Drain Cleaner Can Dissolve Glass

Bases Can Be as Corrosive as Acids

Bases like drain cleaner can be extremely corrosive.
Bases like drain cleaner can be extremely corrosive.

Just about everyone knows many acids are corrosive. For example, hydrofluoric acid can dissolve glass (a chemical you do not want to mess with). Did you know strong bases can be corrosive, too? An example of a base sufficiently corrosive to eat glass is sodium hydroxide (NaOH), which is a common solid drain cleaner. You can test this for yourself by setting a glass container in hot sodium hydroxide, but you need to be extremely careful.

Sodium hydroxide is perfectly capable of dissolving your skin in addition to glass. Also, it reacts with other chemicals, so you have be certain you perform this project in a steel or iron container. Test the container with a magnet if you are unsure, because the other metal commonly used in pans, aluminum, reacts vigorously with sodium hydroxide.

The sodium hydroxide reacts with the silicon dioxide in glass to form sodium silicate and water:

2NaOH + SiO2 → Na2SiO3 + H2O

Dissolving glass in molten sodium hydroxide probably won't do your pan any favors, so chances are you'll want to throw it out when you are done. Neutralize the sodium hydroxide with an acid before disposing of the pan or attempting to clean it. If you don't have access to a chemistry lab, this could be achieved with a whole lot of vinegar (weak acetic acid) or a smaller volume of muriatic acid (hydrochloric), or (since it's drain cleaner, after all), you can wash the sodium hydroxide away with lots and lots of water.

You may not be interested in destroying glassware for science, but it's still worth knowing why it is important to remove dishes from your sink if you are planning to use solid drain cleaner and why it's not a good idea to use more than the recommended amount of the product.

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Your Citation
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Drain Cleaner Can Dissolve Glass." ThoughtCo, Jul. 19, 2016, thoughtco.com/drain-cleaner-can-dissolve-glass-3975922. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2016, July 19). Drain Cleaner Can Dissolve Glass. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/drain-cleaner-can-dissolve-glass-3975922 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "Drain Cleaner Can Dissolve Glass." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/drain-cleaner-can-dissolve-glass-3975922 (accessed January 17, 2018).