Muriatic acid is a potentially dangerous household cleaning product used to clean masonry surfaces and grout lines. Muriatic acid is highly corrosive and can cause damage to the user's body and surrounding property if not handled properly. Due to the risks of using muriatic acids, many consumers look for alternatives that are easier and safer to use. Several alternative methods can be employed to clean masonry surfaces while reducing risk of personal injury or damage to the environment.
Phosphoric acid is a good substitute for muriatic acid and in most situations will clean surfaces just as well with less risk. Phosphoric acid is a main ingredient in many commercial grout and concrete cleaners that are readily available to consumers. Most phosphoric acid washes contain several additional chemicals that help break down oils and increase the effectiveness of the wash. Phosphoric acid products should be used with caution, as they are still dangerous to the skin and environment if handled improperly. Keep neutralizing agent of either lime or baking soda available along with a source of running water. If the acid is splashed on any unwanted surfaces, neutralize the acid and rinse thoroughly with water.
Trisodium phosphate is another popular alternative to muriatic acid and cleans masonry in much the same way as muriatic acid. Trisodium phosphate is a heavy-duty cleaning agent that poses some of the same dangers of muriatic acid. The substance is very reactive and should not be used with any other acids or cleaners as the resulting mixture can create noxious fumes. Using trisodium phosphate to clean a surface will not neutralize or etch the surface being cleaned. Users will need to test the surface pH before applying any other substance or chemicals that may react badly with the residual pH level. In some cities, trisodium phosphate is illegal to use, due to restrictions on phosphate pollution.
Mechanical cleaning is another method for cleaning masonry surfaces and can prove to be a much safer alternative to chemical washing. Sand blasting is a popular method of cleaning without chemicals and with the correct equipment can be relatively time effective. There are also many abrasive tools available for cleaning masonry and grout with little or no chemical component. If the areas to be cleaned are smaller in size, a mechanical cleaning method should be attempted before resorting to a chemical alternative. Mechanical cleaning can also help prepare a surface for chemical cleaning and reduce the amount of chemicals that are required to complete the project.