All About Hydrogen Chloride

Product Guide

In the market for hydrogen chloride? We’ve got everything you need to know about this chemical compound. 

The Three States of Hydrogen Chloride


Hydrogen chloride can take a number of different forms. The most common form you will hear about is hydrogen chloride gas.  

Hydrogen chloride takes a gaseous form when kept at room temperature. In this state, it is non-flammable, heavier than air and usually on a spectrum somewhere between colorless and off yellow. It also gives off a strong, sharp odor that most people find extremely unpleasant. 

However, when hydrogen chloride is exposed to air, it converts to a dense white vapor. This vapor is corrosive in large amounts but common in small amounts. In fact, you could be breathing trace amounts of hydrogen chloride right now without even knowing it. That’s because naturally occurring hydrogen chloride enters the air in gas form through a number of processes (most commonly volcanoes) and is filtered out by rainfall. 

Lastly, when it comes into contact with water, hydrogen chloride turns into hydrochloric acid. This acid is corrosive. 

Where Does Hydrogen Chloride Come From? 


Hydrogen chloride is a composite of hydrogen (H2) and chlorine (Cl2) and can be created by a direct combination of the two. When combined at temperatures above 482 degrees Fahrenheit, the reaction is rapid. 

This is why, as we mentioned above, hydrogen chloride is often a byproduct of volcanic activity, where temperatures reach extremes of 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit. 

But there are other sources of the chemical as well. A lot of it is created by burning plastics or as a chemical byproduct of other processes. Included in those processes are the manufacturing of magnesium by electrolysis, the chlorination of hydrocarbons (like methane), and the manufacturing of isocyanates, which are essential to curate polyurethane products (ranging from rigid foam insulation panels to microcellular foam seals to and even car tires). 

The Versatility of Hydrogen Chloride: What Is It Used For? 


A large majority of hydrogen chloride is used for the production of hydrochloric acid, which is used in batteries, photoflash bulbs and fireworks. 

Direct uses for hydrogen chloride include: 

  • Cleaning.
  • Pickling.
  • Electroplating metals.
  • Tanning leather.
  • Refining.
  • Chemical production.

However, hydrogen chloride need not only be used directly. It is also a key ingredient in many other chemicals that ultimately go on to be used in processes, such as: 

  • Manufacturing of vinyl.
  • Metal pickling.
  • Ore refining.
  • Food processing.
  • Fertilizer manufacturing. 
  • Dye manufacturing.
  • Rubbers.
  • Textiles. 
  • Soldering.
  • Manufacturing of semiconductor crystals.
  • Purification of silicon. 

Environmental Impact: Where Does Hydrogen Chloride End Up?  


Above, we talked about hydrogen chloride that enters the atmosphere through volcanic activity and the burning of plastics. Fortunately, rainfall helps purge the atmosphere of the chemical, keeping it to safe, breathable levels. 

When it is leaked into waterways, hydrogen chloride is quick to dissociate into chloride and hydronium ions (electrically charged atoms). These two components are a valuable tool in reducing the PH value of the water, raising its acidity. 

Additionally, when hydrogen chloride seeps into soil or earth, it evaporates and splits into chloride anions and hydronium ions. 

Safety First: Potential Hazards Due to Hydrogen Chloride


At Air Gas Specialty Products, we value the safety of our customers and employees above all else. It’s important to consider the present and potential hazards that come hand in hand with any chemical material. Hydrogen chloride is no exception. 

Exposure to hydrogen chloride can be harmful, and the level of harm correlates with the dose of exposure, length of exposure and process the chemical was undergoing at the time. 

Humans who are even briefly exposed to low levels of hydrogen chloride gas (that is, low industrial levels that are higher than the trace amounts found in the atmosphere) may experience throat, skin or eye irritation. 

At high levels, hydrogen chloride can critically damage eyes, skin and respiratory organs or cause pulmonary edema or even death. At these levels, it causes the small branches of the lung (otherwise known as bronchioles) to narrow. Often, this is associated with fluid entering the lungs.  

Some individuals even develop reactive airways dysfunction syndrome (RADS) as a result of hydrogen chloride exposure. RADS is a form of asthma caused by irritating and corrosive substances. 

It should also be noted that when hydrogen chloride is exposed to oxidizing agents, chlorine gas can form. While the gas itself is non-flammable, contact with metals can cause it to emit flammable gas. Care should be used when handling hydrogen chloride in enclosed spaces. 

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) strongly advises employers to follow the Hierarchy of Controls (which can be found on the web here) in order to prevent workplace accidents. Additionally provided are a set of guidelines when it comes to handling chemical spills in the workplace

When You Need the Right Chemicals, Turn to the Experts


There’s no one who understands the importance and necessity of hydrogen chloride quite like we do. 

It’s vital to so many different fields, each one of which is essential to our everyday lives. 

You need to be able to trust your hydrogen chloride supply, and you need to be able to trust your delivery service just as much. 

Here at Airgas Specialty Products, we are confident that our team can meet your company’s needs and will surpass all of your service needs and expectations. 

Request a Quote


Request a quote today, and let’s start by showing you how we are able to revolutionize the supply and service of all your industrial ammonia needs.