Viral Alerts Warn of "Drano Bomb" Danger

Netlore Archive

plastic bottles laying in the grass

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Since May of 2010, messages have been circulating via email and social media warn recipients to beware of Drano bombs (or bottle bombs), homemade explosive devices consisting of water, Drano, and aluminum foil in plastic bottles.

Viral Text Example

As shared on Facebook, Feb. 21, 2013.

Status: True (details below)

Kids are putting Drano, tin foil, 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 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, etc.
Pay attention to this. A plastic bottle with a cap. A little Drano. A little water. A small piece of foil. Disturb it by moving it; and BOOM!!
No fingers left and other serious effects to your face, eyes, etc.
Please ensure that everyone that may not have email access are also informed of this.

The Birth of Bottle Bombs

Homemade "bottle bombs" have been around for more than two decades, albeit known by a variety of different names, including "acid bombs," "Drano bombs," "works bombs," "pressure bombs" and "MacGyver bombs."

Any number of YouTube videos demonstrate how to construct and detonate them. Because they're made with common household ingredients they're a favorite of teenage pranksters, but police warn that the devices are unpredictable and dangerous. Would-be bottle bomb makers need to be aware that if caught they can be charged with a felony. Penalties can be quite severe if injuries or property damage result.

How a Drano Bomb Works

The way a Drano bomb works is simple. When the aluminum foil comes into contact with the Drano solution inside the plastic bottle, a strong chemical reaction occurs, releasing a gas which causes pressure to build up, and the bottle eventually explodes. The caustic, boiling liquid thrown off by such an explosion can cause second- or third-degree burns and/or blindness.

News reports of Drano bomb incidents (in which the activity is sometimes described as a "fad") have cropped up regularly since the early 1990s. An article published in the "Los Angeles Times" in March 1991 claimed at least eight adolescents had been injured in glass bottle bomb explosions after learning how to construct the devices from an episode of the TV show "MacGyver".

The 2010 warnings were prompted by specific incidents reported in April of that year, including the discovery of bottle bombs left in the yards of two houses in York Township, Michigan and a "rash" of attempted mailbox bombings in Methuen, Massachusetts.

New alerts began circulating via social media in February 2013 after a rash of Drano bomb mailbox explosions in Kennewick, Washington and the arrest of three people accused of setting off a bottle bomb in Commerce, Georgia.

In another 2013 incident, a 16-year-old high school student was expelled and arrested for "possession and discharge of a weapon on school grounds" in Bartow, Florida after detonating a Drano bomb in what was described as "an extracurricular science experiment."

Sources and Further Reading

Teens Charged with Exploding Drano Bomb in Commerce
"Athens Banner-Herald", 15 February 2013

Mailbox Bomb Attempts Spur $5K Reward Offer
"Eagle-Tribune", 24 April 2010

Police Warn of Pop Bottle Bombs Left in Yards in York Township, 18 April 2010

What's an Acid Bomb?, 28 November 2006

Homemade Chemical Bomb Events and Resulting Injuries
CDC report, 18 July 2003

Police Trying to Defuse Explosive Bottle Bomb Fad
"Dayton Daily News", 17 April 1994

Drano Bomb Fad Causing Concern
Associated Press, 29 May 1992

Rash of Injuries Blamed on Kids Imitating 'MacGyver'
"Los Angeles Times", 24 March 1991