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The Dangers of Using Pickling Paste

If you’re currently using pickling paste at your business, are you aware of all the dangers?

For decades now, fabricators have been following the same outdated and dangerous method for the post-weld treatment of stainless steel. It was painstakingly slow, tedious, and worst of all, dangerous. So, why did everyone use pickling paste? For lack of a better option. But now there are other options that are safer, faster and actually save you money. 

So, what’s changed? A lot, in fact, but worldwide there are still companies that are relying on dangerous pickling paste to clean their stainless steel welds at the expense of their employee’s health and safety. 

In the following article, we’re going to take a closer look at the health and safety dangers of using pickling paste and why electrochemical weld cleaning with equipment like the TIG Brush is the way of the future. 

Five reasons why your company should stop using pickling paste now! 

In this section of the article, we’ll take a closer look at why your company should immediately make the switch from pickling paste, and why. 

1. Serious safety risks

We cannot emphasize enough the health and safety risks that employees are exposed to when using and handling pickling paste. The two main types of acid used in pickling paste are nitric acid and hydrofluoric acid. Both acids are extremely dangerous to a user’s respiratory system, bones, organs, skin, and internal organs.

When you expose yourself to either direct contact with pickling paste or the fumes and vapor, you’re potentially exposing your body to both short-term and long-term damage. One of the scariest aspects of exposure to pickling paste is that many of the effects aren’t felt until later. Some symptoms may start within 24-hours. Other symptoms such as osteoporosis may take years to appear. 

2. The process is overly complicated

There are several factors that make using pickling paste overly complicated. 

  • The use of pickling paste requires specific training. Untrained employees should not be permitted to start using pickling paste until they have been given specialized training.
  • When using pickling paste, it is necessary to wear full safety clothing. This includes appropriate coveralls, gloves, safety glasses, and premium respiratory protection. Whenever using pickling paste, it is a requirement in the Safety Data Sheet that your entire body is protected, including the respiratory system.
  • A third aspect that makes using pickling paste overly complicated is the need to use it in a controlled environment, to prevent leakage into drainage systems or contact with wildlife. In order to use pickling paste, components need to be brushes, sprayed or fully submerged in the acid. After a set time (usually about 20 minutes) the residue then needs to be carefully cleaned away from the finished components. This requires a dedicated and controlled environment within the workplace. 

To summarise, on-site application of pickling paste on finished or modified components presents several challenges that are time consuming and expensive to mitigate. 

3. It’s expensive and inefficient

You can’t guarantee re-passivation with pickling paste. Pickling paste may remove impurities from the welded surface, but is it doing everything you need it to? Stainless steel is protected by a strong outer chromium layer that protects the inner metal from moisture and air, preventing rust from forming. It is because of this “passivation” layer that stainless steel is so widely used in place of mild steel. 

All production processes need to be competitive, which means efficiency. The more efficient the production process is, the lower the cost and the higher the profit margin on finished components. Often the best way to increase profitability is to reduce operational cost.

As previously explained, using pickling paste is a time-consuming and complicated process. The more complicated the procedure, the more time-consuming it is and the more money it will cost. For some businesses, the process of post-weld cleaning is so wrapped up in regulations that they are forced to outsource all of their weld cleaning, adding yet more time and money to the cost of completing the job. 

4. Re-passivation isn’t guaranteed

During cutting, grinding, and welding, the passive layer on the surface of stainless steel often gets removed, reducing the anti-corrosive properties of the metal. This means the passivation layer needs to be reformed. Applying pickling paste is not very effective at doing this. Manufacturers often recommend a second application of acid (usually Nitric Acid) to restore the passivation layer, which almost doubles the amount of work required, not to mention the additional danger to users and the environment. 

5. Legal regulations

OH&S laws are in place to govern how pickling paste is used, where it’s used, and the steps you need to follow when using it. Regulations exist to cover handling, storage, application, clean-up, and even waste disposal. Despite all these legal controls, pickling paste is definitely not recommended for any stainless steel fabrications that are going to be used in the food and beverage industry, or for any pipes which will be used to transport drinking water. The last thing anyone wants to experience is acid contamination on surfaces which may expose customers or members of the public to health and safety risks. 

So, what’s the alternative to using pickling paste? 


Electrochemical weld cleaning is the solution to outdated and dangerous weld cleaning practices, especially those that involve the use of pickling paste. Electrochemical weld cleaning is simple, fast, and best of all – safe. Your employees will be able to safely and effectively clean stainless -steel welds, without the need to completely cover up with excessive safety equipment. 

In addition to being much safer, you are also going to be saving yourself time and money. It’s hard to argue against a process that is better for your employee’s health and safety but also reduces costs and increases your profit margin. For example, there is no need for a second “passivation” application. The TIG Brush cleans and passivates in the one operation. 

If you have been looking for a way to increase productivity, reduce time and costs, and create a healthier and safer environment for your manufacturing or fabrication business, then electrochemical weld cleaning and passivation with the TIG Brush is probably the solution that you have been looking for. 

IDon’t hesitate to reach out and contact one of our customer service specialists today. We’ll be more than happy to discuss the electrochemical weld cleaning process and demonstrate how the TIG Brush could change the way your company handles post-fabrication weld cleaning and passivation. 


If you would like more information on what we have discussed, feel free to reach out to us.

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