What is the quickest way to dissolve a large chunk of steel? I mean a very quick reaction, assuming that the interaction occurs in a sealed or semi-sealed environment? Reaction times of the order of a few minutes versus tens of minutes, hours or days are the objective.

I'm curious as to how quickly acids like $\ce{HNO3}$ and $\ce{H2SO4}$ can react with steel containers.

  • $\begingroup$ Like a safe, strongbox or valut? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 6:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Time depends strongly on type of steel. $\endgroup$
    – Mithoron
    Commented Jun 16, 2015 at 13:11

3 Answers 3


The fastest way is dissolving the stainless steel electrochemically using $\ce{H2SO4}$ at elevated temperature where the steel block is attached as an anode. Higher current densities lead to higher removal rate.

Alternatively a $\ce{FeCl3}$ with minimal content of $\ce{HCl}$ (up to 3%) heated at 45°C or higher.


Two to look up as "homework ". Aqua Regia which is a mixture that dissolves gold. Not good enough for engineering and some other rare earth metals. Steel? Maybe. The other is Caro's acid. There's a YouTube video of it dissolving a fly. That's organic matter so it may not be good enough for steel. Worth a look though.


Steel can be dissolved with a diluted solution of nitric acid and water. The chemical make up of nitric acid reacts to the iron in steel, producing iron nitrate and hydrogen gas. As this chemical reaction takes place, the steel begins to dissolve. The dissolving process of steel can sometimes take multiple applications, depending on the size and thickness of the metal...... Experience gained is from a pylon collapsing in Ghana...As some corrosive substances were applied to the pylons


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