Safer Pickle Alternative

Procrastination can sometimes lead to wonderful discoveries. Tom Arnold, owner of Facets Fine Jewelry in Arlington, Virginia, found this out first hand, when his avoidance of a particularly nasty sizing job led him to whittle away some time on a jewelers online forum.

He came across a discussion about how citric acid was a much safer pickle alternative than the more standard sulfuric acid, and how it was available by the pound at most chemical supply houses. Arnold’s idea of a chemical supply house is his local supermarket, so off he went that evening to do a little shopping. On a hunch, he was drawn to the soft-drinks section. It was in that aisle that he discovered unsweetened Kool-Aid, the first ingredient of which is citric acid.

Thrilled by the prospect of a new discovery (and still actively avoiding that sizing job), he bought a package for 35 cents to test out in his shop. He mixed one package of the powdered drink with a half-pint of tap water and voilá: homemade pickle.

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Arnold doesn’t believe the flavor matters, although he does say that grape would probably be too hard to see into. He uses his Kool-Aid pickle daily and says that one package can last several months. Although it’s slower to act than sulfuric acid, Arnold is patient, and he enjoys the other benefits that Kool-Aid offers: It doesn’t dissolve his tools and, since it’s Kool-Aid, there are no special disposal requirements.

He also found an additional bonus of his homemade pickle: “The smell of tropical punch drifting across the bench when you throw a hot piece of metal into it is great,” he says.

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