Can I Use Acid to Wash My Clothes?

Acid washing sounds like a clever idea teenagers used in the 1980s to transform dark jeans into a hue as close to white as possible. However, acid washing is far more common than that. As a matter of fact, each time you add bleach to your wash, you are applying acid to clean and sanitize your laundry. Commonly sold by sanitation chemical suppliers, acids are defined as chemicals with a pH below 7. In detergents, an acid will register below pH 3.

Many biological substances, such as bacteria, live in a narrow pH zone that lingers around neutral (pH 7). By creating an acidic environment (below pH 7), most forms of bacteria can no longer survive. Acid detergents operate by penetrating the cellular membrane of bacteria or fungi where they manipulate an enzyme specific to these life forms. The same acid detergents are not harmful to humans because the enzymes the acids attack are not present in humans. Acid detergents, therefore, are superior anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agents.

The other advantage of washing with acids is stain removal. One example of an acid widely used in laundering is boric acid. Boric acid may be used as a stain remover or as a bleaching agent. This versatile acid will remove blood, dark juices and wine, chocolate, and many varieties of soil. Another acid that is not as well known as boric acid, but is still provided by a sanitation chemical supplier, is oxalic acid, which works as a stain and rust remover on many surfaces, including fabrics. While many laundry products contain oxalic acid, fabric and water softeners often contain another acid, phosphoric acid. Phosphoric acid removes calcium and magnesium ions from water to keep the ions from forming deposits that adhere to fabrics. White vinegar’s chemical nomenclature is acetic acid. Acetic acid is a stain remover for natural fabrics such as silk, cotton, wool, or linen.

In summary, many acids are available and have been used for decades, if not centuries, for dozens of laundry situations. Do you use acid when washing your clothes? Share this post and tell us about your chemical tricks when doing laundry. For additional information, contact Bell Chem, the Orlando sanitation chemical supplier. We’re available to assist in any way possible.