I like Formula 420 for cleaning my 'glassware'

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/09/12/i-like-formula-420-for-cleanin.html

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The main actrive ingredient appears to be an ammonium chloride quaternary compound, which is very interesting - it is a cationic cleaner (unlike, say, dish soap and shampoo, which are normally anionic) and should have good antimicrobial and antistatic properties. I expect a dilute solution of this stuff would make an excellent record cleaning solution.

Oh - don’t spill it on your carpet, cationic surfactants break down the soil-repelling treatments that you usually get on new carpets .


Would this be like 409?

Only turned up to eleven?



Ok, I understand the alcohol – but what does the kosher salt do?


Possibly a light abrasive. That’s what I use to clean coffee pots and the like.


Thanks, that makes sense.


At $15 for 3 bottles, I’m hooked.

Addiction can be dangerous.


I used Formula 420 until a cute girl in a shop at the Haight told me it was basically alcohol and salt. I’ve been using the latter for years now and never looked back. I use the 90% rubbing alcohol from Target & the cheapest salt you can find (you only need it for its abrasive quality). I was told years ago the 90% worked better but I’ve been recently informed the 70% may actually work better based on its higher water percentage.

Maybe some more sciencey BBers want to weigh in on this?

The above only applies to cleaning glassware that’s been used for smoking herbal flowers. When cleaning a “dab rig” (a pipe used to vaporize concentrated herbal materials), neither Formula 420 nor alcohol/salt are very effective against heavy oil build-up inside the glassware. For that situation, I recommend acetone (with proper gloves and ventilation). It’s strong but it only takes a small amount to clean oily glassware right up. Acetone apparently dries without any residue but I always to a light follow-up rinse with alcohol and then water. Result: sparkly clean!


“This stuff cleans good, but it smells like a cross between a chemical
treatment plant and your dentist’s office. Plus it is blue, not really
my idea of a good color for cleaning solution, how about clear?
Ultimatly it does clean very good, but you need to rinse the pipe
throughly under extremly hot water to flush all the remenants of the
cleaner out.”


Ym! Good for your lungs!

Only to reiterate that the 420 appears from the msds to be alcohol and an ammonium chloride quaternary surfactant, which is technically a salt but not like something even a rabbi would eat.

I have no idea what to use for residue build-up, though if it is a hard film I’d be tempted to try an espresso backflush detergent.

Isopropyl alcohol, coarse salt & a drop of dish soap will pretty much cut through all but the toughest cannabinoid residues.

As a Negativland fan, I only use 409.

Alcohol and salt… and if I add lime for acidity?

It’s a tequila shot.


Came here to say this. Yep, you can do this for much less $$$. And, without the stupid citrus smell.

I can’t speak t the science but I’ve used both 70 and 90 for years now and it seems to me that the 90 works faster and more aggressively. I use a generous amount of kosher salt as an abrasive as well.
Rinsing the item with warm water before adding the alcohol also helps with stubborn stains. When finished, I’ll rinse with warm water and salt. This seems to eliminate the oily film.

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