Introduction: CO2 Drain Cleaner Hack

A while back, we had a slow running drain that seemed to be permanent.  I came across a product called "Kleer Drain" that uses CO2 cartridges to blast through clogs.  I thought it was worth the attempt, so I picked one up at Home Depot.

Boy, did it work... Not only that, but it made an extremely satisfying "whump" sound that sent me out to the hardware store to pick up more cartridges so I could attack all of our drains, plugged or not.

The problem is, the device also requires a single shot plastic disk that allows pressure to build up before it bursts.  When it does, the resulting explosion is what actually blasts through the clog.  These disks are no where to be found, except from the manufacturer... And they're both pricey and in short supply.

They look like Tyvek, but they're not.  Tyvek doesn't burst under CO2 pressure.  Certain types of paper may work, but when I thought about the work of having to cut all those disks out, I came up with a better solution that seems to work pretty well:

Step 1: How Kleer Drain Works

I love this device, but it has some flaws.  First is the need for CO2 cartridges.  The Kleer Drain comes with a couple, but if you're like me, you'll use them all up in an hour or two.  Trust me... This thing is fun to use:)  

The same goes for the plastic disks, but they aren't so readily available.  The only place I was able to find them was on the manufacturer's website.  And they cost a gazillion dollars for a half dozen... And they only came with additional cartridges (which cost another half gazillion).

I think the company may be using the inkjet printer profit model... sell the printer at cost and make money on the ink.  I have no problem with that, but I don't want my fun eating up my savings, or discover I don't have the parts I need in an emergency.

Enough commiserating, lets hack a solution!

Step 2: Materials

Here's what you'll need:

1. Kleer Drain clog remover... I notice these things are getting more difficult to find.  Maybe someone reading this can make one in an Instructable out of PVC pipe.  If so, the syringe will perform the same with a diy device as well.  

2. 12cc hypodermic syringe.  I use syringes for everything from dispensing paint, grease, diamond paste and WD40. Glass syringes make excellent dispensers for solvents.  You can't have too many of these things.  You won't need a needle for the one we'll be using, only the housing and plunger parts.  Your local hospital might give you used syringes for free.

3. Razor knife

4. Hose washer

Step 3: Build

Start by cutting off the bottom portion of the syringe housing.  This will allow the plunger to pop out of the end, explosively releasing the pressurized gas behind it.  Remove any left over flashing around the inside edge.  This will prevent damage to the soft rubberized gasket at the bottom of the plunger as it gets shot out of the syringe.  

Slide the hose washer over the syringe and bring it all the way up as far as it will go.

Depending on the style of syringe you use, you might need to trim the finger holder portion so it fits inside the pressure chamber pocket of the Kleer Drain.  Trim only as much as necessary, leaving enough surface to insure a good seal.  The 12cc size syringe fits nicely through the hole in the pressure chamber.  A smaller syringe would fit as well, but the volume of CO2 that rushes through it would be severely reduced, turning that satisfying "whump" into a disappointing "fizz".

Finally, cut away the "thumb button" on top of the syringe's plunger.  If it's left on, it will re-seal the pressure chamber when the plunger pops out of the bottom.  If that happens, you won't get the explosion you're expecting.

Step 4: Using the Hacked Kleer Drain

Insert a CO2 cartridge and you're ready to go.  One bit of advice from experience.  If the sink you're trying to unplug has an overflow drain like ours does, either plug it up, or use the plastic protection sheet that comes with the Kleer Drain.  Failure to do this will do 2 things...
1. Do a beautiful job of cleaning the gunk out of your overdrain system, and
2. Give you a close-up view of what sink gunk looks like exploding out of the sink, ricocheting off the walls, your clothes and your face. 

Also, remove any plug from the drain... Don't forget to re-screw the cover for the drain link that's under your sink, or you'll be cleaning that up as well... (Another bit of first-hand experience:)

Set the business end of the Kleer Drain into the drain and push down on the handles.  As soon as the plunger makes the trip from the top of the syringe to the bottom, it will explode with the most satisfying sound you'll ever hear coming out of your home's plumbing.

With the plunger in the full up position, my device takes about 5 seconds after I pierce the CO2 cartridge to explode.  The plunger can be set further down in the syringe to speed things up, but the explosion will be smaller.

Step 5: Update:

Well, I now know, this hack as initially described, will work about 15 times before the plastic holding the plunger gives up the ghost due to extremely high pressures (have I mentioned that I love this thing and use it just for fun?).  I suppose, for most people, 15 uses is an entire lifetime's quota of needing a plumber's helper, so this is for those of us who believe play is more important than work.

Also, I've learned the type of CO2 cartridge sold as "soda chargers" don't work at all for this device.  The cartridges that specifically say they are for Kleer Drain, are brassy in color and have a good sized exhaust hole (soldered over, of course) work the best.

For those who don't need a permanent solution and will only use this device a few times, kill-a-watt has sent me the direct link to Home Depot's site, where replacement disks can be ordered:

For people like myself, I've developed a modification that will hopefully withstand the agressive explosions the Kleer Drain is exposed to whenever boredom leads to the inevitable "let's make an explosion" moment:

Minimum of what you'll need:

1. 1/2" Dowel
2. Bolt
3. Washers
4. Lock Nut
5. String
6. Duct Tape

First, size a washer to fit into the syringe's rubber plunger.  If you haven't already blown it up, use the plastic fitting of the syringe to judge the size.  IMPORTANT:  Round any sharp edges of the steel washer that will be in contact with the black rubber plunger. The explosions it will be subjected to are violent and any help you can give it will help it's longevity.

Next, cut a short piece of dowel and drill a hole down through the center. I tried attaching the parts to them with wood screws, but each one split and destroyed itself the first time I tried them.  A bolt will make use of the wood's compressive strength.  As you can see in the photos, I'm using a brass rod, but wood should work just fine.

I'm also using a rubber shock absorber (nothing quite like over-kill, is there?), which may or may not be helping.  Since the rod I'm using is heavy brass and being forced out at such a high rate (it actually blew through the small hole at the end of the Kleer Drain once), I figured a shock absorber couldn't hurt.  Basically, it's a rubber tube that fits between the brass rod and the top washer.

Follow the exploded drawing to assemble the parts in order.

The string is taped to the outside of the syringe tube.  Start by running tape over the string as it rests on the tube with its bitter end at the bottom.  When the tape is in place, loop the string back down and run a second layer of tape over it again.  This locks the string in place.

I've also added a shock absorber to the string.  It's very simple... Once the string is taped to the cylinder and tied around the bolt at the bottom of the dowel, thread the center of it through these items, in this order:
1. small washer
2. spring from ball point pen
3. small washer
Now, thread a ring through the loop sticking out and you're done.

I've changed how I load the plunger into the syringe as well.  Now, I recommend inserting it from the bottom.  This will keep the pressure from trying to rip the plunger off of the washer.  You'll also notice, I use removable putty inside the plunger to hold it in place.

Silicone grease will keep everything running smoothly.

After the Superbowl, I showed my buddy how it works... Now he wants one... oooRah!


PatM146 made it!(author)2017-07-03

Just as an alternative, you can cut a square from a mylar ballon and place it over the area where the disc goes. (use both layers of mylar) This will provide the backpressure needed and you will get the "whump" you were talking about. it's also a fractino of the cost of the discs, especially if you get the ballon from a dollar store.

CartridgesB made it!(author)2016-07-27

Our factory produces gas cartridges.

bfk made it!(author)2016-05-14

Ahhh... Proof that nothing stays the same... Home Depot still sells these but I don't know if the discs are any less difficult to get. If you look further down the page, there's another drain cleaner that's come out since this Instructable called a "Johnny Jolter". A pun-filled name, but does everything the Kleer Drain does except create a gas-powered explosion. Not nearly as satisfying, but gets the job done using the same concept without any additional parts required.

I've since changed over to the Johnny-Jolter (love that name), but every once in a while, I still pull the Kleer Drain out just to have a little fun.

kill-a-watt made it!(author)2012-02-04

Looks like you can ship-to-store for the disks things. Not too pricey, but I prefer your solution anyway:

Here's some 30 ml ones for sale, probably too big:

LisaI7 made it!(author)2016-05-12

could you please check your link. it does not work when I try it. thanks

i bought a drain kleer. haven't used it yet but don't recall seeing these discs u speak of.

bfk made it!(author)2012-02-05

Thank you for the information. My problem is, this thing is so much fun, I'll pull it out and play with it with no plugged drains. I'll go through 6 in no time:)

I discovered the plunger of the syringe works for about 15 shots before it has to be replaced. The force behind it is so great that it eventually breaks the plastic holding it on. I made my own plunger from a dowel and slip it from underneath so the sealed rubber goes toward the top and the pressure pushes it onto the dowel instead of trying to rip it off.

I'll update my instructable with your information and my modification.

waldosan made it!(author)2012-01-27

for some reason i doubt the hospital will hand out used syringes, of course i've never asked so they might.

is there some kind of retail alternative that i could use to find syringes?

LisaI7 made it!(author)2016-05-12

i have purchased a very small syringe at a feed store. They are sold for administering medications to animals. The had many sizes. Maybe you'd have some luck there.

bfk made it!(author)2012-02-05

Here's an update on your concern about hospitals and syringes... Last week, I visited our hospital and spoke with the pharmacist. There was no issue with getting the syringes, but when she asked what size and I told her "12cc", her eyes went wide and she asked, "What in heaven's name are you injecting?"
You may have to visit the CT lab or someplace that uses larger sizes.

bfk made it!(author)2012-01-27

I suppose there could be some local issue, but if there were no needle, it would be hard to argue not to. Syringes are used for many things other than medical, so no national law that I'm aware of could prevent an organization from passing them on to places other than a landfill. I get most of mine from medical offices (again, I don't require needles, except for my glass syringes, which are difficult to find now anyway). Often, offices toss unused syringes out, for whatever reason. If you're lucky, or know someone, you may end up with a case of them.
Syringes can be bought online. If you don't want to order from a medical supplier, try a hobby or woodworker site... But they can only be used once by medical personnel, so why not ask around and get them for free? Don't forget dentists. They have other great tools that are too worn for their purposes that get recycled as well. Thanks for voicing your concerns and questions. You brought up a good point.

The+Green+Gentleman made it!(author)2012-01-27

You can get free syringes from a pharmacy (chemist - UK). These are (ostensibly) for dosing children's medication, but we all know better. They're for experiments! They're not huge, but might do the trick.

bfk made it!(author)2012-01-27

The diameter needs to be pretty large so the CO2 can exit as fast as possible. That being said, you may be able to squeeze 3, 4, or 5 small syringes through the hole to increase the volume that way.

tim.eason.562 made it!(author)2015-02-13

Stoped 30.00 your self . Plumper 275.00 . Saving 245.00

piercepresley made it!(author)2014-02-27

Just got a Kleer Drain to try and help my 50-year-old cast iron waste pipes last a bit longer. Gonna try this soon.

bfk made it!(author)2014-02-27

Hope Tim the Toolman syndrome doesn't bite you. I went through an entire box of cartridges within 2 days making explosions come out of all our drains, just so I could show my buddies how cool it is. Good luck and have fun.

snotty made it!(author)2012-01-27

Nice device.

My trick for drains is coat hanger wire:
1. Straighten a coat hanger.
2. Use the hanger to pick out and remove hair/crud near the drain's mouth.
3. Jam the hanger down the drain.
4. Turn on the tap to flush away the debris you're about to loosen.
5. Pump the wire in and out while rotating it to scrub away crud.
6. Expound.

This method works every time for me. I think most blockages are near the start of the pipe.

bfk made it!(author)2012-01-27

Thank you for your kind words. Yea, until our loo developed a partial blockage that didn't respond to anything, that's the only method I used too. One additional trick is to store a wire, similar to a coat hanger wire, only made from stainless steel, directly in the toilet's water tank. It's handy, and any drain in the bath can be cleaned at a moment's notice. A small bend at the end of the wire shaped like a "J" will catch and draw hair out in large clumps. A complete loop at the other end allows for a finger to get a good grip on the wire. Thanks for your well developed explanation.

jeffeb3 made it!(author)2012-01-23

Can you use an air compressor instead? Reusable, larger pressures...

bfk made it!(author)2012-01-23

Hi Jeff:

Thanks for writing... And an interesting question. I thought about it and the short answer would be "yes"... But:

I don't think it's the volume of the gas that counts as much as the SUDDEN release of pressure, forcing water in the pipe (which is incompressible) past the blockage and ripping it free. Filling a bottle with compressed air would take longer, I'd think than slipping a cartridge into what amounts to be a high-tech plumber's helper. Using an air compressor by itself wouldn't produce the volume of air needed... However, an electric leaf blower might... Hmmm.

Anyway, my CO2 device was powerful enough to clear an issue a plumber couldn't find with a snake (and removing the loo) that had been plagueing us for over a year. I don't know where the blockage was, but it disappeared after one shot with the Kleer Drain. If there are any weak joints in the pipes, higher pressures may open them up and cause bigger problems.

I think a portable compressed air cannon would make a neat Instructable, but it might cost more than the plastic device I got. Besides a strong tank, some type of instant valve would need to be involved so the pressure gets released all at once... Like those they use on Mythbusters for their air cannons. I'll bet a homemade, PVC pipe/CO2 device could be made for a few bucks. The most difficult part I think, would be piercing the cartridge... Maybe someone's already come up with a solution for that.

I bought 20 cartridges online for less than $1 apiece, including shipping. Cheap fun for me and 20... Uh, make that 19... will last me quite a while, even if I shoot one off now and then just for fun or making an Instructable:)

Sorry, I'm an Engineer and short answers aren't part of my DNA... Hope this answered your question.

About This Instructable




Bio: Retired inventor, reverted back to my 10 year-old self. A shop full of tools, a boat, race car, 3D printer and a beautiful wife who ... More »
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