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Oxalic acid is a compound produced for commercial application in the removal of oxidation from metals and finish from wood products like tables and chairs. Other acids function as alternatives to this beatifically produced chemical, though they are more volatile. Workers using an oxalic acid substitute for cleaning metal should take great care when handling the compound by protecting their face, mouth and hands so as not to come in contact with dangerous fumes or the acid itself.
Low concentrations of nitric acid are used as a substitute for oxalic acid in aging woods like pine or maple. The use of nitric acid produces a faint gold color on the surface of the wood, which gives the appearance of high glass wax or finish. Nitric acid is extremely volatile and is often used in the production of explosives in addition to fertilizers and metal etching.
Sulfuric acid functions as a substitute for oxalic acid in the cleaning of metals. Oxidation removal is the primary function of sulfuric acid as it relates to steel and iron production, which greatly strengthens the metal before it is used in production plants such as automobile factories. Sulfuric acid is one of the most widely used mineral acids in the modern world, employed in a variety of fields from car batteries to fertilizer manufacturing and oil refinement.
Hydrochloric acid works as a substitute for oxalic acid in a similar fashion as sulfuric acid. Hydrochloric acid removes rust and iron oxide in metals (a process often referred to as pickling) before the steel or other metal is further worked into more commercially viable forms. Hydrochloric acid is one of the strongest mineral acids in the world and also one of the most corrosive. As a result, its use is confined to industrial projects under extreme care, so as to not cause undue risk to those handling the chemical.
Jonathan Lister has been a writer and content marketer since 2003. His latest book publication, "Bullet, a Demos City Novel" is forthcoming from J Taylor Publishing in June 2014. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University and a Master of Fine Arts in writing and poetics from Naropa University.