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We’ve received several questions referring to online warnings about Drano bombs and the dangers of the homemade explosives. Here’s what we know.
The VERIFY team often hears from readers asking for accurate information when a potentially risky social media trend emerges.
Recently, several readers have asked us to look into Facebook posts about homemade “Drano bombs” made using drain cleaner Drano.
“Don’t pick up any plastic bottles that may be laying in your yards or in the gutter, etc. … 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. Share with everyone you know,” a portion of some of the Facebook posts say.
VERIFY viewer Barbara emailed us an example of one of those posts and asked if it was a real warning. Several other viewers texted and asked if making these dangerous bombs is a new social media trend.
Drano bombs are real and dangerous. News reports and warnings about the drain cleaner being used in homemade explosives have circulated online for years.
WHAT WE FOUND
The Facebook posts warn people to be careful picking up bottles because kids are making dangerous explosive devices with Drano and targeting unsuspecting people.
Warnings posted by government or police officials have also warned of plastic bottles that may actually be Drano bombs in disguise.
In 2012, KGW reported on Drano bombs after several of the homemade bombs were found placed in or around parks located in East Multnomah County, Oregon. Former Police Chief Ken Johnson told KGW that when picked up or moved, a chemical reaction takes place that can cause severe heat and an explosion that can injure or kill.
In September 2022, a 30-year-old Cincinnati man was arrested after he allegedly threw the homemade explosive at his ex-girlfriend’s home. According to the arrest affidavit filed in Hamilton County Municipal Court VERIFY found, police actually referred to the explosives as Drano bombs.
That man was sentenced in March 2023 to three years supervised probation for stalking and attempting to manufacture explosives.
Are the warnings about Drano bombs new?
No, the warnings about Drano bombs aren’t new. VERIFY found these same Facebook warnings dating back to at least 2016, and police have warned about them for more than a decade.
WHAT WE FOUND
VERIFY found dozens of these Facebook posts that were shared in recent weeks, and some that date back to at least 2016.
When the same exact text is shared repeatedly across social media or other places online, that is known as copypasta. Copypasta is a block of text which is copied and pasted across the internet through forums or on social media. In this case, these copypasta posts are crime warnings.
But that doesn’t mean the warnings are recent or necessarily indicative of a new trend. In this case, VERIFY searched for publicized incidents that involved Drano bombs and found that people have been making these homemade incendiary devices for years. And articles have been published online about Drano bombs for more than a decade.
In 2012, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) sent a safety bulletin to all 76 police precincts warning of the threat of Drano bombs. A New York Times blog post included information from the bulletin, saying when the devices explode, people can be injured by shrapnel from the broken container or suffer chemical burns.
The City of Kokomo, Indiana’s warning that included the text seen in the Facebook posts told people to not touch any discarded plastic bottles that may be left in yards or gutters. An article posted in 2020 warns people that if you see a plastic bottle with aluminum foil floating it in, back away.
In 2013, a Florida teenager made national headlines after her high school science experiment went awry. Kiera Wilmot used the same chemicals found in a Drano bomb for the experiment and it caused a small explosion. No one was hurt and no property was damaged, but Wilmot was arrested and nearly expelled. Criminal charges were eventually dropped and she graduated from high school.
In 2017, a Drano bomb was found along a park trail in Germantown, Maryland – no one was hurt in that instance. That same year a 12-year-old girl in New York City was severely burned after she kicked a bottle that ended up being a Drano bomb while playing at a playground.
In February 2022, a home was evacuated in Dundee, Michigan, after a Drano bomb caused a small explosion and a second device was found. No one was hurt and police believed two juveniles were responsible for the homemade explosives.
And unlike what the social posts suggest, it’s not only kids that are making them.
In May 2023, a 35-year-old man in Queens, New York, was arrested after throwing an explosive onto a local rooftop. Police found a two-liter bottle of Pepsi and an empty bottle of Drano nearby, ABC7 reported. NYPD at the time said they had video of the man making the concoction. No injuries were reported.
In 2012, after a Drano bomb was found at a local elementary school in Lincoln County, Oregon, former Sheriff Curtis Landers provided tips on what to do if you suspect a bottle is a Drano bomb.
- Do not under any circumstances touch the suspected bomb.
- If possible, isolate the bomb and evacuate the immediate area.
- Do not put the bomb in water or a confined space. Refer to #1.
- If you have any reason to believe this is a bomb, do not take a chance or worry about possible embarrassment if the item turns out to be harmless.
- Call 9-1-1 immediately for professional assistance.