Car Wash Chemical Can Kill

Car_Wash_Chemical_Can_Kill-Creative_Safety_Supply-250x295A car wash chemical can burn skin and even be fatal. A new hazard alert warns of handling hydrofluoric acid used to wash cars and trucks in your fleet.

Washington state’s Department of Labor and Industries issued a warning in August about potential burns, nerve damage and paralysis caused by HF acid. The CDC, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, supports Washington’s findings.

In this podcast, Dan Clark describes the care needed when dealing with hydrofluoric acid in products used to wash vehicles.


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Dan Clark: Does your workplace have a fleet of cars and trucks? Do you or your workers wash vehicles? If so, beware of an acid that is, according to the CDC, “insidiously toxic at the low concentrations used in vehicle washing.”

Hello, I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief, tackling health and safety hazards in today’s demanding industrial and construction worksites, a service of Creative Safety Supply.

Hey, do me a favor slide over to Shop around a bit. Use coupon code BIG10 to save yourself 10 percent.

Have you heard about hydrofluoric acid in some car wash chemicals? It’s been used for years because it eats away at grime, brightens aluminum and can remove rust. But, hydrofluoric acid—or HF acid—can burn the skin, kill nerves, cause permanent pain or paralysis and, in some cases, be fatal.

New research from the Department of Labor and Industries in Washington state found hydrofluoric acid poses those serious health risks. In some cases it’s even led to amputations.

It can take 24 hours to feel a burning sensation. The problem is people don’t feel the burn immediately and often don’t seek medical attention until serious damage has already occurred. Its dangerous, even when diluted.

What can workplaces and workers that use car washing products do?

1. Use appropriate GHS labels on all containers and have safety data sheets easily accessible.

2. Provide training about using hydrofluoric acid.

3. Stock first aid products that work for HF acid, including calcium gluconate gel which neutralizes its fluoride ion.

4. Make sure an eyewash is nearby.

5. If contact occurs, remove clothes contaminated with HF acid and rinse the skin. Then contact emergency services.

Car_Wash_Chemical_Can_Kill-Creative_Safety_Supply-250x4116. Use PPE, personal protective equipment. Washington state’s Department of Labor and Industries recommends neoprene gloves, rubber boots and a face shield.

Should the general public be concerned? Some consumer products for brightening boats and wheels do contain HF acid. Check labels and use appropriate protective gear.

That’s all for this episode, Car Wash Chemical Can Kill. Come back for more ways to stay safety compliant in today’s ever-changing landscape of safety requirements. I’m Dan Clark of The Safety Brief, a service of Creative Safety Supply. Save 10 percent off your entire order at with coupon code BIG10.


Truck wash images in transcript by U.S. Air Force / Senior Airman Jarad A. Denton, 2011;

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