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topic 34002

Dangers/Toxicity of inhaling muriatic acid fumes

A discussion started in 2005 but continuing through 2018


Q. What would happen if someone inhaled the fumes of Muriatic Acid [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]? My dad accidentally did this at a Vet's office and he is having trouble breathing and having chest pains.

Shannin Strickland
ranch - Ocala, Florida


Hydrochloric Acid

A. Shannin,

This sounds like an obvious situation to me. Tissue can be damaged by muriatic acid, also known as hydrochloric acid. It would be referred to as a chemical burn. Usually the body's response is to stop breathing before too much of it is inhaled. It dissolves into the water contained in the tissues and mucous. A serious exposure could result in pneumonia, damaged lungs and eyes, or possibly death.

The victim should see a medical doctor immediately for any situation involving difficulty breathing, chest pain, etc. And it goes without saying that the vet's office (and any other business) should have an emergency plan for situations involving spills of hazardous materials such as muriatic acid.

paul tibbals
Paul Tibbals, P.E.
gas & electric
San Ramon, California, USA

(My opinions are not related to nor a statement of my employer's)


A. Inhalation: Corrosive! Inhalation of vapors can cause coughing, choking, inflammation of the nose, throat, and upper respiratory tract, and in severe cases, pulmonary edema, circulatory failure, and death.

First Aid Measures

Inhalation: Remove to fresh air. If not breathing, give artificial respiration. If breathing is difficult, give oxygen. Get medical attention immediately.


Brian Gaylets
lock manufacturer - Scranton, Pennsylvania

Ed. note Nov. 2013: Unfortunately, that website is now gone.


A. Muriatic (hydrochloric) acid is a strong acid and the fumes can be very irritating. While I don't know the circumstances he encountered, I can't believe he inhaled enough of the fumes to cause permanent damage. Hydrochloric acid has an extremely acrid and pungent odor and we have a natural disdain for inhaling more. Once he got the first hit (probably small because he would stop inhaling) he wouldn't continue to just keep breathing in the fumes.

Conversely, if he were in an enclosed room with no ventilation and no means of escaping the fumes, then he obviously could have received some lung damage. I have inhaled acid fumes several times and while it is unpleasant, it is typically does not cause permanent damage.

He should still have his lungs checked by a doctor just to make sure and give him some peace of mind though.

Daryl Spindler
nickel chrome plating - Nashville, Tennessee





thumbsdownI work for a painting contractor, have been for two and a half weeks. The past two days at our current job some of the guys have been spraying Muriatic acid on the concrete floors for prep purposes. They all had respirators on, since I was in other rooms I didn't. Still quite frequently I could smell the fumes which made it seriously difficult to breathe and in order to finish my job I just breathed less. Now night #2 my throat all the way down to the bottom of my lungs hurts, and I'm coughing up excessive phlegm not to mention my body aches all over.
My advice stay as far away from these fumes as possible!

Cory Gordon
- Topeka, Kansas


Q. Hi,
I was cleaning the bathroom and I used some muriatic acid on the flooring. I accidentally inhaled the fumes but I am sure it is only a mild exposure since I coughed it out immediately and went out of the bathroom. And then after a week I discovered I was pregnant. Do you think this exposure would cause a damage to my baby? I think I was 3 weeks pregnant then. Please advise.

Karen Paras
- Makati, Philippines


A. I think the chances of it being harmful to your baby are zero, Karen, but please see a doctor. Never use muriatic acid in a house; it will ruin your chrome, your stainless appliances, and electronic wiring. This acid is a gas dissolved in water, and the gas escapes when sloshed around, similar to the carbonation in soda, so it does this damage to those things even when it is not splashed on them.

Ted Mooney, amadeya42.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey


Q. It would be good to know how long it takes to experience the corrosive effects of muriatic acid if it seems at first like one has inhaled a mild dose. Would one know immediately that something serious has happened or does the effect of the fumes build on the tissues over time?

Wyn Wachhorst
- Atherton, California


A. Again, see your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms at all . . . but I think you'll know instantly if you are exposed to muriatic acid fumes. The fumes are choking and painful.

Ted Mooney, amadeya42.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 9, 2008

Q. Three weeks ago I was working in a restaurant when someone poured muriatic acid down the drains. All of a sudden we were engulfed by a rotten egg smell. I got on the microphone and told everyone it would be a good idea if everyone would go outside until we knew what was causing the odor. The owner decided to close, so I went back in to pack up my equipment. 2 days later I woke because I couldn't breathe. I have been to the emergency room twice and was given inhalers and steroids. Since the incident I have felt like someone was sitting on my chest, had a constant headache, lightheadedness and numbness in the mouth, shoulders and neck. The hospital recommended I see a neurologist. Everything I have read about exposure says there will be breathing problems but I have read nothing about my other symptoms. My head has been very unclear since the exposure. Can exposure to muriatic acid harm other parts of the body?

Stephanie Burt
- Yuma, Arizona

January 18, 2008

A. Stephanie, are you hoping a stranger on the internet will tell you NOT to go to a neurologist when you've been to the emergency room twice and the qualified medical doctors who have examined you have recommended it? At the least, see your family physician! It is difficult for a trained physician examining you to tell whether any portion of your symptoms are psychosomatic or neurological, and silly to think that a reader can do so based on the usual toxicology of hydrochloric acid. But a strong "rotten egg smell" is indicative of sulfur dioxide rather than hydrochloric acid anyway. Good luck, but please see your doctor today.

Ted Mooney, amadeya42.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 30, 2008

thumbsdown I inhaled pool chemicals by accident, early this morning. I couldn't breath and coughed-up a lot of phlegm. I drank a lot of milk, water, took a quick shower and laid down for about a hour. It makes you feel quite weak. My breathing is better now. Reading all your e-mail made me wonder if there is any damage. I'm off to the doctor right now.

Judi Lontos
- Germiston, Gauteng, South Africa

April 2, 2008

Q. Muriatic Acid Incident (Scared to Death). I read about a few folks putting muriatic acid in their swimming pools and breathing fumes later. I also had the same problem, but I got into the pool for a couple of hours. I was a little intoxicated since we had a few beers first. I started coughing and noticed that my skin had burns. A couple of days later, I went to the doctor because I thought I was coming down with pneumonia. I was admitted and released later, but I never got rid of the cough and chest irritation. I didn't mention the swimming pool incident to the doctor because I didn't think the symptom was related to something I may have done. Now, after two weeks, I am worried about lung damage. I think if I get another cold it could be fatal. Question; if I do have damage, is there a medicines to help? What does everyone think?

Monty Brownlee
retired, hobbyist - Philippines

May 20, 2008

Q. This is a subject hard for me to speak of. A cruel human being broke into my friend's house while we were sleeping in the living room. This woman kicked down the door and poured a gallon of hydrochloric (muriatic) acid into the house and another one all over my friend. We were in a very small place (350 square feet). I had never heard of this chemical before, I was wakened up by the strongest, most terrifying, smell.
My friend immediately jumped in the shower to rinse off and I ran outside gasping and hyperventilating in complete shock. After the "drama" of this wicked event, we stayed in this small house for about 4 days. My friend had cleaned up (I have no idea how) the acid mess. I kept making it known that I was very weak, I could barely move my body, and I couldn't breathe through my nose. It also did a number on me outside of the house. The smell of being outside, miles away, would make me gag and want to throw up and I had insane body pains. My skin turned yellow...
I have never been in so much HELL.
Months have passed, what kind of damage could I have had?
Do you think it is still there?

Lauren Madison
- Tampa Bay, Florida

May 20, 2008

A. Hi, Lauren. Unfortunately, to request a 2nd opinion from a stranger on the internet, with no medical experience, and no real understanding of your exposure, isn't going to work. If you are not satisfied with what you have learned from your visits to the doctor, you need to find a second doctor to examine you and offer his assessment. Good luck.


Ted Mooney, amadeya42.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

September 4, 2009

Q. I am a crystal miner and we use muriatic acid to clean iron oxide off the crystals. I have a half face respirator that I use but I do sometimes get stung in my eyes and feel the sting on my skin from the vapors coming off of the acid. We must get pretty close to a large amount of the acid since we have to insert and remove trays of crystals directly from the vat of acid.

My question is.. what could the long term effects of this be? I really hate using the acid.. even with the acid gas respirator it still makes my nose water.

Mike Werner
Miner - Bismarck, Arizona

May 11, 2010

Q. What is the best test / diagnostic test to diagnose if there is a damage occurred on the lungs?

Abigail Ramirez
hobbyist - Philippines

August 3, 2010

Q. There was a gas fire set in my house. I put that fire out. The police arrested the arsonist.

At the same time there was a Hydrochloric acid fire set that no one knew about. I slept in the house the rest of the night.
8:00 am the house is full of fumes. I call 911 again. Hazmat-bomb squad show up. Fire department.EMT-unit.
I vomited white foam.
Now I'm having breathing problems?
Is there anything that can help?

Elisabeth Blount
Hobbyist-Researcher - Fort Worth,Texas

August 3, 2010

A. Hi, Elisabeth. Step 1 is to see a doctor immediately; your lungs are probably exceptionally infection-prone at this point. Step 2 is to start hanging around with a better class of people :-)

Please don't accept folk remedies from the internet after such a severe exposure.


Ted Mooney, amadeya42.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 23, 2011

Q. My son inhaled fumes in the lab 4 weeks ago. He was pouring out Hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid when he inhaled fumes. He collapsed to the floor, coughed for 15 minutes, breathed heavily. He is still having problems breathing, dizzy, headache, pressure in his head, etc. I have taken him to doctors (twice to his primary and once to another). He has been on antibiotics (third time in 4 weeks). I am wondering if doctors are taking it as nothing....

Irfan Sheikh
student - Skokie, Illinois, USA

July 29, 2011

!! I recently was cleaning my concrete driveway with Muriatic Acid it ran into the street and reacted with the blacktop and the fumes made my skin sting and my breathing was slightly affected I turned the hose on myself and watered my face and rinsed out my mouth.
My surprise was the instant reaction with the asphalt.
Be aware ....

Andrew Rowlands
- Los Angeles California

December 6, 2011

A. It can be serious; you should encourage someone who has inhalation symptoms to seek medical attention. I accidentally breathed in muriatic acid while cleaning stone and had a serious cough for 3 weeks. I never saw a doctor but I did not have blue lips or fingers; it was definitely unpleasant and it hurt when I inhaled. I had pneumonia-like symptoms and for an older gentlemen this can be life threatening.

William Laper
- San Diego, California, USA

March 27, 2012

Q. My boyfriend was working on the roof of a private home, along with a/c techs. He was about ten feet away from the a/c tech, when the tech sprayed something in the air. My boyfriend immediately covered his eyes. This was last June. He immediately received burns to his face, scalp, chest and arms. Three weeks later he noticed an ulceration on his arm. He has since been seeing a pulmonologist, dermatologist, rheumatologist. He has only 38 percent of his lungs left. He has severe chest, stomach and head pain. He has episodes of black outs, anxiety attacks and dermatitis and severe shortness of breath. He cannot go out in the heat or sun for any extended periods of time or he gets very sick with stomach pain, severe perspiration, headaches, weakness, nausea. He may have to have a lung transplant because of the carelessness of the a/c tech. The company that sprayed him will not divulge what the tech sprayed in the air.

I would love for anyone to comment in order to help us. We are suing the company.

DEANA D [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Florida

March 28, 2012

A. Hi, Deana.

Step 1 was to see doctors, and apparently he did that and has continued to do so repeatedly. That's the thing to do!

Since you are suing, step 2 is to retain a lawyer, and it looks like he hasn't done that yet because the lawyer can certainly subpoena info on the chemical in question rather than guessing. A lawyer will probably also advise him to not post such questions on the internet, and let him/her do the research -- because then the results are confidential, whereas if you are called to the witness stand by the defense and asked if you found any evidence that the chemical wasn't seriously harmful you have to tell the truth and it might detract from your boyfriend's case.


Ted Mooney, amadeya42.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 29, 2012

thumbsdown My question was: "does this sound like a classic case of exposure to muriatic acid?" Yes he has obtained a lawyer. I have not hurt his case whatsoever. I am merely trying to find answers that can help his recovery, if he does. His symptoms are that of some sort of chemical. As I had said, the company will not reveal the name of the chemical. This is very detrimental to his health and outcome of his life, whether he lives or dies.

I appreciate your response. You seemed more interested in the legality of it all instead of his health. I obviously came to the wrong place for some sort of peace of mind.

Deana D [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Florida

March 29, 2012

A. Sorry for your troubles, Deanna. While "does this sound like a classic case of exposure to muriatic acid?" may have been the question you had in mind, it's certainly not what you asked, and there is nothing I can offer medically anyway as I've said repeatedly, and he's already been to a pulmonologist, dermatologist, and rheumatologist. Hopefully they can offer you peace of mind; sorry, but I would have no way of doing that.

What you actually said was: "I would love for anyone to comment in order to help us. We are suing the company." And since I've seen legal cases compromised by internet postings, that's what I commented on. Please re-read your posting before claiming that I misread it :-)

I can't see any reason why an A/C Technician would spray muriatic acid, so I am 99.9% sure he didn't, but I obviously can't say for sure, whereas your lawyer can find out. It probably isn't common to spray bleach, but it sounds much less unlikely. Maybe studying some air conditioning sites can suggest what the chemical was. Skin damage and severe lung damage from either acid or bleach is clearly possible.

To someone with no medical training like myself, stomach & head pain, blackouts & anxiety attacks, and nausea wouldn't sound "classic" -- but without any medical training regarding the interrelatedness of the body's reactions to poisons, my guesses are of no value; that's why I didn't offer them. Certainly lung damage can lead to infections or pneumonia, and I suppose these problems could manifest such symptoms.

I wish him a speedy and full recovery!


Ted Mooney, amadeya42.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

October 9, 2012

Q. Hi,

I have this ex of mine, whom I suspect is stalking me. I am not at all scared but what bothers me most is the fact that I am a mum of 3 wonderful daughters ... am scared of their safety. Now, today my kids and I jump into the car to drive shopping. I turn it on and this awful smell exhumes from the ventilator(?) ... our eyes become watery and stinging; we couldn't breathe; we have headaches and get kind of dizzy. At first I thought it was just urine ... because somehow it had that smell, but now am not so sure!

Could it be acid and if yes, what happens to a car when you do so and how life-threatening is it? I went to a car wash and the smell is gone ... but somehow, I still feel dizzy and weak when I am in it? Should I worry?


Lucy W
- Hamburg Germany

November 2, 2012

Q. I wish I had read these posts earlier. I cleaned my kitchen floors with muriatic acid and now my stainless appliances look terrible. Is there a solution to fix the stainless? I'm also worried about my lungs now, after seeing what it's done to my appliances!

Marilyn King
- Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA

February 17, 2013

A. Hi Marilyn.

On the one hand, strong exposure to muriatic acid is a medical emergency. On the other hand, mere exposure to a low concentration that produced no immediate symptoms seems very unlikely to have any long term effect. Many people work in plating shops, dipping parts into vats of muriatic acid all day every day and live to a ripe old age.

Readers: please remember that this is assurance to Marilyn to not worry herself to death over a one-time exposure to muriatic acid which produced no symptoms . . . it is not a claim that because some muriatic acid workers live to a ripe old age that there should be absolutely no concerns about chronic low-dose exposure. That's a proposition for research by an epidemiologist, not for an opinion from a guy who happens to know a couple of elderly platers :-)


Ted Mooney, amadeya42.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

February 17, 2013

Q. I was cleaning our toilet when I mixed bleach and hydrochloric acid together in a pail of water and brushed our toilet floor. I accidentally inhaled the fumes from the chemicals and started having tight lungs and sore throat etc. I was having the usual symptoms of inhaling some fumes. I splash myself with water and went to have fresh air. After 2 hours I felt a bit better but still having a little dizziness, and when I cough my lungs seem to tighten a bit. Furthermore, I feel weak (like coming out from a fever).
What should I do/take in order these effects will go away? Will I have future complications/problems concerning these problems?
Thank you!

james chan
- philippines

November 30, 2013

A. When you mix chlorine bleach and muriatic acid, you're creating chlorine gas. When doing cleaning, do not mix chemicals (ammonia, bleach, lye, acids) unless you have a proficient knowledge in chemistry or know what you're doing.

Professor of Chemical Engineering
Universidad de Costa Rica

Fernando Fumero
- Costa Rica

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