Drano in the dishwasher. Head in my hands.
January 30, 2011 11:55 AM   Subscribe

My husband poured Drano into our dishwasher drain. Are we gonna die?

We've had a foul, moldy odor coming from our dishwasher for a while, and after finding nothing in the drain pipe or trap, my husband decided to just pour Drano into the dishwasher drain, let it sit for half an hour, and then run it (empty).

I first realized something was wrong when Drano foam started pouring out of the running dishwasher and asked him what he'd done. (At this point, I thought yes, we should have just called a plumber!).

Now my husband is rinsing/shopvac-ing the drain clear.

What damage should we look for in the days to come? Should we just call a plumber right now? How else can we minimize the caustic effects?
posted by thinkingwoman to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
What's "Drano foam"?
posted by mr_roboto at 11:56 AM on January 30, 2011

Response by poster: The Drano seems to have foamed up when the dishwasher started to run, and started to bubble out the door.
posted by thinkingwoman at 12:03 PM on January 30, 2011

It's just lye -- you can run the dishwasher several times to get rid of the stuff by dilution. The problem is that dishwashers have rubber seals and hoses, and the lye can eat away at those, causing leaks and yes, the need for a plumber (or some advanced DIY on the dishwasher).

Wear rubber gloves while handling the lye-laden water, or you'll get a rash.
posted by dhartung at 12:06 PM on January 30, 2011

I am no plumber, but I would run it a few more times and see if any residual drano appears.

I am unclear what a plumber would do. I think he would tell you to run the dishwasher over and over to clear it out. I would only run it on the rinse function. Or whatever else does not use the heater.
posted by Felex at 12:06 PM on January 30, 2011

In the future, you want to run the dishwasher empty with a couple of cups of white vinegar in it. Will generally take car of any smells you have going on.
posted by iamabot at 12:17 PM on January 30, 2011 [7 favorites]

If it was plugged, then there was probably a bunch of stuff for the drano to react with in there plugging it up - that's how it works. Being a dishwasher, and having valves and stuff though..... call the plumber or the dishwasher guy?

You aren't gonna die, but my inner nerd says you could maybe end up with a really nasty surprise leak and have the entire liquid soapy contents of a dishwasher cycle all over the floor some day in the near-ish future.

Lesson: Drano should be avoided on anything that has wax, plastic, or rubber seals involved. That's why it's a big no-no on the toilet.
posted by TravellingDen at 12:23 PM on January 30, 2011

fwiw, I use a kettle full of boiling water against rotting food smell in drains.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 12:24 PM on January 30, 2011

Even if there wasn't a foaming agent (either happenstance or intentional) in the Drano the lye will mix with grease to create soap which under the pressure and jets of the dishwasher will foam like crazy. The foam will be pretty basic and will eat up a lot of the components of both the dishwasher and the shop vac. The impeller in the shop vac is generally aluminum even if the rest is plastic and lye will eat right through it. Not sure how to clean it besides taking it apart and rinsing well. You are going to want to rinse any where the foam touched with vinegar and then water to neutralize and remove any traces of the lye because it can result in a nasty chemical burn. Also I'd be opening the windows and maybe using a fan to keep the kitchen well ventilated until you are finished cleaning up.
posted by Mitheral at 12:33 PM on January 30, 2011 [5 favorites]

I'd try to flush it with external water (from a hose or tube hooked up to your sink) to get as much drano as possible down the drain, then run it empty a couple of times to rinse any that may have gotten on the insides.
posted by ...tm... at 12:40 PM on January 30, 2011

Dishwasher drains don't work like sink drains. They usually require the motor to be turning to run a pump. Attempting to use a hose to flush the dishwasher is merely going to fill up the dishwasher with water until it gets to the level of the door and then it is going to run out onto the floor.
posted by Mitheral at 12:57 PM on January 30, 2011

Your dishwasher will be cleaner than it's ever been. There will be no adverse health effects for you, just run it on the rinse cycle once.

Chances are that the seals will still be OK. Otherwise, yeah, a new dishwasher may be required.
posted by wilful at 4:13 PM on January 30, 2011

Response by poster: I don't suppose there's any way to inspect the seals in advance of our next dishwashing? We've been wanting to redo our kitchen, but maybe not right now. :)
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:21 PM on January 30, 2011

Draino is a base, an acid will neutralize it. As stated, a couple of cups of white vinegar will probably do. I don't think you will die.
posted by fifilaru at 8:33 PM on January 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

You probably should have had it inspected and the drain cleaned out. We have had the same problem. YEARS of food gunk caught in the bottom food catcher is c ausing that stink, especially if you have a stainless inside (plastic always smells).

Yes on the vinegar for cleaning. There is also Finish diswasher cleaner but again, these are chemicals and it smells very perfumy.

With a dirty cycle, you can always throw in baking soda too when running w/ soap.

But for the Draino--yea run on a few empty then do a vinegar while empty. You should be fine.

Tell him to slowly walk away from the Draino and stop being Mr. Fixit. :)
posted by stormpooper at 7:07 AM on January 31, 2011

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