive and hard to get in my area I have returned to using sodium
bisulfate. If using the citric acid from grocery stores, be sure it
does not have sugar or any other sweetner added to it.

When I lived in Calif. i had a number of Meyer lemon trees in my
garden, and for an experiment i squeezed some and used it for
pickle. It worked beautifully. If I remember correctly, I dunked
the silver into undiluted lemon juice. I don’t remember whether or
not I heated it in my crockpot

Those who are fortunate enough to have lemon trees might want to give
this a try.

Alma


#8

Greetings. More than 30 years ago I took a photography class. If
my memory still serves me correctly, one of the chemicals used in the
print making process was made from pure citric acid. It was sold as
glacial, or possibly galactic acid. Very nasty in its undiluted form
but very inexpensive. Perhaps this might be used to make a pickeling
solution.


#9
      More than 30 years ago I took a photography class.  If my
memory still serves me correctly, one of the chemicals used in the
print making process was made from pure citric acid.  It was sold
as glacial, or possibly galactic acid.  Very nasty in its undiluted
form but very inexpensive. Perhaps this might be used to make a
pickeling solution. 

No, what you are thinking of is Acetic acid or Glacial Acetic acid
which are used in developing black and white photography paper.

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


#10
one of the chemicals used in the print making process was made from
pure citric acid.  It was sold as glacial, or possibly galactic
acid. 

NO NO NO!! “Glacial” refers to acetic acid, and it is indeed nasty
stuff at those concentrations. In its very dilute natural
occurrences it’s vinegar, but don’t make the mistake of thinking
acetic acid is just concentrated food!

Tas
www.earthlywealth.com


#11
I took a photography class.   one of the chemicals used in the
print making process was made from pure citric acid.  It was sold
as glacial, or possibly galactic acid.  Very nasty in its undiluted
form but very inexpensive. Perhaps this might be used to make a
pickeling solution. 

G’day. My memory doesn’t always work either, but the chemical
mostly used in photography was called an ‘acid stop bath,’ after
development was complete. Some used sodium bisulphate, but almost
any acidic substance would do. I never heard of citric acid being
used; I used common or garden vinegar - which is dilute acetic acid

  • cheap and easily come by.

The full strength acetic acid is called ‘glacial’ because it freezes
solid at 15 C, and yes, it burns and blisters human flesh at that
strength. But the diluted stuff is very nice on lettuce salads. It
might work well as a pickle

Cheers for now,
JohnB of Mapua, Nelson NZ


#12

Thank you, Trevor. I will try some. It seems so much more
environmentally friendly and I’m not in a hurry to get things done
by milleseconds.

Eve


#13
It seems so much more environmentally friendly .... 

Hello Eve,

Up until the point that you’ve got a bunch of copper oxides dissolved
in it yes I suppose it is.

The main selling points for me are that it’s really easy to come by
(Sparex and pool stuff are not easy to find where I’m living these
days), you’ll never end up with brown sludge floating around in your
pickle pot (which has happened to me from a crappy batch of Sparex),
it doesn’t care whether you stick your ferrous tongs or wires in it
(doesn’t plate out the copper), and it doesn’t give off nasties when
you warm it up. Also gives me something less to worry about the cats
getting into.

Actually I should mention one thing to be careful about with the
citric --not citrus as I’d mistakenly said in my original post–
pickle. I have noticed a fairly vigorous reaction to any flux or borax
glass remaining on the piece after soldering. Nothing scary or
anything but it does froth up a bit for a couple seconds so be
forewarned. First time it happened it startled me and there could
have been an accident.

I usually quench in water then drop the work into the pickle so you
won’t notice the reaction there because the quenching will almost
certainly flush most or all of the flux remnants away. But in the case
where I’ve had a complicated set up the piece will already be cool by
the time I’ve extracted it and then it’s straight into the pickle pot
since there’s no need to quench. Obviously there’s a chance for flux
glass or whatever in this case and that’s when you’ll see the
reaction.

Cheers,
Trevor F.


#14

Trevor & other citric acid users
Can you suggest or draft an instruction sheet as how to use this.
This would help many budding students and novices.

Regards,
Kenneth Singh
Karat46@aol.com


#15
    Trevor & other citric acid users Can you suggest or draft an
instruction sheet as how to use this. 

Hello Kenneth,

Will do. Give me a couple days and I’ll put it up on my website and
post the URL here.

Cheers,
Trevor F.


#16

I have not heard of citric acid being used, at least during the 60
years or so that is was/have been associated with the photographic
industry. Acetic acid, yes. Much-used in stop baths and so on. It
stops the development process, since an alkaline solution is used for
development. And glacial acetic is indeed nasty stuff. Makes the skin
turn yellow and horny. And vinegar is a quite dilute acetic acid,
which also contains other chemicals that go nice in salad dressing,
pickles, etc. etc. Not the same as citric acid, which is what you
find in lemons and other citrus fruits.

Margaret


#17
    Can you suggest or draft an instruction sheet as how to use
this. 

Hello Kenneth,

I’ve posted a first draft of the Citric Acid Pickle page at

http://www.touchmetal.com/citricacidpickle.html

As usual comments are welcome and encouraged. I’d be happy to add
whatever material people might find useful.

Cheers,
Trevor F.


#18

Trevor,

Your Citric Acid Pickle Page looks good. I have one quibble, citric
acid will indeed plate copper out of solution onto items being
pickled if iron is introduced into the pot along with the items
being pickled. Citric may be less likely to do this but I have had
this happen to me a few times in the past three years that I have
been using citric acid pickle. It is my understanding that any acid
will do this, if it dissolves copper into solution it will plate it
out due to the electrolytic cell that is created by placing iron and
silver or gold in the solution. Hey John Burgess do you have any
more on this?

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


#19

Your Citric Acid Pickle Page looks good. I have one quibble, citric

   acid will indeed plate copper out of solution onto items being
pickled if iron is introduced  into the pot along with the items
being pickled.  It is my understanding that any acid will do this,
if it dissolves copper into solution it will plate it out due to
the electrolytic cell that is created by placing iron and silver or
gold  in the solution. Hey John Burgess do you have any more
on this? 

G’day You rattled my cage? I am afraid I can’t think of anything
to add to Mr Binnion’s comment above

Cheers for now,
JohnB of Mapua, Nelson NZ


#20
    Greetings.  More than 30 years ago I took a photography class.
 If my memory still serves me correctly, one of the chemicals used
in the print making process was made from pure citric acid.  It was
sold as glacial, or possibly galactic acid.  Very nasty in its
undiluted form but very inexpensive. Perhaps this might be used to
make a pickeling solution. 

Don’t use this stuff as it is Glacial Acidic Acid and is lots more
active than citric acid.

JD