Chemical Responsibility – Disposal solutions for the studio
By Helen I. Driggs, Managing Editor
Excerpt from the Jewelry Artist
One of the simplest things you can do to lessen negative environmental impact is to reduce chemical use in the studio and select less-toxic alternatives for those that can’t be avoided.
The most commonly used studio chemical is pickle, and many jewelers are making the switch to citric acid pickle, a less-toxic alternative that is now available from major suppliers. When handling acids, employ proper safety precautions, and mix according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Citric pickle should be used warm, with proper ventilation, to reduce required cleaning time. It takes a bit longer than other types of pickle, but citric pickle is still quite effective, and many jewelers prefer it.
To reduce the amount of pickle you need, use a small potpourri size warming pot to replace larger crockpots. Jewelry items are small, so this little pot will serve most jewelers’ needs, reduce chemical use, and save money. When it comes time to change spent pickle, you will have less to dispose of, which will make it easier to follow proper disposal procedures.
When used properly, a pickle solution will work effectively for many months, or even up to a year before it needs to be changed.
To keep your pickle strong, avoid introducing baking soda into the solution. Be sure to rinse tongs, baskets, and jewelry from your neutralizing bath before returning them to the pickle. As water evaporates from the solution, simply add more water. If the pickle is weak, add more acid. Steel adds an electrical charge that turns pickle into a copper-plating bath. However, as soon as the steel is removed, the pickle can be used again as normal. On the rare occasion that the solution contains small steel particles that can’t be removed, it will need to be changed.