Worried about drain cleaner
December 16, 2009 11:25 PM   Subscribe

Am I being too paranoid about drain cleaner?

I poured a whole bottle of Works drain opener down my kitchen sink and it didn't work. I didn't want to let a bunch of HCl sit in a steel sink overnight so I poured 2 pounds of baking soda into the sink (slowly, wearing rubber gloves, mixing it up gently), and it looks like it's stopped reacting. Can I go to bed not worrying about damage to my sink or fumes from the drain cleaner? I had the window open for the last hour or so.
posted by cellphone to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
The gas you get from mixing HCl and NaHCO3 is just CO2, so that's safe, fume-wise. What else is there in the drain opener? Their website is remarkably empty of information.

(The drain openers I've used have all been strong bases, AFAICR, not acids— I assume because they attack metals less, and might saponify some fats.)
posted by hattifattener at 11:44 PM on December 16, 2009

It's just HCl plus some unnamed antirust element. Something gooey to make it go to the bottom of the sink too, I imagine.
posted by cellphone at 11:49 PM on December 16, 2009

Drain cleaner based on lye is better. It's a reducing agent, so it has no effect on metal (which is already reduced) and it's at least as good at attacking biological material (hair and fat in particular) as an acid would be.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:58 AM on December 17, 2009

I don't know about that one, I tend to use basic ones rather than acidic ones, but many drain openers say on the label that if they don't work in the recommended time you can leave them to sit overnight (we have an old house with really crappy plumbing, so I have read the labels of lots of drain openers). If yours is not one of those, I would specifically look for one next time so you're not left worrying again.

But as other people have said, baking soda plus HCl equals carbon dioxide and table salt. So in any case you're fine now.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:37 AM on December 17, 2009

Even if you hadn't done anything, the gas you get from mixing metal with acid is hydrogen, which isn't going to hurt anything in the quantities you're talking about.
posted by valkyryn at 4:20 AM on December 17, 2009

Just so you sleep better — put a bucket or something under the drain pipe,* so if the acid does eat through the pipe, the gunk won't mess up your under-sink area.
*under the trap, actually, the pipe that goes down, then up
posted by exphysicist345 at 6:51 PM on December 17, 2009

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