Corrosive: Definition & Examples Video

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  • 0:00 Corrosives
  • 0:33 What Are Corrosives?
  • 1:21 Common Examples of Corrosives
  • 2:10 Hazards of Corrosives
  • 2:57 Safety
  • 3:18 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sara McCubbins

Sara has a background in chemistry education and is currently writing her dissertation in the field of curriculum and instruction.

Corrosive materials exist all around us--in the ocean, in your car, even under your bathroom sink. In this lesson, we will explore what it means when we say something is corrosive and examine a variety of examples of corrosion at work.


Marilyn invited friends over for dinner, so she decided to clean her house before her guests arrived. Because she was in a hurry, she did not wear her protective gloves or safety glasses. While cleaning, some of the cleaner splashed onto her skin and immediately started burning. She quickly rinsed off her skin, but the damage was already done...the cleaner had left chemical burns on her arm. Corrosives are strong chemicals that can attack or chemically destroy materials, such as body tissue or even metal.

What Are Corrosives?

Corrosives are usually strong acids or bases and exist in almost every workplace and home. The more concentrated the chemical is, the more damage it can cause, especially to bodily tissue. Corrosives begin to cause damage as soon as they come in contact with something—including your eyes or mouth—or if the chemical is digested or inhaled. Corrosives can even damage metal, so it is important to store them in proper containers.

Because of their ability to cause damage, corrosives often come with warning labels. Safety information is provided for all corrosives on what is called the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). This document explains what can happen if the corrosive comes into contact with the skin, eyes, respiratory tract, digestive tract, and metal.

Common Examples of Corrosives

Some examples of common corrosives and their uses are:

  • Hydrochloric acid (also known as muriatic acid) is used in the chemical industry to produce PVC (polyvinyl chloride). It is also a component of your stomach acid to help aid in the digestion of your food.
  • Sulfuric acid is commonly used in fertilizers and manufacturing.
  • Ammonium hydroxide is most frequently found in household cleaners for cleaning glass, porcelain, and stainless steel. Typical household cleaners range from 5-10% in concentration, making it a mild corrosive.
  • Sodium hydroxide (also known as caustic soda) can be found in highly concentrated forms and is used for everything from paper manufacturing to paint strippers to your everyday drain cleaner.

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