THE WORKS Toilet Cleaner Blows!

by Gayle Leonard on Monday, October 12, 2009

In an incident sure to go on their permanent records, four South Carolina college students were arrested after detonating several “Works Bombs” in an around their dorm. A “Works Bomb” is a new one by me, but is apparently a well-known prank among our idle youth, with many how-to’s and videos abounding across the internet. And no wonder, because with just an empty plastic bottle, “The Works” toilet bowl cleaner and some aluminum foil, any idiot can become a frathouse legend for years to come. From wistv.com,

via wistiv.com: State Law Enforcement Division on the scene.

via wistiv.com: A State Law Enforcement Division van on the scene.

Four Newberry College students were arrested and charged Thursday, accused of causing multiple explosions in a dormitory which led to an evacuation and police search of the building…[snip]..college Vice President Chuck Wendt told students a water bottle filled with toilet bowl disinfectant was set off in the parking lot of Brokaw Hall at around 11:30pm Tuesday….[snip]..Wendt said another device was set off in the dorm’s first floor lobby at 12:50am. Sheriff Foster said officers in the area mistook the sound for a gunshot and investigated, but could not find the source of the blast. At around noon Wednesday, a third device went off. The dorm was evacuated as agents from the State Law Enforcement Division searched the building with police dogs and a robot.

It’s actually a “pressure bomb” caused by gas buildup from the reaction of the hydrochloric acid in “The Works” and the aluminum foil.

How’s it work? Thanks to thechemistrytwig.com, here’s the science in a nutshell:

The chemistry explanation:  The aluminum foil in your kitchen is coated with a type of wax.  This is to prevent you from being burned by the aluminum since it is a strong skin irritant.  The Works toilet bowl cleaner (and some others) contains hydrochloric acid.  The acid strips the coating away, exposing the aluminum.  Hydrochloric acid reacts rapidly with aluminum to produce Aluminum Chloride (soluble) and Hydrogen gas.  Here’s the reaction:
3HCl(aq) + Al(s) –> AlCl3(aq) + 3H(g)

Like many fun and irresponsible acts, this can be dangerous! Hydrochloric acid can burn your skin and your eyes and kill green living things!  You should observe all safety procedures when handling it. (Who knew toilet bowl cleaner could be this toxic?)  The remnants of the explosion may well contain acid. So understand, careless people: this is very dangerous!  Naturally, we are not responsible for any injuries or legal consequences caused by some numbskull reading this and attempting it. This information is for educational purposes. Now go away and put the knowledge to use and study for your chemistry test.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Sup peeps April 2, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Hey, i am working on this kind of stuff, and im only 12, so im sorta young to be doin this.ANYWAYS… if you want a bomb, with a fiery explosion, cut the bottle in half, put plastic wrap around it and melt it back together. put tinfoil shards in the top layer and T.B. cleaner in the bottom. make a big tin ball and put toothpicks through it, THEN shake it up WITH a lighter taped around it. Shake it so the toothpicks Perice the plastic wrap MANY times. then chuck it with cap on it, taped with duct tape.

Sup peeps April 2, 2010 at 3:23 pm

Also, to make a rocket, make a stand and put a cork in the bottle and forget the lighter.Shake it till the plastic wrap breaks, place it upside down on the stand, AND RUN LIKE HELLLLL!!!

Sup peeps April 2, 2010 at 3:25 pm

Click my name and sign up. PLEASE!!!!!!

Theresa July 25, 2012 at 5:29 am

“The Works” toilet bowl cleaner should be banned from sale anywhere. I almost lost my life two weeks ago from cleaning my bathroom; the hydrochloric acid and whatever else is in The Works caused a chemical reaction with my regular all purpose bathroom cleaner. I spent six days in the hospital; two of them in ICU with my family being told that I may not make it through the night. I have severe lung damage and I think a little bit of brain, minor brain damage due to the loss of oxygen to my lungs and brain. I passed out; thank God my Daughter was home with me and called 911. Never EVER spray another cleaner when there is toilet bowl cleaner still sitting. Damaged for life from this; lesson learned the hard way. I can’t believe they can sell this stuff!

johnathan June 3, 2013 at 3:21 pm

Any of you thinking of making a works bomb think twice besides the usual damage itll cause if u get caught by the cops itll be a felony charge depending on ur state u live in it may or may not stay on your permanent record and u will be on a no fly list as well it culd be considered a terrorist threat American or not trust me when i say this i was young and dumb at one time i got caught and got charged but my record is clean now and its staying that way

john June 3, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Also the reaction has no time set on it! It could go off in am hour or explode as soon as u put the cap on

mary mike January 10, 2014 at 7:14 am

Is The works bad for septic systems?

ImaPHAN February 3, 2014 at 9:49 am

Ummm…It’s not legal…hm, wish I knew that before I did it. :( But btw mine works amazingly. No one got hurt, it started smoking withn about 35 secs and then blew up about 30 secs after that. I had my 8 year old sister with me and we are both fine. Just make sure and were eye pretection (Sunglasses, shooting glasses ect.) and were gloves while picking up the remains of the bottle and tin foil pieces. Note: We did this in a open space out in the middle of NOWHERE. Not a good idea to do it in a house, inclosed area, or near people, houses, or plants. :D

ImaPHAN February 3, 2014 at 9:51 am

Also, DON’T BREATH IN THE SMOKE! It’s not good for you and like a differant person that commented said, it can be SUPER dangerous. And people, please don’t try to be funny and through this at your friend or something dumb like that.

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