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Chemistry question

I use liquid drain cleaner to dissolve the gross organic matter from my fellow humans jewelry before working on it. I keep Liquid-Plumr in a lidded jar and then set it in the sonic basket to clean off the crud. It says it contains sodium hypochlorite and sodium hydroxide.

This my question. Does this stuff become saturated or does its chemical composition change once it reacts with and dissolves organic matter and so lose its potency or possibly become inert?

I’ve wondered because over time my little jar of drain cleaner works less well. But a larger concern is in the bigger picture, I’ve wondered about the millions of gallons of it that gets poured into our local water treatment and septic systems. Does it change to a less harmful solution once it reacts with the stuff in our drains or does it remain just as potent and only becomes diluted?


Sodium hypochlorite is simply household bleach. Sodium hydroxide is more powerful, also known as caustic soda, used in all manner of industrial processes. You can still buy it in anhydrous form (dried granules), very useful for melting away organic matter in drains. If you get it on your skin, in a few minutes your skin will get slippery - that’s your skin being dissolved. After dipping rings in this brew I’d be sure to remove it completely, ideally a long bath in the ultrasonic. Both these chemicals will dissolve precious metals, but it takes days and weeks, unlike acids, which act much quicker in the proper blend. I worked in a chemical plant that made $1 million dollars of this stuff every 11 days - and that’s a lot of RR tankers. All the process lines were made of nickel, the metal most resistant to its corrosive action. Being a base, it is neutralized by a proper amount of acid, one of the first things done at a water treatment plant. I wouldn’t worry too much, its just another of the thousands of toxic substances which make modern life so pleasant.

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Interesting. Thanks!

H Mark,

I was concerned by one thing you said, that you keep your Liquid Plumber in a lidded jar. NaOH should be stored in plastic containers, and not glass (I’m assuming you meant a glass jar) for at lease a couple of reasons. For one, the compound actually dissolves glass, and two if the jar is dropped and shatters, you’ll have a dangerous corrosive splatter your studio.

Check Sigma-Aldrich’s product info sheet:


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That is very good to know. Thanks Alec. It is in a plastic lidded container (I probably shouldn’t have called it a jar) with an internal lift out basket so I think we’re good.

Years ago I remember using some platinum investment removing solution that did not come with instructions or a material data sheet, it just came with the investment. It turned out to be Hydrofluoric acid which dissolved our beakers. I asked a friend if it was dangerous, he said, oh not all…it is just easily absorbed through your skin, gets into your blood stream and bones. It won’t do anything but kill you slowly and painfully…or possibly quickly.

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