The Chemistry of Works Drain Cleaner


I decided to do the science of Works Drain Cleaner because I have always been interested in how it works. Most People use this without a care of how it even functions. Works drain cleaner rapidly cleans the gunk out of drains with aggressive success. This will also explain the reasoning behind aluminum pipes are never used in residential homes.

Composition of ...

The reason you never use aluminum pipes is because if you pour drain cleaner down it will react with the aluminum in the pipes and cause an exothermic reaction. Drain cleaner is not naturally occurring, it is processed in factories and mass produced for the public. Although it is not naturally occurring, the elements that cause the base reaction are. Both Hydrochloric acid and aluminum are found naturally occurring in different parts of the earth. Those elements alone would cause close to the same reaction.

Main Chemicals, Compounds, Components

The breakdown: Aluminum is usually coated in wax(Crayotherm) (Al2O3) to prevent irritation of skin in normal use, and drain cleaner's(usually the brand “Works”, because it contains a high amount of hydrochloric acid (HCl)(aq)) hydrochloric acid, the main ingredient in this reaction.

Chemistry's Role

Hydrochloric acid(HCl)(aq) quickly strips the foil of its wax(sometimes also used as wax coating is (C30H62)) and quickly begins reacting with the aluminum. Thus creating Aluminum Chloride(2AlCl3) along with hydrogen gas(3H(g)). The rapid creation of this gas along with a the by product of 2AlCl3(aq) (very hot acidic substance) is what causes pressure and deterioration in the pipes resulting in the over pressurized bust of the pipes and would cause damage to the water system. This whole reaction looks like this [6HCl(aq) + 2Al(s) –> 2AlCl3(aq) + 3H2(g)]

Background Research

Breaking apart the ingredients in drain cleaner we find the cause of the reaction is the hydrogen chloride bonding with the aluminum. Aluminum pipes is not straight aluminum as opposed to contrary belief, because if it was the aluminum bonds with the oxygen in the air and then would undergo a reaction 4Al(S) + 3 O2 (G) => 2Al2O3 (S), therefore there is a thin layer of wax to prevent it from oxidizing. Usually the resulting composition of aluminum is Al2O3.


About the Author

Rick Whitaker is a student at Senior High class of 2013 and loves the latest nuances in science and experiencing them first hand. He is going to the college of technology to get a degree in Systems and networking. In his spare time he loves to play soccer along with build computers and websites for people for work.