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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

Hydrofluoric Acid - Breaking Bad

By February 12, 2008

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The pilot episode of AMC's new drama Breaking Bad had me intrigued, so I tuned in for the second episode to see what our hero, a chemistry teacher named Walt, was going to do. I might be going out on a limb here, but I suspect most chemistry teachers don't keep big jugs of hydrofluoric acid in their labs. Walt apparently kept plenty on hand and brought some hydrofluoric acid to aid in disposing of a body. He told his partner-in-crime, Jesse, to use a plastic bin for dissolving the body, but didn't tell him why. So... Jesse puts the dead Emilio in a bathtub, adds the acid, and proceeds to dissolve the body, the tub, the floor supporting the tub, and the floor below that. Hydrofluoric acid is corrosive stuff.

Hydrofluoric acid attacks the silicon oxide in most types of glass. It also dissolves many metals (not nickel or its alloys, gold, platinum, or silver), and most plastics. Fluorocarbons such as Teflon (TFE and FEP), chlorosulfonated polyethylenene, natural rubber and neoprene all are resistant to hydrofluoric acid. Hydrofluoric acid is so corrosive because the fluorine ion is highly reactive. Even so, it is not a 'strong' acid because it does not completely dissociate in water.

I'm surprised Walt settled on hydrofluoric acid for his body-disposal plan, when the well-known method for dissolving... um... flesh... is to use a base rather than an acid. A mixture of sodium hydroxide (lye) with water can be used to liquefy dead animals such as farm animals or roadkill (with obvious extensions to victims of crime). The carcass is reduced to a brownish sludge, leaving only brittle bones. Lye is used to remove clogs in drains so it could have been poured into a bathtub and rinsed away, plus it is much more readily available than hydrofluoric acid. The fumes from reacting large quantities of either hydrofluoric acid or sodium hydroxide would have been overwhelming to our buddies from Breaking Bad.

What Is the Strongest Acid? | Common Acids Quiz
Photo: Chemist with a gun but no pants, in the pilot episode of the AMC drama Breaking Bad. (Doug Hyun/AMC) Add to Technorati Favorites

Comments

February 13, 2008 at 9:03 pm
(1) Jeff says:

“I suspect most chemistry teachers don’t keep big jugs of hydrofluoric acid in their labs”

At least one did. When I was in high school (70′s), the chemistry teacher disappeared several weeks into a new school year. Didn’t resign or get fired — just stopped showing up, apparently having left town with no notice.

Eventually a new teacher was hired, and I became a lab assistant under him. One responsibility was keeping the chemicals storage closet in order. On the floor were kept several big jugs of hydrofluoric acid — far more of it than any other acid we had. The new guy couldn’t figure out why his predecessor had stocked it. There was no conceivable use for it in high school chem, even in small quantities. Hoping to find some use for it, and perhaps a way to dispose of it, he tried pouring a little in a stained porcelain sink in the prep room. It removed the stains. Plus all the glaze on the porcelain. All of us — teacher and lab assistants — were scared to death of the stuff.

As far as I know, the mystery of the missing chemistry teacher and the superfluous hydrofluoric acid was never solved.

February 18, 2008 at 1:08 pm
(2) Ramon says:

I have used HF acid to prepare a porcelain bathtub and ceramic tile for refinishing [this is what the pros use]. It had very little effect on the tub or tile and I was not impressed with it as an etcher.

February 18, 2008 at 10:29 pm
(3) Jon NM says:

After I graduated college my first job was in an oil refinery. HF acid was used in a process to remove calcium from crude oil in the refining process. We had to use rubber suits and gloves, special glass lined tanks and on the wall in the lab was a picture of an employee who had used a pair of gloves with a pin hole in the thumb of the right glove. It seems that HF is very active in the concentration used in the refining process. The acid that got through the glove ate his thumb away seemingly from the inside out…

HF eats concrete like it was bread. I suspect that the reader that uses the HF for etching old bathtuhs is using a lesser concentration. And I wonder if the acid has a shelf life in the diluted state?

March 14, 2008 at 3:26 pm
(4) Don C says:

One lungful of the gas from 70% hydrofluoric acid is enough to kill a person, and getting the same concentration of the acid on just 2% of skin results in death. It is very scary stuff!

March 20, 2008 at 2:47 pm
(5) jrepka says:

I agree that a base such as NaOH would have been a better choice, I suppose dissolving the tub made for better drama…

Geologists use HF to break down silicate rocks. Geochemists will use 20-30 mL at a time to dissolve a few mg of mineral separates to prepare samples for U-Pb dating, for example.

In grad school I had a project that involved breaking down 10s of grams of quartz at a time, so I used HF by the liter, so I was the only one in my department who placed orders for 4 gallon cases of the stuff.

Since it is a weak acid exposure, even to the concentrated acid, does not immediately cause the type of burns a strong oxidizer might.

The problem comes later, as the fluoride ions are a great calcium scavenger. Over time they work their way through soft tissues and attack bone. The solution is to flood the exposure with a source of calcium.

We used to keep tubes of calcium gluconate gel in the lab. A friend was exposed to a tiny amount through a pinhole in a glove; he went to the emergency room later that evening when he became aware of the exposure (near the tip of his finger), and he was treated with a local injection of calcium gluconate…

April 6, 2008 at 5:55 pm
(6) CarrierSignal says:

It is too bad some people here think HF is such a joke. It isn’t! It is extremely dangerous in concentrated form and should be handled as if it were a bomb. HF is a calcium seeker. If it comes in contact with skin it will cause irreversible tissue/bone damage, not to mention the highly toxic effect of the “raw” fluorine ion. I would not even want to work with the dilute form without the proper gear. It WILL eat through glass, porcelain, rock, and metal by the way. Don’t toy with it, or use it unless you respect it!

May 27, 2009 at 7:44 am
(7) R.D.B., MD says:

Although I never used it,I worked in an industry where one of the affiliates in Canada had a tragic accident involving a project worker. He had splashed some HF on his face. The stuff is like the “blob that ate N.Y.”. It took him several days to die an extremely painful death. It literally penetrates into tissues, blanching the surface skin in those areas while doing so. There is little one can do to relieve the pain while the patient is dying.
If one has some (even a little) splashed upon the skin, immediately have a co-worker take the victim to a shower and hose/etc him down with “copious” amounts of cold water for at least a half hour. Injections/infiltrations into the affected skin area of calcium gluconate have been mentioned as a possible antidote, but obviously, there has not been that much practical experience.
The stuff is nasty / lethal… a word to the wise…

May 27, 2009 at 4:13 pm
(8) kacperu says:

I don’t think that NaOH is a good choice. Please remember that during chemical reaction with body and NaOH we have high, basic pH so there is huge chance for creating ammonia, which is dangerous for health even in small amounts.

Unfortunately HF don’t dissolve human body. There is only one chance to do it and I mean oxidation. Instead HF we can use sulphuric acid, which has oxygen. Oxygen can destroy most of chemical bonds between proteins in body.

So in my opinion, if something is acid, it doesn’t mean that it can dissolve body. We need oxygen to do it.

PS. Sorry for my awful language, I’m still learning English :)

March 16, 2010 at 7:55 am
(9) Bill B. says:

Good insight, Doc. Ya, the chemistry angle is what hooked me to Breaking Bad, so I appreciate the “real” aspect. I only noticed two jugs of HF acid. However, your speculations of a lye based reactant yeilding better results is spot on. My question is: do teachers in high school actually use HF acid for kids, to the extent that they might need a few jugs (looks like 2 1/2 gallons) in a year?
Boy, I know I’m reading too much into this but it is interesting. Thanks!
P.S. – I like your column. Just turned onto it. I will read more in the future :)

May 1, 2010 at 11:56 am
(10) Zugzwang says:

I work in a microfluidics lab, and we use solutions of HF buffered with ammonium fluoride (and other proprietary stuff) to etch micrometer-scale channels in glass and quartz. Our lab, and every lab I know of that uses HF, keeps topical calcium gluconate on hand to apply immediately in the event of exposure. The fluoride ion *loves* calcium, and the idea is to use the calcium in the calcium gluconate to precipitate out the fluoride instead of letting it get calcium from bone, which is what it will do if left to its own devices. This bone reaction is possible because – as the original article mentioned – HF is actually a weak acid, so it mostly passes through flesh as an intact molecule instead of dissociating in water like strong acids would.

While it’s true that HF exposed to just a few % of a person’s skin can cause death, that’s only true for concentrated solutions of it; more dilute ones will instead cause painful burns. Suffice to say that we treat it with respect. We also (fortunately) only work with dilute solutions, both for safety reasons and because concentrated ones produce messier channels; at high concentrations of HF, the kinetically-limited reaction proceeds too quickly, reactants and products can’t be transported to/from etch sites fast enough by stirring, and things get ugly.

I was also flummoxed to see that a high school chemistry storage closet contained a whole bunch of jugs of HF. I doubt any high school would let students anywhere near that stuff, nor would it have a reason to; traditional compounds like HCl and NaOH suit all their acid-base chemistry needs and are far less dangerous.

June 16, 2010 at 3:58 pm
(11) Joe says:

What makes HF so lethal is the affinity towards Calcium. Any calcium dissolved in the blood stream would become calcium fluoride, solidifying in the veins and arteries and causing pulmonary emboli, etc.

August 26, 2010 at 10:07 pm
(12) Radcon says:

I work in a national lab that uses many acids including HF (48%, 70% conc.). We have to completely suit up with PPE.(Gloves, apron, glasses as well as full hood, sometimes SCBA) We also have first aid traning with calcium glutamate and Zephrin, and if not administered with minuites of a large burn (say 5″x5″). Your a goner.

October 27, 2010 at 3:56 am
(13) Steven says:

My fluorine chemist friend says that Hypochlorite (chlorox) is the best/ least fussy way to dissolve tissue. Can anyone second this? My BS chemistry knowledge can’t figure it out.
(I’m just watching this fine series! sorry for being a few years late!)

December 8, 2010 at 12:27 am
(14) mm says:

I would want criminals to use the worst acid
in town also but they do not want obvious extensions
to crime. Criminals would also use the best right!
Your present an ethical issue to crime for the
police to find. Rarely, does society become less
educated in the field of crime.

January 6, 2011 at 8:40 pm
(15) JS says:

isnt lye dissolving a bathtube as well?

August 2, 2011 at 10:16 pm
(16) MikeC says:

My guess is that the writers may have taken some leeway, worried about people “trying this at home”.

August 8, 2011 at 8:44 pm
(17) Matt says:

I use diluted hypochlorite in my job and it readily dissolves tissue. If you heat it to boiling it is incredible. If you provide agitation on top of that you wouldn’t believe it. Put a piece of hotdog in a cup of room temp clorox and time how long it takes to dissolve. Then do it in clorox heated in a microwave, and finally with heated clorox with some form of agitation or vibration. The last one will dissolve the tissue in seconds.

August 10, 2011 at 1:50 pm
(18) Phil says:

Some of these other posts are crazy.
I’ve only dealt with HF in extremely low concentrations, under a fume hood. And it was just a demonstration to show the strength of the acid.

November 30, 2011 at 6:07 pm
(19) dw says:

What if a tanker hauling HF acid wrecked and ruptured the tank, i wonder what the kill radius would be?
Of course depending on the winds, streams, population, and if it the diluted and friendly acid (whats that)!

January 12, 2012 at 1:34 pm
(20) Scookers says:

HF is one of those chemicals that people try to avoid at all costs. It’s extremely dangerous. I have been told that it’s not just the acidid properties of the chemical, but also that it is very volatile and permeates about anything. The way you dissolve the HF into water is by putting HF gas head pressure over water, much the same as HCl. I have much more experience with hydrochloric acid than hydrofluoric acid, and I know how much strong solutions of HCl can off gas. It will put you down on your knees if you are not wearing a respirator. From the training I have had with HF is that it permeates the skin easily and seeks calcium. The effects are accute and long lasting. The fluoride ions won’t stop reacting until they are all used up. There is no equilibrium point, it goes until it’s done. I have also read that it will travel in your blood stream and attack heart valves and such. You may be hurt badly from the immediate exposure, but they must monitor your for hours even days afterward. This is extremely nasty stuff. I do remember, though, my chemistry professor told us if we ever wanted to get rid of a body, HF would do the job. He was a bit of a mad scientist type. If a high school chemistry teacher even has this stuff in a lab, they are putting people’s lives in danger. I don’t seen any reason for that. Many other chemicals out there that show what an acid can do.

March 15, 2012 at 3:15 pm
(21) Russ says:

My experince with HF comes from my past career in the semiconductor industry where HF is used to clean or etch wafers before and during processing. HF is at “full strength” at 70% just as Hydrochloric acid is 37% at max strenght. HF is best left alone it is very dangerous and can have major health effects lasting well after exposure. If HF contacts the body it goes for the calcium as in the bone, if even a minor amount gets on a hand or finger say not even enough to burn the skin to badley and is rinsed off immediatly you are still in trouble, the stuff is already eating the bone in the contact area and a few days or months later you can suddenly have a broken bone from a minor impact the bone is weakened from calcium depeation and the damage can continue up the bone for a long time, the only solution I am aware of is amputation above the point of progression !!!
The First aid for HF contact was to without delay apply a gel kept at any HF workstation called Calcium Glyconate, ti was in a large toothpaste like tube. The Saftey protocol is to wear at a minimum 2 layers of protection and of 2 different types of material, first were Neopreen or synthetic rubber gloves over the standard clean room latex gloves, and 2 pair of nitrile type gloves , Eye protection required users to not wear contact lenses, and use sealed liquid proof saftey googles, acid bib, and a wrap around style full face Shield, Body protection required two lab aprons one neopreen and one Nitrile acid rated. All of this PPE only was for accidental splashes protection and not for pupose or continued contact with the HF.

By the way the lab used something they called pyrona bath, a mix of conc. sulfuric acid and I think it was High % H2O2 it would completely dissolve any organic or calcium/silicon material in nothing flat, I think its what the “cleaner” in the Little nikita movie used to wash bodies down a drain.

May 14, 2012 at 10:57 am
(22) Heisenberg says:

Many chemistry teachers will keep large quantities of acid in order to neutralize solutions after a lab before disposal. When you’re neutralizing the basic product of 20+ students over an entire semester or year, you need a lot of acid.

May 14, 2012 at 10:47 pm
(23) A Olsen says:

One big mistake here, is that HF does not work like that. It is not something that “melts” a body like shown in Breaking Bad or Saw 6 for that matter. Even in a 70% concentration, you won’t notice any pain for some time, although by then, the damage is done. This is also one of the things that make it so dangerous. It will of course dissolve a body over time, but HF does not happen fast. 100% Formic or Acetic acid is really good for this, since it does not coagulate, thus preventing and stopping the corrosive and oxidizing effect like a lot of the strong mineral acids do. This is also why NAOH is so good as it is, it does not dry out and keeps reacting.

May 30, 2012 at 3:04 pm
(24) Dr. J says:

In our lab we use anhydrous HF, which would be 100% HF. Now that is scary stuff… but there are lots of scary stories you can hear about industrial accidents etc. such as an individual using an HF container (probably 70% as stated by many industry uses) as a stool to stand on, in which case the lid broke through and his legs were submerged up to his knees. Needless to say this individual died. Moral of the story = don’t play with HF.

June 19, 2012 at 6:18 pm
(25) Zam says:

Considering the toxicity and relative weakness of HF I would consider to be a highly impractical choice although it would presumably dissolve bone quite well and since bone and teeth are the longest lasting and most easily recognized as human portions of a corpse dissolution of bone and teeth should be the most important qualities one would seek in an acid or base.

With diatomic hydrohalic acids, the larger the halide the weaker the bond between the two atoms and the stronger the acid making hydriodic acid the strongest of the available hydrohalic acids. Coincidentally hydriodic acid is also used in the process which Walt was using to reduce ephedrine to d-methamphetamine in the earlier episodes of the show. Although quite nasty stuff it is not poisonous in the same manner or degree as hydrofluoric acid.

The dissolving of a body whether done with an acid or a base should either be done in a remote outdoor location where the fumes could dissipate safely, in a sealed polyethylene drum, or at least with a large carbon filter and fume hood.

July 5, 2012 at 10:54 am
(26) Matt says:

At my university, one of my professors told me that only one school in our entire state was certified to carry HF (thankfully, mine wasn’t it). That’s when I knew it had to be dangerous stuff!

I think there are some instances where we should keep our opinions or ourselves when we think we have a better way to commit a crime; I mean, we don’t need to give criminals more or better ideas than what they already have! One poster suggested that perhaps the reason they used HF in BB was because it is impractical and no one would try it at home.

Also, even if Walt had used a base like NaOH, how would leaving behind bones be helpful? Then he’d have an entire skeleton (make that two because of Crazy 8s) to deal with.

But really I think the writers used HF because it is impractical. We don’t need kids trying this at home on animals (and hopefully never humans).

And I knew it was impractical from the moment I saw the pilot. I mean, as soon as I saw Walt getting jugs of HF as a high school chemistry teacher, I knew it wasn’t realistic. I mean, I have a BS in chemistry and I currently work in industry and I’ve never encountered HF in school or in work.

August 16, 2012 at 2:21 am
(27) DrWho says:

“Why pick Hydrofluoric Acid” over a lye?

From what I’ve gathered, the answer to that is simple.
Although Lye is a pretty powerful substance and would work well for dissolving/liquifying a body relatively quickly (few hours), it will, however, have a hard time dissolving calcium phosphate, which your bones and teeth are mainly made up of (about 70% of your bones are made up of it).
Essentially, Lye would work well, but would leave some of the bones behind. Not quite liquifying, not a very clean job…

An acid, however, such as Hydrofluoric Acid or even Sulphuric Acid may take a longer time (couple of days), it will however liquify most/all of the bone.

Using an Acid such as Hydrofluoric or Sulphuric does possess alot more risk and surely requires a lot more safety measure and knowledge in comparison to Lye.

If someone were to use Lye from household items, they would need quite a lot bottles, as those products tend to be very diluted.

To sum up, I believe they went with Hydrofluoric Acid because in real life it would get the job done better than Lye.

August 20, 2012 at 1:24 pm
(28) Andrea says:

It’s a television show… kind of like how they use tomato juice to get rid of skunk smell or use the number ’555′ as a phone number.

You do know Walter White doesn’t actually exist, right? He doesn’t really work in that chemistry lab with the numerous amounts of jugs of hydrofluoric acid.

;)

August 21, 2012 at 1:25 pm
(29) Carl Wright says:

I worked for some time in the magnetic recording tape industry in a location that also made tape recording heads. The heads were glass filled and the location made theri own propriatory glass from SiO2. The glass was drawn out into thin threads before being placed in the head assenblies and melted into place. The glass thread (or cane as we called it) was etched with 2% HF to increase bonding. I was given the task of making the 2% solutions from the 70% solution. I really didn’t know how dangerous it was at the time, but I am a careful chemist (PhD) and nothing bad happened. 100% HF is a gas, so discount what that poster said. HF is a weak acid, meaning it does not break up into the H and F ions in solution. Except for that, it is a bad actor and I would not want to be around it. Why did they choose it? Most popular science knows it as an acid that “will dissolve glass”, holy crap, it must be powerful stuff. Actually not, but popular science depends more on word-of-mouth anecdotes than on fact. Additionally, not many people would be able to find this stuff, so it makes a good fictional ingredient for popular science. All in fun anyway. I love Walt!!

September 13, 2012 at 8:47 pm
(30) Jacob says:

It is true that hydrofluoric acid is only a weak acid in dilute solutions; however, in higher concentrations it forms the very stable bifluoride anion as a conjugate base, giving 100% HF a comparable acidity to 100% sulfuric acid.
I was once told a story by a chemist who said that a friend managed to get concentrated HF under his fingernail. Rather than bear the pain, he opted to have the fingertip removed.

September 15, 2012 at 4:44 pm
(31) Anson says:

Hey folks,

It’s only a TV show – I don’t think they had chemists in mind when they shot that scene!

September 18, 2012 at 9:46 pm
(32) Ed says:

i was using a cleaner at work to clean aluminum rims. It was given to me in a windex bottle and no one told me that it was hydrofloric acid i used it almost all day and it was dripping on my fingers and into cuts but i do not have any burns or any symptoms of hypocalcimia. What does this mean im like super man or something everyone else touches it and dies

October 19, 2012 at 2:28 pm
(33) Big says:

The funny thing is that when you have to handle HF solutions on a daily basis, you start to get really used to it. It’s details like your pH electrode being totally F***ed up in a few minutes that remind you that what you are dealing with is serious.
Anhydrous HF is still scaring me though

@ Ed: Either your HF solution was strongly diluted, or it was not HF. It can’t be otherwise.

October 30, 2012 at 1:51 am
(34) Stephen Hatch says:

I agree NaOH would have been a much better choice. It’s way easier to obtain and is much safer than HF. Walt would have known this.

@ Jeff
There is no way a modern high school chemistry lab would have a stockpile of HF that size (though they would have NaOH). That may have been true for some mad scientist in the 70s but not in the modern day when Breaking Bad takes place. Most would never store any quantity of something that dangerous around kids.

November 13, 2012 at 9:16 pm
(35) Thinking says:

I used to use weak solutions as HVAC coil cleaner. Hindsight being 20/20 I can’t believe what I exposed myself to for $9.00 an hour.

December 7, 2012 at 1:18 pm
(36) Tim says:

I think the reason that Walt went with HF is because it will easily dissolve the bones too. How many criminals have been caught by the bones buried in their backyards?

As far as I know, HF is semi permeable to our membranes , so it skips the skin and goes straight for the good stuff. It probably reacts with the hydroxyapatite in our bones and forms H2Ca, H3PO4 and H2O. That’s just me speculating though.

December 14, 2012 at 4:26 pm
(37) Abby says:

Just chiming in about the questions of why a high school teacher would have so much of the stuff lying around.

At my high school it was common, I don’t know what they used it for but a couple teachers had large jugs of it. One time (apparently) a teacher spilled a jug and it got on his pants. He told his students to get out and they evacuated the whole school because of it while they handled the situation. It was nice to get to leave school, but scary because all I could picture was a teacher with a burned up leg o_o I think he was ok though.

December 18, 2012 at 3:41 pm
(38) Dave says:

When I was a young and dumb I used HF to burn a stubborn wart off of my ring finger. I applied it with a Q-tip three times in one night scraping the burned section away between applications. once it reached skin level I rinsed with water and dumped baking soda on it to neutralize. when I woke up the next morning I had about a 7mm hole through the skin clear to the knuckle bone. I don’t recall it being all that painful but it did swell up so much that I had to cut my ring off. I kept it bandaged and clean and it eventually healed with only a small scar. I guess I got lucky.

April 5, 2013 at 8:40 pm
(39) Baz says:

I noticed this and agree with the author of this article – a strong base would be the way to go. For those saying ‘what about the bones?’ remember that strong bases ARE used to get rid of corpses such as with road kill AND that 2/3 of the weight of bone is soft, wet cellular material – they aren’t just chunks of mineral calcium.

April 20, 2013 at 6:52 pm
(40) Jack.T.Broadhurst says:

There is no doubt HF is very nasty stuff with the potential to dissolve bone but it would not liquefy a whole body.
We have to keep in mind that BB is a fictional drama and as such there are many chemical references made which are not strictly accurate, which I can easily overlook without it having an effect upon my enjoyment of the series.
However, when we see things like Walt getting a kicking off that little asshole Jesse makes it seem less realistic in my opinion.
I’m not a big fan of American dramas usually but I really like both breaking bad and Dexter. The science is not always accurate or practical but they a good form of escapism.

May 1, 2013 at 6:56 pm
(41) Junja says:

Dude, it’s a TV show. TV show’s always over exaggerate something.

May 1, 2013 at 6:58 pm
(42) Kelly Breaker says:

People do it all the time where I live.

May 16, 2013 at 10:19 pm
(43) Richard says:

The whole premise of chemically destroying a body is impractical. After the body is destroyed to whatever degree possible before the reaction ceases, then what? You are still left with a toxic mess to get rid of. Using HF acid would just be about the worst possible choice of many bad choices. Why choose an acid which has systemic and lethal effects from accidental exposure that even with much stronger acids would be extremely unlikely to prove fatal? BB is set in New Mexico. There are how many thousands of square miles of totally uninhabited desert to dispose of something or someone.

July 17, 2013 at 6:32 pm
(44) PacRim Jim says:

When I was in high school, I knew a guy who, after every chemistry lab, would pour all of his remaining chemicals into a large beaker. He didn’t blow up the school, but he eventually succeeded in generating huge clouds of an unidentified noxious gas that drove everyone out into the adjacent fields, coughing and yelling.

July 27, 2013 at 9:36 pm
(45) JohnW says:

Mythbusters did an episode on Breaking Bad, and they found that 8 hours of HF could not dissolve meat, wood, linoleum, steel, or iron. It did dissolve the enamel on a piece of iron, and it did soften some drywall to mush.

They then switched to piranha etch, which is sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide, putting a pig in a fiberglass bathtub and filling it with piranha etch. There was an extremely energetic reaction that released huge clouds of vapor, and after a short time all that was left was a black sludge — the pig had completely dissolved, bones and all. But the fiberglass bathtub was still intact enough to not leak any of the liquid.

Judging by the amount of vapor released, a house would have been totally filled with the gas if it had been done indoors. I suppose the gases would be largely water vapor, oxygen, and hydrogen, but I wonder if there would be any carbon monoxide or sulfur compounds as well. Certainly does not seem like something you would want to fill a house with.

July 27, 2013 at 9:42 pm
(46) JohnW says:

Here’s an abstract from the New England Journal of Medicine where a man received treatment for HF burns over 30% of his skin. The treatment was effective and he survived.

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMicm055763

August 28, 2013 at 10:43 am
(47) Disappeared Chemistry teacher says:

Hey , Someone talking behind my back ?? I’m that Chemistry teacher ?? so who’s talkign ??

September 9, 2013 at 1:39 am
(48) Mike says:

HF at 50% is deadly if skin is 20 cm square of skin is affected. Piranha when initially mixed heats up to about 100 C. I use the stuff daily for etching and cleaning. HF scares the hell out of me. It will not eat through your bones like a caustic agent, the Fluoride atoms will be attracted to the Calcium in your bones. It will pass straight through your muscle and fat destroying the nerves on the way to your bones. You probably won’t feel it initially.

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMicm055763

January 26, 2014 at 4:24 am
(49) Ri Ght Answer says:

Forget acids or bases to do the body disappearing trick. An oxyacetylene welders set up with a good rosebud tip will make an entire body turn to dust and go down the drain in under 45 minutes. Pointers, use a barbecue fork to hold the pieces away from the tub as they vaporize. This will also keep you from burning your tub. Most important, always use goggles, so you do not damage your vision.

Sincerely, Tubs 3 bodies 0

March 2, 2014 at 3:30 pm
(50) Bubba says:

Oxyacetylene torch?? Seriously??? Have you ever smelled burned flesh? Cooking someone’s body to dust with a torch would render your house smelling worse than a rotting corpse for months.

March 15, 2014 at 7:40 am
(51) Lisa Keane says:

I would like to recove the ceramic from some waste metals for metal recovery, however I really don’t want to use HF. Are there any services or places where I could sent my material and have a professional remove the ceramic?

April 8, 2014 at 7:50 pm
(52) Davey of the West Country says:

One problem in life is rust in the water jackets of marine engines. This is especially the case when the engine is directly cooled with sea-water. Unfortunately sea-water contains other chemicals besides sodium chloride so hardened deposits are common. Some of the deposits can be removed with a carbide tipped drill (a masonry drill) but really some kind of acid is needed. The ideal acid would be one that attacks rust and calcium but has a minimal effect on cast iron.

One method that I read about was mentioned in a yachting magazine written in the 1920s. The use of Hydrofluoric Acid was recommended! (the spelling of HF was slightly different however) Presumably a 10% solution would be OK for the job?

Past experience shows that HCl is useless for pickling cast iron as one ends up with the work coated in carbon after the iron is eaten away. Some success has been had by using “Kilrock” which is actually Formic Acid sold as a kettle and steam iron de-scaler. The end result is however not very good as one ends up with a messy black sludge. Any constructive advice would be most appreciated so thanks to everyone in advance!

April 8, 2014 at 7:58 pm
(53) Davey of the West Country says:

Re Lisa Keane (article 51)

I would have thought that there was no need to do that. The reason being that the glaze will just melt and float to the top of the melt when the scrap goes into the furnace. What they DO NOT LIKE are items containing sulphur and phosphorous as these elements spoil the steel. Rubber is especially detrimental which is the reason that tyres are not allowed.

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