Learn something new every day More Info... by email
Sulfuric acid is a strong acid that can burn through clothes and skin, so a sulfuric acid spill can be a dangerous situation. Before dealing with the spill itself, you should first check yourself to see if any of the acid got on you — or anyone else who is around — and wash off any acid found. If the spill is small, the next step is to open the windows and doors and get some protective clothing; if there is a large spill, you should call in a hazardous materials team. Pouring sodium bicarbonate on the spill can help the sulfuric acid clump, along with providing other benefits to help clean up the spill. After you sweep up the sodium bicarbonate, the area should be washed with water.
The first thing to do before cleaning up a sulfuric acid spill is to check yourself and any other people who are around. You should check your clothes and skin, because sulfuric acid can easily eat through or burn both of these. Clothes with sulfuric acid on them should be removed, and exposed skin or eyes should be washed for at least 15 minutes to wash away and dilute the acid. Failing to do this before cleaning acid spilled elsewhere may result in disfiguring burns.
Once you have checked yourself, you should check the amount of the sulfuric acid spill. If there is a large pool of sulfuric acid, then you should call in a hazardous materials team and evacuate the area, because the fumes can be fatal and the spill may be impossible to clean up by yourself without developing medical problems along the way. Small spills are easier to clean up but, before doing so, you should get protective clothing, if available. This includes a mask, goggles, gloves and an acid-resistant apron. While you may be able to clean the spill without protection if none is available, it again may be better to call in a team to avoid acid exposure.
If the spill is small enough, you can start the cleanup by pouring sodium bicarbonate on the sulfuric acid spill. This is included in most acid spill kits but, if one is not available, then soda ash or cat litter will have the same effect. The sodium bicarbonate will absorb the sulfuric acid and make it clump, making it easier to pick up. You should not pick up the sodium bicarbonate immediately; while it neutralizes the acid, there will be some bubbling that can cause a chemical splash if you do not give the sodium bicarbonate time to work.
When the sodium bicarbonate has neutralized the sulfuric acid spill, you should sweep it up and dispose of it as chemical waste. The area should be washed with water and more sodium bicarbonate added to pick up any remaining acid. This should be repeated several times to fully remove the acid.
One of our editors will review your suggestion and make changes if warranted. Note that depending on the number of suggestions we receive, this can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Thank you for helping to improve wiseGEEK!