Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books
A Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology

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hydrochloric acid

A strong, corrosive, inorganic acid (HCl), manufactured by absorbing hydrogen chloride in water. It is one of the most corrosive of acids, and is particularly destructive to cellulose, breaking the cellulose chain into even smaller units, resulting ultimately in its complete hydrolysis.

The problems with hydrochloric acid began with the use of chlorine in bleaching paper fibers. For many years thereafter, the chlorine substances were insufficiently removed by washing, giving rise to the formation of the acid in paper. Although washing techniques have improved, excess residual hydrochloric acid can exist in paper because of the practice of using chlorine compounds to wash and bleach paper subsequent to its manufacture.

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