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Acetic Acid Safety Tips

Acetic acid may not be a household name to many, but it’s actually a relatively common chemical. As a vital chemical in the industrial industry, acetic acid is used for a variety of purposes in many countries around the world. You may even encounter acetic acid in a diluted form in your own house, or it might be a chemical you handle at work. In either case, it’s important to handle this potentially hazardous and corrosive acid with appropriate care by following these safety tips from our MSDS experts.

Common Uses for Acetic Acid

Acetic acid is a colorless liquid with a pungent, vinegary odor. This chemical was used in alchemy as early as the 3rd century BC, often as glacial (waterless or anhydrous) acetic acid. In modern times, acetic acid is used for many purposes across several industries, including:

  • Vinyl acetate monomer (for the production of paint and adhesives)
  • Vinegar (4-18 percent acetic acid)
  • Inks, paints, and dyes
  • Solvent
  • Iontophoresis for physical therapy

Acetic acid is also used in the production of several other chemicals, which are then used to make preservatives, fungicides and pesticides, coatings and pigments.

Acetic Acid Hazards

Acetic acid can be a hazardous chemical if not used in a safe and appropriate manner. This liquid is highly corrosive to the skin and eyes and, because of this, must be handled with extreme care. Acetic acid can also be damaging to the internal organs if ingested or in the case of vapor inhalation. The use of PPE (personal protective equipment) is essential when handling this chemical in an undiluted state.

How to Handle Acetic Acid Safely

When handling acetic acid, it is essential to keep a few critical safety tips in mind. Never add water to this chemical, and always keep acetic acid away from sources of heat, sparks or flame. Wear suitable respiratory equipment if handling acetic acid in an area that isn’t well-ventilated. It is recommended that you wear the following protective gear when using acetic acid:

  • Gloves
  • Splash goggles
  • Synthetic apron
  • Vapor respirator (if needed)

Ensure that eye-wash stations are nearby if handling acetic acid. In the event of a large spill in either the workplace or at home, a self-contained breathing apparatus should be equipped, and you should also wear a full protective suit for additional safety. If you do not have this equipment readily at hand, do not attempt to clean up the acetic acid without it.

Proper Health Care for Acetic Acid Exposure

Exposure to acetic acid can pose serious hazards to your health. This chemical is especially dangerous when it comes in contact with either the skin or eyes. In any instance of acetic acid exposure, it is important to seek help from a medical professional right away to help prevent damaging health effects.

Skin Contact – Immediately flush skin with water for at least 15 minutes and remove contaminated clothing. Cover the irritated skin with an emollient. In case of serious skin contact, wash using a disinfectant soap. Seek out medical attention as soon as possible.

Eye Contact – Remove contact lenses right away if present. Immediately flush eyes with plenty of water for no less than 15 minutes. Seek medical attention immediately.

Ingestion – If acetic acid is ingested, do not induce vomiting. If victim is unconscious, do not administer any mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Loosen any tight clothing. Seek medical attention immediately if any symptoms appear.

Inhalation – If inhaled, seek fresh air and medical attention immediately. If breathing is difficult, administer oxygen. If breathing is absent, give artificial respiration.

Safe Acetic Acid Storage & Disposal

Acetic acid should be stored in an approved area away from heat or other sources of ignition. Keep away from incompatible materials including oxidizing agents, reducing agents, metals, acids and alkalis. Store acetic acid in a cool, well-ventilated area in a tightly sealed container.

This chemical must be disposed of in accordance with federal, state, and local environmental regulations. Here’s a great resource for safety compliance information.

Safety is of the utmost importance when handling potentially dangerous chemicals such as acetic acid. This corrosive liquid should be used with care, both in the workplace and in household products. For more information about acetic acid uses, safety, or disposal, search our database of MSDS information.