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Would you consider it safe to clean and reuse a 20 litre plastic drum that contained 36% Hydrochloric Acid for drinking water? If so how would you recommend cleaning it?

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Regardless of what it takes to remove any traces of hydrochloric acid from the drum, the container is probably not certified as food-grade. So in addition to any risks from the acid itself (including things like heavy metals, which are common contaminants in mineral acids), the plastic is not certified to be free of toxic substances left over from manufacturing or that the plastic will not degrade to release such substances over its lifetime.

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I imagine the container is made of polyethylene or polypropylene (it should be marked with a numeric code). If that is the case, I have a hard time accepting that there is any downside to using it for drinking water. Chemists don't want heavy metals contaminating their hydrochloric acid, so I think you are OK on that count as well.

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    $\begingroup$ Have a look at this—1 ppm of Pb. Acids dissolve a lot of heavy metals and they aren't a problem for most uses and are expensive to remove so you'll find that most mineral acids have a fair bit of heavy metals unless they're the 99.999% assay or semiconductor grade. As far as reusing chemical containers go, it's probably fairly safe. Would I do it in a survival situation without a better option? Yes. Would I take the risk of contaminating drinking water for myself or others so I don't have to buy a new container? No. $\endgroup$ – Michael DM Dryden Jan 3 '15 at 18:24
  • $\begingroup$ Hydrochoric acid is stomach acid. Any remaining acid can be flushed out with 3 rinses with water to pretty much undetectable levels. If the acid was intended for food production then the container is totally safe. If it was intended for cleaning your driveway the quality of the container may be less than ideal. Remember that the acid will have cleaned the container pretty good and not much dangerous stuff will dissolve later into water. $\endgroup$ – KalleMP Mar 7 '16 at 13:55

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