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Drano Bottle Bomb Warning Message (True)

by Brett M. Christensen

This story was first published on August 12th, 2011

Outline

Circulating message claims that dangerous bottle bombs made from Drano and other commonly available substances are being left on lawns, mail boxes, driveways and other places where they can potentially cause serious injury to unsuspecting people who pick them up. 

Brief Analysis

The potential threat described is real. Homemade chemical bottle bombs can indeed be made from commonly available substances, including Drano. Young pranksters have been creating such bombs for decades and a number of injuries have resulted, both to the bomb makers themselves and people who have inadvertently handled the devices.

Example

Subject: SERIOUS: Please read and pass on to others – hopefully it does not start to happen here…

Perth kids have started putting Drano, [other items], and a little water in plastic drink bottles and capping it up – leaving it on lawns, in mail boxes, in gardens, on driveways etc. Just waiting for you to pick it up intending to put it in the rubbish, but you’ll never make it! !!

If the bottle is picked up, and the bottle is shaken even just a little – in about 30 seconds or less it builds up enough gas which then explodes with enough force to remove some of your extremities. The liquid that comes out is boiling hot as well.

Don’t pick up any plastic bottles that may be lying in your yards or in the gutter,Disturb it by moving it; and it explodes at instant high temperature.

Don’t pick up any plastic bottles that may be lying in your yards or in the gutter, etc.

Pay attention to this.

Detailed Analysis

According to this warning message, which has been circulating in various incarnations since around May 2010, kids are using drain cleaning chemical, Drano, along with other household items and water to construct bottle bombs. The message claims that the bottle bombs are being left in or on mailboxes, lawns, driveways and other conspicuous places where they may injure unsuspecting people who pick them up. The message warns that if the primed bottle bombs are picked up and shaken even a little, they may explode and potentially cause serious injury to people holding them.
The potential threat described in the warning is real. Bottle bombs can be constructed from easily procured everyday items and chemicals, including Drano and plastic drink bottles. Moreover, teenage pranksters in many parts of the world have been making and detonating such devices for decades. The devices are also known as MacGyver bombs, acid bombs, works bombs and soda bombs.

When the drain cleaning chemical and the other substances combine, a powerful chemical reaction occurs. This chemical reaction releases a gas which can build up pressure in the plastic bottle until it explodes, spewing out an extremely hot and caustic liquid. The devices have caused a number of injuries, including serious chemical burns, eye irritation or blindness, limb and facial injuries and hearing damage.

Many of these injuries have been sustained by the young bomb makers themselves. However, a number of innocent people have also been injured by the devices, often after they picked up what they thought were just discarded drink bottles.

News reports going back decades describe many incidents involving homemade bottle bombs. Unfortunately, the Internet has given youngsters virtually instant access to detailed reports that describe exactly how to make bottle bombs using not only Drano but other commonly available ingredients as well. There are many YouTube videos that show how to make the bombs and how they subsequently explode.

One common version of the warning that is currently circulating in Australia suggests that kids in Perth, Western Australia have recently began making Drano bottle bombs. While such incidents have indeed occurred in Perth – in 2009, a 60 year old  man received hand injuries after he picked up a bottle bomb left in his letterbox – it should be noted that bottle bomb incidents have been reported in many other cities and towns both in Australia and elsewhere, not just Perth.

Some versions of the warning that are currently circulating imply that such nefarious bottle bomb antics are something new. However, as noted above, bottle bomb making has a long and sorry history. Spates of bottle bomb incidents have been reported in various locations around the world. In many cases the bombs explode or are disposed of without causing injury. Often, the homemade bombs do not go off at all.

But, the advice in the message to be cautious of plastic bottles that you may see lying around is certainly worth heeding.



Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,
Hoax-Slayer