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Boiling DranO = Bad Idea? Answered

I need a source of lye for my next project, but I've learned recently that "Red Devil Lye" is getting phased out because of the "War on Drugs."

It is my understanding that sodium hydroxide is a main ingredient in Drano (5-10%), and so I'm trying to find out more information about what exactly is in Drano. (Would anything bad happen if I was to boil it?)

Oh, and I am referring to liquid Drano, by the way.

22 Replies

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lemonie (author)2007-04-01

You can't buy sodium hydroxide (granular)? Maybe you're not looking in the right stores? Otherwise, it is offered for sale on Ebay. L

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carbon (author)lemonie2007-04-01

Care to clue me in on these "right stores?"

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lemonie (author)carbon2007-04-01

I don't live in the States, so I couldn't help you much further. I have found NaOH in a few UK shops, it comes under the 'serious drain cleaner' catergory. Otherwise, as previous comment, try Ebay? L

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trebuchet03 (author)2007-03-01

Drain cleaner is a VERY bad source for sodium hydroxide. The reason, drain cleaners that use that chemical also contain aluminum (tiny tiny specs of it).... which, when mixed with water (in your toilet/clogged drain) starts a chemical reaction (the super awesome drain cleaning action) :P

Here's what a small amount does:
http://www2.uni-siegen.de/~pci/versuche/english/v44-10.html

Which is why drain cleaner is just about the most dangerous chemical (reactively) you can have in your house :/


What exactly are you doing?

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carbon (author)trebuchet032007-03-01

Yep, figured that. I guess I'll have to find this fabled "chemical supply house" I keep getting referred to :P


You sure like smily's don't you? :P

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carbon (author)carbon2007-03-01

Have you ever heard of the "golden penny" experiment? The idea is to strip some zinc off of a couple of "hot-dip" galvanised nails, let the zinc collect on a pre-1982 penny, and then heat it under a blow torch. (Zinc + Copper = Brass)

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crestind (author)carbon2007-03-01

I did that experiment in chemistry last semester! Now I have some golden pennies. Doesn't have to be Pre 1982 though. Boiled pennies in water with zinc chunks on top, turning them silver. Then they were put on hot plates and turned all brassy! Very cool. Sold two for two dollars! :)

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carbon (author)crestind2007-03-01

Are you sure about that? Pennies after 1982 have very little copper in them, (is it 1 or 5%?), while pre-1982's have about 95% copper and 5% zinc. Although I suppose only the surface of the penny is changed, so it would probably work.

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crestind (author)carbon2007-03-02

New batteries! Penny on the right is golden! Both are 2006 pennies.

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carbon (author)trebuchet032007-03-01

Hmm...so there isn't any water in Drano?

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trebuchet03 (author)carbon2007-03-01

According to the MSDS - DrainO is not Lye ;)

Of course, check the label for active ingredients ;)


Yes, I do like smilies :) It's the only way I can show inflection. When I'm ranting or angry - there's less (if any smilies). But that doesn't happen often. Similarly, if I'm explaining something more technical, I use them a little less :P

Because on the internet, no one can hear your pitch bending :P

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carbon (author)trebuchet032007-03-01

I love all the different ways that people have found to convey tone and mood over a text medium. And :P is definitely the best. Well, I'd have to say that's it's only second to squid: <:================


Are you saying MSDS is wrong? I was referring to "...which, when mixed with water (in your toilet/clogged drain) starts a chemical reaction..." Revelation = Ohhhh...Drano (the liquid kind) only starts working when water is added!

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trebuchet03 (author)carbon2007-03-01

I was referring to "...which, when mixed with water (in your toilet/clogged drain) starts a chemical reaction..."

That's in reference to any drain cleaners that use lye ;) Perhaps there's more than one recipe for DrainO - I don't know.

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carbon (author)trebuchet032007-03-01

Ah, but I wouldn't be adding water to it, would I? Or am I missing the point?

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trebuchet03 (author)carbon2007-03-01

I was getting at the aluminum content.... I don't know what you're doing - but you probably don't want reactive aluminum in there ;)

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carbon (author)trebuchet032007-03-01

The proposed idea was to literally boil some Drano in a pot (it only sounds stupid because it is :P), add nails and a penny, and make us up some brass pennies!

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westfw (author)2007-03-02
Solid drano was mostly sodium hydroxide, just like Red Devil. Most of the liquid drain openers contain mostly sodium hypochlorite (bleach, essentially.) The MSDS is a good source for this sort of info. Entering "draino liquid MSDS" turned up This link as the first hit, and it says:

                     Ingredients/Identity Information===========================================================================Proprietary: NOIngredient: HYPOCHLOROUS ACID, SODIUM SALT; (SODIUM HYPOCHLORITE)Ingredient Sequence Number: 01Percent: <10NIOSH (RTECS) Number: NH3486300CAS Number: 7681-52-9OSHA PEL: NOT APPLICABLEACGIH TLV: NOT APPLICABLE-------------------------------------Proprietary: NOIngredient: SODIUM HYDROXIDEIngredient Sequence Number: 02Percent: <2NIOSH (RTECS) Number: WB4900000CAS Number: 1310-73-2OSHA PEL: 2 PPM, CACGIH TLV: 2 PPM, C 

(no wonder it works lousy compared to 95%+ Red Devil lye)

Note that the chlorine content raises the possibility of several reactions that lead to nasty poison gasses. Don't mix with acids, don't mix with ammonia, etc.

An instructable on making soap starting with wood ashes (like in the old days) would be pretty neat, IMO.

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carbon (author)westfw2007-03-02

Solid Drano was mostly sodium hydroxide? I thought so: the "crystals" within fit the description I'd gotten of lye exactly.

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royalestel (author)2007-03-01

Check this MSDS Sheet.

Yeah, it's pretty much a bad idea. And don't mix it with ammonia, either.

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carbon (author)royalestel2007-03-01

Hehe: "Special Hazard Precautions: AVOID AMMONIA, ACIDS, TOILET BOWL/ HOUSEHOLD/ DRAIN CLEANERS." So don't allow Drano to mix with itself? ;)

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crapflinger (author)carbon2007-03-02

hehe....sodium hydroxide does more than etch alluminum....completely dissolves the stuff....i work in an alluminum casting facility...we use sodium hydroxide to clean out our furnaces and "transport kettles"....other than the large tanks of the stuff that we have on site...absolutely NO drain cleaners are allowed in the facility...someone might get angry and ruin some inventory

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carbon (author)2007-03-01

Sodium hyrdroxide etches aluminium, right?

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