Alkaline vs acid Safety


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Hey all,

From the Sema show Livestream of the The Rag Company, there was a small interview with Dr. G on the new products. I'm especially curious on a statement made concerning the OPT Power Wheel & Tire Cleaner. It's at the following link from 1:09:50 onwards.


So the choice was made for alkaline vs acid for wheel cleaning, since it's a lot safer. Can the Dr. G maybe elaborate on this? Is it safer for the enviroment, safer for the car, safer for the operator/user, or all of the above even maybe?

Would love to know!

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I completely agree with Dr. G that HF wheel cleaners should not be sold to consumers, and I would argue that they shouldn't be used outside of a controlled industrial environment, meaning I don't think even a professional detailer should be using an HF based wheel cleaner if he's going to use it say, at a customer site.  I guess it could be argued that if you use it in your detail shop, and you're hosing it all down the drain carefully after using, it could be used safely, but I would only want to use it, say in a sink where any effluent could be controlled.  (And at this stage of my life, I don't want to use it at all)

All that being said, there are other acid wheel cleaners that are non-HF, that work well.  Arguably the availability of iron-eating wheel cleaners like FerreX may mitigate the need for an acid wheel cleaner.

PS The whole subject of acid wheel cleaners is muddied by the use of ABF.  I remember a detailer on another forum going ballistic when he found out his non-acid boutique wheel cleaner that worked so well was really an HF cleaner, but the boutique supplier thought/called it non-acid because ABF is a salt, not an acid...until you mix it with water to make a wheel cleaner and it becomes HF.

PPS  These arguments sometimes sound silly when people are exposed to dangerous chemical in the supermarket, things like bleach and drain cleaner and insecticides.  And of course you can go on Amazon and buy concentrated H202 and vinegar (acetic acid).  Not to mention the HF wheel cleaners on the shelf at Target and Walmart.  Not to be long-winded but many years ago I was in the auto aisle in Target and it was at the end of a row, and they had a long carpet runner in front of it because I guess people would drop bottles of oil etc. and the floor would get slippery.  So I'm looking at a bottle of wheel cleaner, and it's got HF or ABF in it, so I put it back.  And I'm thinking I wonder if anyone ever dropped a bottle of this stuff on this carpet mat I'm standing on, that people's kids have probably crawled around on...

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Thanks for the answers @Ron@Optimum, Dr. G and @Setec Astronomy !

Since I'm detailing cars for a used car dealership (I know, sounds bad, but don't worry, I love it haha), I get a lot of cars that are basically neglected. Also the wheels are often hammered, and I mean HAMMERED. When starting out, I used Ferrex or similar, and these were able to do the job, but they took too much time for me and lots of agitation. So I switched to Acid... One day I was taking an hour to clean a set of wheels to get them somewhat representable, so I decided I needed more oomph.

I used a cleaner with a little bit of HF for a bit and still do, but I also worried for my health a lot, and the car's safety. I work outside and use PPE's at least, and also added a lot of Posphoric acid to the concentrate, since it seems safer. Most of the time, I can't get the dwell time I need, since I work outside in the sun and/or heat. Right now I use 4 large towels soaked through and lay them over the wheels to keep them from drying. Wheel cleaner is the first thing to go on when washing, and the last to get agitated and rinsed off. Only tested it on 3 cars so far, (1 of which had the dirtiest wheels I'd ever seen, they were incredible) but seemed to work awesome! It means I can let it dwell for anywhere between 30-45 minutes, without it drying. I also use an Anti corrosion spray on the brakes and wheels after I'm done.

Isn't Ferrex technically an acid cleaner as well, since it uses Thyoglycolic acid? How does that compare to poshporic acid? I would love to be able to switch to Ferrex or similar again, since I'm sure it's completely safe to use, as opposed to the strong acids I use now. Now this has nothing to do with OPT, but I don't really want to use crazy strong caustic alkaline wheel cleaners either, since these are often sodium hydroxide based and that is some nasty stuff. The in-house detailer of the dealership uses it indoors, without any PPE and using a fine misting sprayer, yikes. He also ruined his new diamond cut wheels within a year, I feel due to this cleaner. Sodium Hydroxide is also used in PAINT REMOVER, and I feel like he damaged the paint on his wheels, so much the diamond turned metal underneath started oxidizing. Of course OPT wouldn't make anything as dangerous to your health as this.

PS: Woah, I would be furious as well if I was wrongly informed about HF being in my cleaner of choice. Probably using it without any PPE as well, oof.

PPS: Even here in the Netherlands it's easy to get nasty stuff delivered directly to your door. Like hydrochloric acid 30%, or pure Sodium hydroxide. But at least you know what you are buying, and the dangers and proper PPE's are stated everywhere.

There's also this shady detailer over here that's gotten REALLY big the last couple of years and his stuff is for sale everywhere. Among that his self-formulated 'Real Effective Cleaner' (Several of his products have bad grammar lol), which is also a really caustic cleaner, most likely sodium hydroxide. Yet nowhere on the bottle is stated anything about the content, except 'can induce burn wounds when in contact with the skin' and you can't get an SDS for any of his stuff. I guess not so bad if you're the occassional non-professional user. But think of all the professionals using it multiple times a day in the worst way possible. Indoors, no ventilation and no PPE, sigh. He even has a pretty big Youtube channel where he often shows exactly this worst case scenario... Cleaning the underside of a car, indoors in a very small room with 4 people spraying away gallons of the stuff at the same time, no PPE and no ventilation.

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The Good Doctor - Ferrex contains the Sodium salt of Thyoglycolic acid which is neutral similar to sodium chloride which is table salt and is neutral. It is therefore very different from the unreacted Thyoglycolic acid and very different from Phosphoric acid as well.

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Dr G - I think the answer should come from Meguairs. Officially we recommend contacting local officials to find out how to dispose chemical products. Sometimes they take them and dispose of it themselves. Unofficially I would dilute it with running water at a high flow rate and dump the acid down the drain which is what happens when they use it on wheels and wash it off anyways.

To be snarky, I suggest no high level representative from Meguiars would respond, but proudly I give Dr G credit that he answers every question I bring to him.

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AutoLabTN--You need calcium to neutralize HF.  Calcium gluconate is the recommended first aid treatment if you get HF on your skin, you should be able to put that in your gallon.  Fortunately it's available as a body-building supplement so you can get it on Amazon, etc.  There is another calcium compound that's cheaper for just doing neutralization (vs. skin exposure), but I don't remember what it is.

If I'm remembering right the calcium gluconate will form a salt with the HF, then you can pour the water off and let the salt dry and throw that out.  But I don't know what else is in Wheel Brightener which might complicate the disposal.  Meg's is pretty good with SDS's, you can look at that, it should also have some disposal info, which of course in today's world will say "dispose of in accordance with local regulations".  They would hopefully tell you on the phone how you should dispose of it.

To be fair about this I'm sure the HF content in wheel cleaners is pretty low vs. industrial uses of HF.

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