Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Even HDPE Bottles Aren't Immune to Chemical Attack

ScienceBum - 28-9-2020 at 15:12

A few years ago (around the end of 2018) I purchased some 98% Sulfuric Acid, paid all the annoying hazmat shipping fees and had my pristine new untouched HDPE bottle. It lasted quite a while since I don't usually burn through my sulfuric the way some others do, but today I noticed a lovely little leak coming from the bottom of my half full bottle. Looks like even HDPE plastic isn't immune to corrosion over time from concentrated sulfuric.

So for now I've temporarily/semi-permanently transferred the rest of it to a glass container which should be significantly more resistant than the HDPE, hopefully to the point of being completely non-reactive. I've posted some pics below just to show you what the damage to the bottle looked like and how contaminated the acid has gotten over the years just from the atmosphere alone.

1 (see album link below)

That's not residue above, that's the plastic that's been compromised on the inside as well.

2 (see album link below)

I wasn't able to safely take a photo of the bottom but that's where most of the degradation occurred.

3 (see album link below)

My brilliant plan - dumping my acid into a thin walled glass container with a metal top. Do not try this at home.

4 (see album link below)

Here you can really see the contamination. When I first got it it was crystal clear with a really high refractive index. Looked like oil and was pretty viscous. I'm not sure what the slight brown color is from, but it's fairly normal and common in drain cleaner brand sulfuric bottles. I'm guessing some carbon contamination, but I have nothing to back that up with. Could be metal.

5 (see album link below)

And here we've got all the acid safely poured, and the containers and other stuff that came into contact with it neutralized in some base solution. That can be safely washed and rinsed down the drain. I don't know if neutralizing the original acid container was necessary or not, but i wanted to err on the side of extreme caution just in case.

So nothing too serious, but it's always important to keep an eye out on your chemical storage containers periodically. Safety first!

[Edited on 29-9-2020 by ScienceBum]

B(a)P - 28-9-2020 at 15:23

That is going to make one hell of a margarita!
Thanks for the timely reminder on checking those containers way up the back of the storage cabinet from time to time.

woelen - 28-9-2020 at 23:54

Is that black stuff sulfuric acid? Looks awful.
I recently purchased 4 liters of drain cleaner acid (96% H2SO4), but it is as clear as water, completely colorless.
In the past I purchased drain cleaner acid as well, but the worst I obtained was a very pale brown color in the acid.

woelen - 28-9-2020 at 23:59

Btw., could you please change the size of your pictures? Scale them down to 800 pixels width or so, that makes the thread much easier to read, especially on mobile devices.

Fyndium - 29-9-2020 at 00:58

Yep, the pics just make the page an absolute horror even for larger res monitors. I wonder if it would be too restrictful to change the max res for displayed images into 800x600? The bigger ones could just be linked to be opened separately?

I wonder if the supplier bought some ordinary HDPE bottles which were made from recycled stuff and fillered with something. Someone spoke at HCl thread that CaCO3 is used as a filler, and obviously this is a disaster when storing anything acidic.

I've had conc sulfuric acid in HDPE packages forever, never used glass because I have had no glass, but no trouble there.

You might wanna put some PE stretch wrap on the bottle top of your whiskey bottle. The cap might have non-HDPE gasket into which the acid will eat into. I have turned many mason jars into chemical resistant ones this way.

And obviously, if possible, contact the supplier and notify about the improper package and ask for compensation for your troubles.

Sulaiman - 29-9-2020 at 01:41

I upload photos cropped in MS Paint and saved as. jpg
automatically they are displayed as clickable thumbnails.

metalresearcher - 29-9-2020 at 01:43


Yep, the pics just make the page an absolute horror even for larger res monitors. I wonder if it would be too restrictful to change the max res for displayed images into 800x600? The bigger ones could just be linked to be opened separately?

Indeed, woelen is right. But why cannot the site automatically downscale the large pictures ? Many forums (PHPBB based) do this automatically.

ScienceBum - 29-9-2020 at 02:40

Yeah sorry about the photos guys, when it comes to photography I'm just the absolute worst. I tried scaling them down but i guess that didn't work. I'll try again. If it doesn't work I'll just link to the album.

TriiodideFrog - 29-9-2020 at 03:43

You can try carrying out a distillation to try to remove some of the dissolved plastic and contaminants from your sulfuric acid.

Herr Haber - 29-9-2020 at 11:19

I just received 5 liters of drainer grade that looks grey. Last time it looked much purer.

The glass bottle and funnel are ready. I never store acids in HDPE, that's for shipping.

Right now I'm a bit more concerned about the 2x10 liters of concentrated sodium hypochlorite that I put in my bathtub.
Last time I ordered from this supplier the package sat in the post office during lockdown and started leaking !

Surprisingly the post office employee who called me was very friendly despite the bleach ruining her clothes and heavy duty steel shelves :cool:

TheMrbunGee - 29-9-2020 at 12:46

My white HDPE bottle is holding very well for 3rd year. But had some impure acid I poured in slightly opaque HDPE bottle that held acetone previously and it ruined both - reagent and bottle. not to a point of failure but still

Fyndium - 29-9-2020 at 14:07

I presume a reputable chemical supplier can warrant a high quality reagent shipped in HDPE containers with printed shelf life, because every single bottle of sulfuric acid has been shipped in plastic to me.

valeg96 - 12-10-2020 at 22:04

Sigma-aldrich sells sulfuric acid in both HDPE bottles and coated glass bottles. Even their bottles do get attacked by sulfuric acid over the years, turning it grey-black. Being that it's most likely a suspension of charred plasticizers it's probably removable with some hydrogen peroxide. I always transfer my acid in glass bottles when I get it.

What you should never store in HDPE bottles (even if that's how they sell it to you) is nitric acid. The plastic turns yellow quite early on, and eventually becomes extremely brittle. At my high school they had a 10-year old untouched bottle of nitric acid in the physics lab (I suppose to clean copper) and when someone tried to pick it up it literally crumbled to pieces, spilling acid onto the metal shelves and burning a hole in the floor as well.

[Edited on 13-10-2020 by valeg96]