Concrete is a durable building material that is designed to last for many years. But did you know that the fluids in our bodies, particularly our stomachs, can be corrosive to certain materials such as concrete?
This article tells you everything you need to know about stomach acid, concrete and how to remove it from concreted areas.
What is stomach acid made from?
Stomach acid, also known as gastric acid, is a type of fluid that is produced in the digestive tract within our stomach to break down food. It is made from hydrochloric acid, potassium chloride and sodium chloride. Other components include enzymes and mucus.
The hydrochloric acid found in your stomach breaks down food and protects your body from harmful bacteria.
Stomach acid has a low ph level because of the high amount of hydrochloric acid that it contains.
Can stomach acid dissolve concrete?
Stomach acid has the power to break through layers of concrete and break down the components that make it such a durable, strong material.
Certain coloured foods such as wine or beets can even discolour and stain concrete.
How to remove stomach acid from concrete
It’s important not to wait too long to clean up stomach acid from concrete because the longer you leave it, the more chance there is that the concrete will stain permanently and damage it. Concrete is also made up of several layers, so the longer the fluid has to soak through, the deeper it will go.
If there is stomach acid on your concrete, follow this step-by-step guide to safely and correctly clean it up without damaging the surface.
Step 1: Protect yourself from germs with gloves
It’s very important to equip yourself with the right PPE before attempting to get near stomach acid because it is considered a biohazardous substance due to the bacteria that it contains. Gloves and a mask or something to cover your face will provide sufficient protection. Keep other people and animals away from the area by coning it off.
Step 2: Try to pick up some of the mess
Gastric acid sometimes contains bits of undigested food. Use some cardboard or pieces of newspaper to scrape up anything that you can first to make it easier to clean the rest. Only use plastic items such as kitchen utensils if you dispose of them immediately afterwards. Bag and remove any collected waste straight away to avoid germs from spreading.
Step 3: Use an absorbent substance
Baking soda works well at soaking up liquid and removing odours. Sprinkle some over the affected area and leave it to absorb for at least 15 minutes. Avoid using harsh chemicals such as bleach because this could damage the surface of the concrete.
Step 4: Use a mild detergent and water to clean
Create a solution of dish soap and warm water in a bowl and pour over the stain. Use a bristle brush or broom to clean the area thoroughly. If this approach isn’t enough, use a pressure washer cautiously on a medium setting as too much pressure can damage concrete. Hold the washer 10-15 inches away from the area that you are trying to clean and maintain that distance.
Step 5: Repeat and leave the area to dry completely
It may take a few attempts at cleaning to remove stomach acid from concrete. Rinse the area well with water and leave to dry naturally.
Other things that can dissolve concrete
Hydrochloric acid, phosphoric acid and trisodium phosphate are components used in the building industry to dissolve concrete. These are powerful chemicals that should only be used in line with health and safety guidelines and in small amounts. When these acids are poured onto concrete and left, the concrete will dissolve into calcium carbonate which is a fine powder.
Concrete dissolver solutions can also be purchased to deconstruct concrete bonds. This works by breaking down and dissolving the different layers used to form concrete.
Does vinegar dissolve concrete?
Vinegar can break down the bonds that are formed when concrete is created but it won’t actually dissolve the concrete. Diluted vinegar is often used to get rid of cement residue that is left on tools.
Can stomach acid dissolve metal?
Gastric acid is roughly the same acidity level as battery acid and contains hydrochloric acid, which means it has the power to dissolve metal and even bones and teeth.
Can stomach acid dissolve plastic?
No, common plastics can’t be broken down or digested by stomach acid. However, chemicals found in some types of plastics can be harmful and cause health problems. Always seek medical advice if you or somebody you know has swallowed a material that is not designed for consumption.
Can stomach acid dissolve glass?
No, gastric acid will not dissolve glass because it is resistant to most acids and doesn’t contain enough alkali properties. Glass requires certain chemicals such as molten sodium hydroxide to dissolve.
A nitric acid mixture can be used to clean glass during a specialised process typically conducted in laboratories.
Can acids be used to clean concrete?
When used correctly, muriatic acid can be an effective way to clean concrete. It can even restore the concrete back to its original colour and remove any tough stains. Muriatic acid is a clear solution made up of hydrogen chloride that is often used in home renovation projects to get rid of rust, paint and oil stains by applying to an area and then pressure washing off.
To clean concrete with muriatic acid, mix one-part of muriatic acid with 10 parts of water. Wear full protective gear then add the acid to the water first to dilute it instead of the other way around. This will prevent a heat reaction from occurring which will make the solution fix up out of the container.
For stubborn stains, use a wire brush to loosen the stain first. Then apply the solution to the affected area by brushing or spraying directly onto the concrete. Leave for 10 minutes then spray with a mixture of one gallon of water and one cup of ammonia. Wait until the area has completely dried before touching it.
Never mix muriatic acid with any other chemicals or acids.
What happens if you eat concrete?
Concrete should not be ingested under any circumstances. The chemicals used in concrete cause a chemical reaction that can burn the lips, mouth, throat and stomach lining. Signs that somebody may have eaten concrete include vomiting, drooling and difficulty swallowing. If you experience any of these symptoms, seek emergency medical care. Cement can also start to harden as it enters the gastrointestinal tract, which can obstruct the intestines or stomach.
When working with concrete you should always wear the following equipment to protect your skin and eyes against irritation and burns:
- A long sleeve and trousers
- Durable work boots
- Safety glasses
- Respiratory equipment
People that work with concrete regularly have been known to develop respiratory problems from the dry concrete mix. Respiratory equipment will help protect you from causing any damage to your body and breathing in any harmful chemicals.
What are the main causes of concrete degradation?
Various factors can cause concrete damage. Here are the main ones:
Concrete carbonation is the most common cause of damage to concrete surfaces. It happens when the moisture, carbon dioxide and calcium hydroxide found in concrete creates an electrochemical reaction and produces calcium carbonate. Carbonation can be prevented by an anti-carbonation coating system.
2. Reinforcement corrosion
Corrosion usually happens throughout the natural aging process of concrete. The steel rebar that is used in reinforced concrete structures rusts, weakening the layers of concrete.
3. Chemical attack
When concrete comes into contact with chemicals that react to the substance of concrete, a chemical reaction can occur. This reaction could cause the concrete to dissolve or expand, damaging the concrete structure and layers.
Placing too much weight on unsupported concrete can lead to micro-cracks and bigger cracks forming in the concrete’s structure.
5. Fire damage or extreme temperature changes
When exposed to high heat or low temperatures, concrete loses its strength and elasticity. Sudden changes can also result in cracks or spalled (cracked and delaminated from the substrate).
How do you destroy concrete?
If you need to break up areas of concrete, the right tools are an effective way to destroy the material without needing harsh chemicals. Here’s what you will need:
- Pry bar – a useful tool to help you lift the corners of concrete slabs away from their foundations.
- Sledgehammer – for concrete that is less than three inches thick, a sledgehammer will break up the bonds with some elbow grease.
- Jackhammer – concrete that is more than three inches thick will need a jackhammer. You can buy electric jackhammers that require minimal effort to break up pieces of concrete.
- Chipping hammer – if the area of concrete that you want to destroy isn’t slabs, a chipping hammer will give you more control over corners and tight spaces.
Always wear the correct safety gear such as eye protection and gloves to protect yourself from some bits of cement that may fly your way. Check with your local waste facility to see if they take concrete waste to ensure that you’re disposing of it correctly. Rent a trailer to load and transport the destroyed concrete safely.
Stomach acid and concrete
If stomach acid gets onto concrete pathways or driveways, it’s possible to reduce the amount of staining and damage that occurs by cleaning it immediately. If left untreated, gastric acid can soak through the layers of concrete and cause damage by weakening the bonds and layers.