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ricksummon
07-20-2014, 09:37 PM
I was watching a home chemist video on YouTube and they said if you couldn't get lab-grade sulfuric acid from a chemical supplier, you could buy it at the hardware store as a drain cleaner. Sure enough, you can actually buy it at the local Wal-Mart. (http://walmart.com/ip/Liquid-Lightning-Buffered-Sulfuric-Acid-Drain-Cleaner/17133944) According to the reviews, it's either the best drain cleaner EVAH or it totally wrecks your sink or toilet, requiring hundreds of dollars in repairs.

So, what's the Straight Dope here? I find it hard to believe it's actually safe to pour sulfuric acid into your bathroom sink. :eek: Are there places that have laws against this?

Magiver
07-20-2014, 09:44 PM
unbeknownst to me my house settled and the upstairs drain line no longer had a slope. The drain cleaner ate a 2" by 8" hole through the cast iron pipe. Gravity ensued and It made for a bad day.

Fishtar
07-20-2014, 10:09 PM
I only messed with sulphuric once with limited results. But hydrochloric/muriatic acid is great stuff for slow drains. Eats away all the scum, salts, rust chunks and gets things moving. Would not advise it for a total clog though, because if it doesn't work..... Also I usually dump some soda or lye in after enough time has passed to neutralize things. So, in short, acid is useful stuff if used right.

johnpost
07-20-2014, 10:22 PM
chemicals are a poor choice for drain cleaning.

it is a serious hazard to skin and eyes. if it doesn't work you have a dangerous chemical that will cause harm to your plumbng and house if not neutralized.

Fishtar
07-20-2014, 10:29 PM
Should add to my previous post - run lots and lots of water after the acid. Especially before adding any class of base.

Tom Tildrum
07-20-2014, 11:23 PM
Our house's previous owner left behind a bottle of sulfuric-acid drain cleaner. No way in heck would I trust myself to work with it, and my house is so old that there could be old, fragile pipes somewhere along the drain line. This means that I have a bottle of an absurdly dangerous substance lurking in my workroom, and I keep forgetting about it when the city has a toxic liquid day at the dump. It's kind of a cursed potion for me at this point.

buddy431
07-20-2014, 11:38 PM
Surely it depends on the pipe material? A copper pipe will be fine, while a cast iron pipe will react rather readily with it.

Sulfuric acid probably isn't any different from a reactivity perspective than muriatic (hydrochloric acid), but it can be made more concentrated.

Maybe it's the chemist in me, but working with strong chemical cleaners is quite safe, provided that you know what your plumbing is made out of, and take appropriate safety precautions. The biggest concern is protecting the eyes. A little acid or lye on the skin can be washed off and will only leave a superficial burn, but getting some in the eye, especially a strong base, could mean permanent damage.

Snnipe 70E
07-21-2014, 12:14 AM
chemicals are a poor choice for drain cleaning.

it is a serious hazard to skin and eyes. if it doesn't work you have a dangerous chemical that will cause harm to your plumbng and house if not neutralized.

Could not agree more. I never use chemicals on normal drains. The only time I remember using a chemical drain cleaner was where the drain was in the slab. X Ray film developer over drain so I could not get a snake in it.

My 1st experience with chemical drain cleaners was sometime in 1968 as a Third Class Midshipman at the maritime academy. Someone had tried chemical drain cleaner is a drinking fountain drain. And when that did not work the pipes had to be taken apart. The midshipman taking the lines apart got some of the cleaner in his face. He dropped the lines and what was in the lines were dumped all over the engine room. He went to sick bay and I got the pleasure of cleaning the stuff up. Remember if you pour dangerous stuff down a drain you may get stuck having to clean it up or calling and paying someone to clean it up.

usedtobe
07-21-2014, 02:14 AM
If you pour ANY active chemical in a drain (Draino is lye, or was), your plumber is NOT going to like you.
For instance - a clogged or blocked vent will cause a slow drain. If the problem is the vent, you can run anything you want down the drain - it will not fix the problem, and may produce a MUCH larger one.

Biggest point - should you end up calling a plumber, TELL HIM/HER WHAT IS IN THE PIPE. Plumbers often get a face full of the drain contents - they need to know to how to approach.

I heard of one poor soul who was working in an MD's office and had his lips slightly apart when opening the pipe - he picked up a disease.

Cruising message boards of various professions can be entertaining and informative.

bob++
07-21-2014, 04:06 AM
I only messed with sulphuric once with limited results. But hydrochloric/muriatic acid is great stuff for slow drains. Eats away all the scum, salts, rust chunks and gets things moving. Would not advise it for a total clog though, because if it doesn't work..... Also I usually dump some soda or lye in after enough time has passed to neutralize things. So, in short, acid is useful stuff if used right.

I am just wondering what is likely to happen if I dump some Lye in the drain, after the H2SO4.

Mr. Milton
07-21-2014, 08:37 AM
Would or could there be any reactions between acidic drain openers and PVC pipes? In other words, would acid destroy the PVC the way an earlier post says it would destroy/erode iron pipes?

Mr. Milton
07-21-2014, 08:38 AM
Don't know if my revious reply made it... Would acid type drain openers have a negative impact on PVC pipes?

Ludovic
07-21-2014, 08:44 AM
According to the reviews, it's either the best drain cleaner EVAH or it totally wrecks your sink or toilet, requiring hundreds of dollars in repairs.Why can't it be both, like the late Earl Warren?

bob++
07-21-2014, 09:56 AM
Would or could there be any reactions between acidic drain openers and PVC pipes? In other words, would acid destroy the PVC the way an earlier post says it would destroy/erode iron pipes?

Yes:A five-year-old boy has been left scarred for life after an acidic drain cleaner leaked through his bedroom ceiling as he slept.
Boyd James woke up in the early hours of the morning screaming that his face was ‘on fire’ after the powerful liquid dripped onto his bed.
The occupant of the upstairs flat in Blandford, Dorset, had earlier poured the sulphuric acid-based cleaner down his kitchen sink in an attempt to unblock it.
But the liquid was so strong that it melted the pipes, floor and ceiling before leaking onto Boyd.
The acid in the cleaner, called 'One Shot Instant Drain Cleaner', melted his pillow and caused the five-year-old's skin to bubble and blister.


Read more: http://dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2176839/One-Shot-Instant-Drain-Cleaner-Boyd-James-scarred-life-acid-leaked-bedroom-ceiling-slept.html#ixzz387BnQ0zi
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

One-Shot-Instant-Drain-Cleaner contains 91% Sulphuric Acid

FluffyBob
07-21-2014, 10:16 AM
There is a device called a 'drain king' that I have used on many clogged pipes in old houses over the years. It is basically a water powered snake that uses water pressure and vibrations to loosen and force out clogs. Sometimes you have to use it at several clean-outs to get the clog debris all the way out to the sewer. It is not going to clear out roots but it works great on slow pipes, grease and hair clogs. It is easy to use, safe and of minimal mess. It works so much better than chemical drain openers there is no comparison. It does have to be used according to instructions or you could end up very wet or with a clogged vent.

That being said, the pros use a snake. Plumbers don't bother chemical openers or a 'drain king' (as far as I know), they use a snake, or call the guy that specializes in snaking. I am a sissy and grossed out by evil pipe sludge so I use the drain king instead of a snake. There is a reason pros use the tools they do though.

muldoonthief
07-21-2014, 10:47 AM
Don't know if my revious reply made it... Would acid type drain openers have a negative impact on PVC pipes?

Yes:

One-Shot-Instant-Drain-Cleaner contains 91% Sulphuric Acid

There's nothing in the article about the drain pipe being PVC.

johnpost
07-21-2014, 10:53 AM
I am just wondering what is likely to happen if I dump some Lye in the drain, after the H2SO4.

you would have a violent chemical reaction, it might splash both caustic chemicals around which is dangerous.

mixing strong chemicals together without knowing what you are doing is hazardous and potentially deadly..

neutralization of chemicals has to be done properly to not create additional problems.

eschereal
07-21-2014, 10:57 AM
How do strong acid cleaners affect septic systems?

buddy431
07-21-2014, 11:04 AM
Sulfuric acid appears to be safe with PVC pipe:

https://spilltech.com/wcsstore/SpillTechUSCatalogAssetStore/Attachment/documents/ccg/CBOOM.pdf

http://dudadiesel.com/drain_cleaners.php

You need to make sure that your pipes are really pvc all the way: sulfuric acid will eat into any steel pretty quickly.

TruCelt
07-21-2014, 11:10 AM
If the acid doesn't work, and then you run water down there to check if it's working, it gets very, very hot, and can actually melt your PVC. I . . . know someone . . . who did this once.

ETA: Upon research, I see that this was probably sodium hydroxide, not sulfuric acid.

CookingWithGas
07-21-2014, 02:31 PM
Reminds me of this little nugget about the importance of clear communication. It doesn't answer the OP but may give a moment of comic relife. This goes back long before the Internet was invented. I can remember when it was being distributed by people using carbon paper and Xerox machines to send copies around the office.


There was once a plumber of foreign extraction who wrote to the Bureau of Standards in Washington, D.C., that he had found hydrochloric acid was fine for cleaning drains, and that it was harmless. Washington replied: "The efficacy of hydrochloric acid is indisputable, but the corrosive residue is incompatible with metallic permanence."

The plumber wrote back that he was mighty glad the Bureau agreed with him.

The Bureau replied with a note of alarm: "We cannot assume responsibility for the production of toxic and noxious residues with hydrochloric acid and suggest you use an alternative procedure."

The plumber wrote he was happy to learn that the Bureau still agreed with him.

Whereupon, Washington exploded: "Don't use hydrochloric acid, it eats the hell out of pipes!!"

Bill Door
07-21-2014, 02:46 PM
Sulfuric acid appears to be safe with PVC pipe:

https://spilltech.com/wcsstore/SpillTechUSCatalogAssetStore/Attachment/documents/ccg/CBOOM.pdf

http://dudadiesel.com/drain_cleaners.php

You need to make sure that your pipes are really pvc all the way: sulfuric acid will eat into any steel pretty quickly.

What seems paradoxical to some is that concentrated sulfuric acid is quite safely stored in carbon steel tanks and pipes. It forms a passivating layer of iron sulfide that protects the steel. The iron sulfide layer is water soluble, so don't try it with dilute sulfuric acid. I only use it down to 93%, and then I keep a close eye on my air dryers. Even atmospheric H2O can provide enough water to dissolve the passivation. You also have to watch out for line velocity, too much turbulence can scrub away the pssivating layer as well. In any case, not safe for steel pipe in drains, where water is pretty much a given.

rsa
07-21-2014, 10:03 PM
This is not directly relevant to the OP, but it may help.

I had a sink drain that was very slow draining. Using regular drain cleaners would help for a while, but it would soon slow again. I found some Drano Professional Strength Build-up Remover. It contains bacteria cultures and enzymes - I left it overnight and after the usual plunging with a sink plunger the drain ran clear and I haven't had a problem since.

Fishtar
07-22-2014, 02:52 AM
I am just wondering what is likely to happen if I dump some Lye in the drain, after the H2SO4.


I always let plenty of water run before I do it, so the acid is all but neutralized anyway.

But I imagine this scenario happens in apartment buildings. One tenant dumps acid down the drain, another tenant dumps lye down the drain, and a third unfortunate tenant happens to innocently be sitting on the toilet.....


How do strong acid cleaners affect septic systems?


It would take a lot to alter the pH of a septic tank. Much more than a quart at least.
.

bob++
07-22-2014, 03:55 AM
There's nothing in the article about the drain pipe being PVC.

It is a safe bet though. I don't ever recall seeing anything other than PVC drainpipes since we moved over from lead. I suspect that the acid met some water and the exothermic reaction melted the pipe, but that's just a guess.

buddy431
07-22-2014, 09:34 AM
It is a safe bet though. I don't ever recall seeing anything other than PVC drainpipes since we moved over from lead. I suspect that the acid met some water and the exothermic reaction melted the pipe, but that's just a guess.

You've never seen a steel drain pipe? I have one under my sink right now.

Annie-Xmas
07-22-2014, 09:40 AM
When I worked in rental property management, our leases stated that tenants do not use chemical drain clearers. Anyone in our office would come to your place and snake out a clean line. A line with chemical stuff in it required a call to the plumber and a $200 (at least) bill.

I've had tenants flush drain cleaner down stopped up toilets. Horrible mess, especially if the toilet overflowed.

johnpost
07-22-2014, 09:44 AM
lots of ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) is used in waste piping in walls.

Fishtar
07-22-2014, 10:30 AM
Seem to be a lot of acid bashers about. So I ask...have you ever seen the inside of an iron drainpipe? It is a jagged mess. Rust is strange stuff. Forums almost cryltaline stalgmites and stalagites throughout. Just waiting to snag some hair or tampons. Snaking will get rid of the clog of the day. But acid ( if used right) will return the inside of the pipe to a proper smooth surface. And then water will flow, smooth as butter.

I work with acids everyday, so I am not afraid of them. They will burn you and that is all (unlike gasoline or wood strippers or countess other stuff which will give you a lymphoma 20 years later.)

Also, I have an old farm with threes houses, dating 1880. Which all used some old iron plumping, with pre-code methods. So, acid is a useful tool.

johnpost
07-22-2014, 12:37 PM
strong chemicals used in drain cleaning can blind you.

there are times when strong chemicals need to be used with know how and caution. often chemicals aren't a first resort compared to physical processes because of the danger involved. drain cleaning for the average person is one of them.

Snnipe 70E
07-22-2014, 11:09 PM
Seem to be a lot of acid bashers about. So I ask...have you ever seen the inside of an iron drainpipe? It is a jagged mess. Rust is strange stuff. Forums almost cryltaline stalgmites and stalagites throughout. Just waiting to snag some hair or tampons. Snaking will get rid of the clog of the day. But acid ( if used right) will return the inside of the pipe to a proper smooth surface. And then water will flow, smooth as butter.

I work with acids everyday, so I am not afraid of them. They will burn you and that is all (unlike gasoline or wood strippers or countess other stuff which will give you a lymphoma 20 years later.)

Also, I have an old farm with threes houses, dating 1880. Which all used some old iron plumping, with pre-code methods. So, acid is a useful tool.

When the acid removes all the stalgmites and stalagites where they were sitting the metal is thinner and the acid can make it even thinner an begin to leak. And I have seen the inside of more drain pipe than wanted to.

Snaking it with the proper cutter will remove the junk and not attack the pipe.

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