Hesperian Health Guides

Acid wash chemicals

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HealthWiki > Workers' Guide to Health and Safety > APPENDIX B: Common chemicals and materials > Acid wash chemicals

Acid wash chemicals are used to make textiles appear worn and faded. The chemicals strip away the original color. Chlorine and potassium permanganate (PP) bleaches are the most common bleach solutions used for acid washing in textiles.

Chlorine and potassium permanganate are mixed with other chemicals and diluted to make liquid bleach solutions. Both chemicals release fumes.

If chlorine comes in contact with ammonia, it will produce toxic vapors that can explode. Potassium permanganate will produce toxic vapors and can explode if it comes in contact with acids and powdered metals. Acid wash chemicals release very toxic fumes when they catch on fire. Do not store these chemicals near other chemicals or near heat.

The charts include only some of the acid washes that exist. See Learn about chemicals used in your factory and how to find information about other acid washes. See the Index of chemical names to find alternative names for acid wash chemicals.

Prevent or reduce exposure:

  • Use ventilation systems that extract fumes and replace or dilute dirty air with clean air (see Chapter 17: Ventilation).
  • Enclose operations where possible.
  • Do not mix or pour acid wash chemicals by hand.
  • Wear acid-resistant gloves, acid-resistant long aprons, eye-protective glasses and a face shield. Wear correct respirators that fit you. All protective clothing should be clean, available each day, put on before work, and never taken home with you (see Chapter 18: Personal protective equipment).
  • Have an emergency plan for spills, splashes, and accidental exposures that includes first aid treatment and protective equipment. Keep necessary supplies emergency at the worksite, well stocked, and accessible to workers.
  • Work areas where acid washes are used, stored, and mixed need to be controlled for heat and monitored for concentration of fumes and vapors. They should also have alarms, fire extinguishers, and a fire emergency plan (see Chapter 11: Fire).

Acid wash chemicals

Chlorine bleach (Clorox, sodium hypochlorite) CAS No. 7782-50-5

fire or explosive

Potassium permanganate bleach (Condy’s crystals, permanganate of potash) CAS No. 7722-64-7

fire or explosive

Might harm reproductive health

Acid wash chemicals are found in liquid bleaches. Chlorine bleach is a pale yellow liquid with a strong smell. Potassium permanganate bleach is a purple liquid.
Acid wash chemicals are used to make jeans look worn and faded.

They irritate and burn your skin. You may develop a skin rash, redness, and dryness. Your skin might start peeling, itching, and cracking. Over time, the skin may swell up and blister. See First Aid.


They irritate and burn your eyes. They can cause conjunctivitis. Signs of conjunctivitis are watery eyes and discomfort. Large amount of acid wash chemicals may permanently damage your eyes and cause blindness. See First Aid.


The fumes can irritate your nose, throat, and lungs, causing congestion, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Inhaling chlorine bleach and potassium permanganate bleach fumes can cause dizziness, headaches, and create buildup of fluid in the lungs, called lung edema. See First Aid.


If they get into your mouth and belly, they can burn your stomach, cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. See First Aid and seek medical attention.


Acid wash chemicals can make your nose and lungs very sensitive and cause bronchitis, pneumonia, and chronic asthma. Chronic asthma means that even if you stop working with acid wash chemicals, you may still have asthma.

Potassium permanganate bleach damages your liver and kidneys. If it gets in your mouth periodically over a long time period, it can damage your heart and the nervous system. It may decrease fertility in men and women.

Use elbow-length, butyl rubber or nitrile gloves, an apron, and eye protection (see Chapter 18: Personal protective equipment).

Use a supplied-air respirator.
It is better to not add any acid wash chemicals to the washing machine and instead use pumice stones by themselves.