Watch: Add drain cleaner to sugar for an awesome science experiment

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Household drain cleaner composed of high-molar sulfuric acid? And they were worried about the old-fashioned stuff made of sodium hydroxide and aluminum particles?

What TFA describes – basically anhydrous sulfuric acid – is a restricted reagent at our university chemistry department. I’m having a really hard time imagining it being a household product.


I thought most drain cleaners were basic, not acidic. I think one I used recently was essentially lye.


Yeah, there’s all kinds of dangerous stuff in drain cleaners. Check the label first.

(I wonder how often someone tries one, gets impatient, and pours a different one in? :anguished:)


They really do take all the fun out of chem lab now… well and the injuries too so there is that.


Don’t get me wrong, we still make nitrocellulose and other fun stuff. We just don’t keep large quantities of anhydrous sulfuric acid outside of locked stores with a paranoid stores manager keeping watch over it.

And then there’s the stuff in the microbiology labs. Treated, quite rightly, as being vastly more dangerous than the reagents.


You can find it at some hardware stores - with layers of bagging and serious warnings.
Used it once - when nothing else would clear a pipe. I was quite worried it might destroy the pipe - but it worked and there was much water flusing through the pipe to dilute immediately.


I wonder if they’re scamming on the label? I can’t see people taking the required precautions for handling that stuff if it was at full concentration! (And what about the stores? “Hazmat cleanup in aisle 4! Code Red!”)

98% (4.2 molar) sulfuric acid.


Modern drain pipes are high-density polyethylene. The same stuff we use to store … high-molar sulfuric acid. The main risk is that the heat of dilution of the acid might damage the pipe. A little at a time shouldn’t be your greatest worry.


A friend of the family was mixing up some pool cleaner in a bucket. He emptied one bottle, and then got a second one from his cabinet and added that too. Fortunately he was doing his mixing a solid granite Belfast Sink. He’d accidentally mixed two different types of cleaner. The first explosion blew him across the kitchen in to the far wall. He struck the fridge, causing its door to swing open, protectively, across his body. The second explosion stripped the top off his hearing and broke the sink.

The police were interested, but didn’t arrest him as a domestic terrorist.

“Clean up in aisle 4… and the basement… and the sewer… and the subway tunnel…”


My pipes were definately not modern. Different varieties of metal depending onlocation in the house. Which was 120 years old.


yay. spraying sulphuric acid across the room.

Each his own definition of ‘fun’ I guess…

I’ve had to clean up the mess when a lead-acid battery exploded in a boat (protip: never drop a wrench across the terminals of a 200Ah starter battery!).
Despite thorough scrubbing and plenty of rinsing the machine compartment of the boat still rusts like hell.


Let’s see… Is it water into acid, or acid into water? And which way is don’t?


Mine dates to before 1885 (ah, territorial New Mexico!), so I can sympathize. We ended up having the drain replaced and in the process found that parts of it were tarpaper. Aside from the enzymatic stuff, there’s really no safe way to attack the crud in one of those.


Wow. I hope nobody’s pipes get clogged with a bunch of sugar.


So definitely do not stuff wads of giant marshmallows into the sink drain… :open_mouth:


I realize the question was not totally serious, but the answer is:

Do like you oughter, add acid to water.

For those (like me) who need to resort to root principles, it’s because water drops in strong acid generate enough heat to cause a steam explosion. Acid in water does too, but in the latter case you splash water around while in the former you scatter drops of strong acid.

I might not enjoy getting sprayed by water, but it’s better than getting sprayed by acid.


Reaction 1: what the hell type of drain cleaner is 98% sulfuric acid?
Reaction 2: that looks cool. To the lab!
unfortunately, I don’t have any sulfuric acid in the lab
so its off to the hardware store apparently


Something seems off. Here’s the product:

The technical data sheet is less than forthcoming, though.

“Composition: Inorganic acids among which sulphuric acid, corrosion inhibitors, plugging agents, dyes, surfactants.”

It makes no mention of the all important level of concentration of the acid.


You’d think that they’d have to be accurate for poison control purposes. i.e. If someone drinks it, do you make them drink a baking soda solution, or do you put them in a plastic tub and stand back?