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October 25, 2010 1:58 AM   Subscribe

I accidentally bought a bottle of hypochlorous /hypochloric acid (次亜塩素酸水) - what do you use your hulking bottle of hypochlorous acid for? And, what precautions do you observe when using it?

In live in Japan, and recently I went shopping for alcohol-based hand sanitizer. I came out of the shop, with a big bottle of clear liquid with a pair of hands pictured on the side, proclaiming strong anti-bacterial properties (強力除菌!!! ), thinking I had my anti-bacterial. Well, turns out that selectively reading the label is not the best strategy when shopping at a pharmacy...I am now the lucky owner of a 600ml bottle of 次亜塩素酸水, which a dictionary search leads me to believe is hypochloric acid, (or hypochlorous acid?).

Now, hypochloric acid has never been part of my pantheon of household cleaning agents. The label isn't much help. It directs me to use it in everyday situations where I want to eliminate bacteria. (日常生活の気になるところの除菌).Oh yep. It is all clear to me now...

What do mefites with their own hulking bottles of hypochloric acid use them for and what safety precautions do they observe?
posted by ultrabuff to Home & Garden (17 answers total)
What you have there is a bottle of bleach.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:08 AM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

It'll be sodium hypochlorite rather than hypochloric acid. The hands presumably indicate "do not get this on your hands", or possibly "wear gloves".
posted by nja at 2:15 AM on October 25, 2010

Yeah that's just bleach.
posted by koolkat at 2:18 AM on October 25, 2010

Response by poster: OK, so probably bleach or a related product.

I just checked the side, and to be more exact it's 次亜塩素酸水ナトリウム (低臭素タイプ) ph調整制. My translation which is probably lacking is that it’s sodium hydrochloric acid (low odour type)
ph regulated

Possibly what nja suggests it is? The picture on the label is a huge picture of a hand with a clear liquid falling on it, which at least suggested to me, that is in fact a product that it would be OK to use on your hands...
posted by ultrabuff at 2:39 AM on October 25, 2010

Best answer: Sodium hypochloric acid is a type of bleach. We use it in the lab to disinfect things contaminated with human cells or similar (biohazard material). It's not terribly noxious but some people (including me) are sensitive to the fumes, so use it in a ventilated area. You could probably use it to wipe down surfaces, although we use other cleaners for that so I don't know how well it would work. Otherwise it's sodium hypochlorite, an ingredient of household bleach.

The hand thing sounds to me like the warning sign for corrosive substances, the type you don't want on your hands. google image search of what I mean. It's definitely an irritant that you don't want on your hands either way.
posted by shelleycat at 2:50 AM on October 25, 2010

Just to be on the safe side, the "hand with liquid" picture doesn't look like this, right?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:51 AM on October 25, 2010

Best answer: Hmm, actually we use sodium hypochlorite in the lab now I think about it. So I'm betting that's what you have. Still, it's bleach :-D
posted by shelleycat at 2:51 AM on October 25, 2010

Could you show us a picture of what you bought?
posted by misozaki at 2:58 AM on October 25, 2010

Response by poster: pathocut

OK I found a link with a picture of the product. The bottle I got isn't as big as this though.

I don't think that it's the corrosive substances sign - in fact the link here seems to say it's gentle on the hands...
posted by ultrabuff at 3:25 AM on October 25, 2010

Best answer: I looked through your link, and I think you can use that as a hand sanitizer. It says here that it's safe to use on hands and even on food.
posted by misozaki at 3:39 AM on October 25, 2010

If it's bleach, dilute the heck out of it when you use it. Like, 1/4 cup to a gallon of water.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:42 AM on October 25, 2010

Sodium hypochlorite.

Chemical names can be tricky to find unless you have specialized dictionaries. One good way to figure out what something is is to find the Wiki entry for it in Japanese and see what English page it links to.
posted by luke1249 at 8:01 AM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If it is sodium hypochlorite, it is "bleach". The pH balanced part means that it's in equlibrium, buffered, to be part sodium hypochlorite, part hypchlorous acid. This makes it a more effective cleaner and sanitizer.

One import piece of information is concentration. Look for a % concentration on the label somewhere (the lables liked to above are too small for me to read). A typical (North American) household is 3%. This is too harsh for direct skin contact (it will burn cuts and make your skin slimy and itchy after you wash it off) and the fumes will be nasty to breathe.

Concentrated bleach is typically diluted 10-30, even 100 times before use; 0.1% to 0.3% would be more typical for a hand sanitizer product, perhaps even lower. This will have a strong chemical smell, but shouldn't be too overpowering. A typical food spray would be about 0.01% or so.

Hypochlorite is a very common food sanitizer. Home brewers and wine makers often use it to clean their bottles. Hypochlorite does not leave harmful residues, breaking down to mineral salts and water, and your body can handle it safely in reasonably small doses. Some people do have sensitivites to it though. It's thought to be a migrane trigger for some.
posted by bonehead at 9:30 AM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Sniff it. You'll know right away if it's bleach.
posted by chairface at 3:21 PM on October 25, 2010


If you ever have to smell a chemical, you hold the container about a foot away from your face and gently wave your hand over the opening towards your face.

NEVER sniff it the way you would sniff food or wine.
posted by luke1249 at 3:41 PM on October 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

This wasn't you, was it?!?
posted by 8dot3 at 9:49 AM on October 26, 2010

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