Pickle and Pickling

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Why is my brass turning pink and how to remove it?

See this answer in Q&A: Metals, too!

Question

I have a problem that’s left me perplexed even after reading almost every article on the internet about flux and pickle. I apply flux on my brass, heat it up, solder, everything is nice, I put it in the flux and the fluxed parts turn pink (I don’t use steel tweezers or anything), only the fluxed parts, and I tried super-pickle and everything, and the only way I can take it off is by sanding it (A lot!) which is not only a pain in the butt, but also extremely difficult when sweat soldering (it removes all the nice details I made).

Answer

You have there a piece of brass that has been heated.  This happens all the time with brass and bronze and is so much easier to fix than by sanding!  It is basically copper flashing.  See my page for more information on what is happening.  I remove the pink coloration by mixing 50% pickle with 50% over-the-counter hydrogen peroxide.  Takes less than a minute to work and, if you leave the liquid (minus your piece of metal) overnight, you can pour the pickle back in your pot.  I don’t know if this works with pickles that are not made from sodium bisulfate (Rio Pickle and others).  Here’s the link to my Pickle Page and also to my Removing Copper Flashing page.  I know this will help – no more sanding!

What do I think of Citric Acid Pickle?

9/26/16

Question

I was wondering if Citric Acid Pickle works just as well as the Sparex? I am just thinking of the environment.

Answer

I used the citric acid pickle for 6 months.  There are three things that I don’t like:  1.  It is nowhere near as strong.  It takes twice as long to clean the metal.  2. It grows mold if you don’t use it every day. 3. It doesn’t last as long as the sodium bisulfate pickle.

What I like:  Enviro friendly, easy to get rid of, no toxic fumes.
So, maybe by now, you’ve tried it.  If you have, I wonder if your opinions are the same as mine.  I’m back to my sodium bisulfate, BTW!

What type of pickle to buy and what about disposal after it is used up?

Question

I’m not sure what kind of pickle to buy.  I don’t want to go through all the bs of filtering it, calling about hazardous materials,  if I can avoid it.  Do I still buy the bisulfate (word? sp?) because wouldn’t it work faster or better than the green stuff ?
Answer

I’d just use sodium bisulfate pickle.  Pool suppliers carry it.  I think it is called PH down or something like that.  Rio Pickle works too.  There are links, I believe, on my webpage for the different types.

 With getting rid of the pickle:   if you neutralize it (another outside activity) – with the pickle pot (the ceramic section only!) placed into a large plastic tub – it is safe to pour down the drain.  The issue is the soluble copper that is in it (copper sulfate).  You’ll notice it because your pickle will be green.  If you only work with fine silver, you won’t have any green pickle because there’s no copper around to generate it.  But, generally, we work with copper alloys like sterling, brass, bronze and copper itself so, we are going to be seeing a lot of green/blue pickle.

So, what you can do – if you have a place to do this in – is to (after neutralizing) let it sit and evaporate. Then, scrape out the green/blue crystals (while wearing gloves – nitrile, safety glasses and an appropriate mask (probably a 3M N95 would work), bag them and take them to hazardous waste.  The crystals do not take up much room and it could be years before the bag is full.  Put it into another plastic container, just in case there is some active acid still in it. Read MSDS on copper sulfate and make good choices.  I am not an expert on the effects of the chemical!  I just know what I read.
My big concern that nothing living gets into it:  pets and humans, during the evaporation process (it could be months).  The last time I changed my pickle, I placed the neutralized pickle into an old 2.5 gallon water container and it leaked all over the counter.  Unfortunately, I didn’t notice it right away and it started eating up the base of my hydraulic press.  So, don’t use that type of container!  Maybe purchase a nice large one with a plastic, screw on lid – or get a Costco-sized jar of mayonnaise and dump the mayo or eat a lot of sandwiches!  I imagine, that you could punch some holes in the container’s lid and let it evaporate over time.  Label it, as well as marking that it is hazardous – I like to draw a big skull and crossbones.  I have had several instances where I forgot what was in a container – because I didn’t label it. Think:  mystery food in the freezer! Who knows what it is and who can we talk into trying it!  It could be frozen dog food for all we know!
Whatever pickle you use, you will have the copper issue.  I used the citric pickle and wasn’t that thrilled with its strength and longevity.  It still turned green so, I would have to change the pickle more often and have a bunch of evaporating pickle all over the studio!  No!!!!  I’ve had the same pickle (sodium bisulfate – Rio Pickle) for months now and plan on having it for at least a year.  I just add water when it gets low, and as you mentioned, use a coffee filter and melita, to remove particulates. Easier than neutralizing and evaporating!