How To: Make a Hydrogen Fireball from Aluminum Foil and Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Make a Hydrogen Fireball from Aluminum Foil and Toilet Bowl Cleaner

How to Make a Hydrogen Fireball from Aluminum Foil and Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Balloons are fun, but the helium ones are always more entertaining. So today, we're going to learn how to make hydrogen gas by combining toilet bowl cleaner with aluminum foil. With hydrogen, you get the same lighter-than-air properties of helium, plus it will explode! Historically, this has proven disastrous, but for our tiny-scale experiments, it will be safe and fun!

Materials

  • "The Works" brand toilet bowl cleaner (20% hydrochloride)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Balloon
  • Glass bottle
  • Long match

How to Make a Hydrogen Fireball from Aluminum Foil and Toilet Bowl Cleaner

I found the specified toilet bowl cleaner at Walmart.

Step 1 Pour the Cleaner

Pour 100 ml of the cleaner into your glass jar. You can afford to approximate, because the reaction size will be limited by the amount of aluminum we add later on.

How to Make a Hydrogen Fireball from Aluminum Foil and Toilet Bowl Cleaner

As usual, I guesstimated based on the volume label on the bottle.

Step 2 Prepare Foil

Cut a 6 inch square peace of tinfoil to put into the bottle. Do not use a bigger piece, as it could cause the bottle to crack and the balloon to explode and throw burning liquid around the room. Crumple the foil up so that it will fit through the neck of the glass bottle.

How to Make a Hydrogen Fireball from Aluminum Foil and Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Don't make a sheet any larger than 6 inches!

Step 3 Get Safe

Put on your safety goggles. Move the experiment to a place that you don't mind getting soaked in boiling liquid. Also, be sure to get your balloon ready and accessible for the next step.

How to Make a Hydrogen Fireball from Aluminum Foil and Toilet Bowl Cleaner

You can find decent safety goggles in the paint section of your local hardware store.

Step 4 Add the Foil and Cover the Bottle

Push your crumpled aluminum foil into the bottle and immediately cover the top with your balloon. You have about 30 seconds before the reaction gets violent, so do this right away. Once the balloon is secure, stand back a few feet and watch the reaction.

Step 5 Harvest Hydrogen

Wait for the bottle to cool and remove the balloon from the top. Twisting it several times before removing it will help keep the gas inside while you tie the knot. Take your hydrogen gas outside and light it on fire with a long match. The gas will disperse and burn as the balloon pops, so don't use a lighter or a regular match. You will be too close to avoid getting burned.

I was so excited to make hydrogen. This inspires dreams of making hydrogen Zeppelin drones! What would you do with some homemade hydrogen? Let us know in the comments. If you try this out at home, post up a video or some photos on the corkboard. If you have any questions, just hit the forum. I am always happy to help out!

26 Comments

I remember blowing up hydrogen bubbles in chemistry! Good times...and good to know you can make hydrogen from household items? I guess you could use Muriatic solution or vomit also? Acid-metal reactions are awesome! :)

Let me know if you test your vomit hypothesis.

Haha ok, next time I get the flu? :)

lol! zink works great too :) next one should be Electrolysis! :)

Literally writing the electrolysis article as of the moment you posted that comment.

Hey i dont got that 20% hydrochloride cleaner but i am having a 10.5% hydrochloride cleaner. should i increase the amount of cleaner if yes, by how much? please give suggestions.

The reaction is limited by the reactant that has the fewest moles, which will be the aluminum so it shouldn't matter too much. The main point is to generate hydrogen gas. Since you have a lower concentration of HCl the reaction might proceed slower, but you should get the same effect when you blow up the balloon? :)

I tried using 10% first and the reaction took over 24 hours. Yes you should double the amount of cleaner you use. I had trouble finding the works brand cleaner but finally tracked it down at walmart for less than 2 bucks.

you could also go into your average hardware store and purchase muratic/hydrochloric acid, those generally have quite a good concentrate.

Thanks for the advice. Is it sold under that name?

Muratic acid. Hydrochloric acid is the chemical name.

Muratic acid is very corrosive i have seen it rusting shelves in hardware stores while sealed in the container. BE VERY CAREFUL and USE SAFETY EQUIPMENT, Goggles, gloves etc.

if you live in australia or holland you probaly wont have a wallmart anywhere near you,so go to your local hardware store and buy a bottle of hydrochloric acid (this is what it will say on the bottle)this is pretty much ten times concentrate of the works toilet cleaner,if you want to make a "the works bomb",use hydrochloric acid in an empty coke bottle,put in alluminium foil in,put cap on and throw,it wont make any fire unless you throw it next to a fire,it will blow up in your face if you dont run after throwing it or placing it next to a fire,it just will make the sound of 20 shotguns going off at once

KOH, or Sodium Hydroxide works the best. You can find it at your local hardware store (plumbing cleaner). Make sure you get the one that is 100% Lye. Make sure you wear gloves. Its highly corrosive. It works great for Electrolysis as well!!! :) BTW, if you use cleaning products with chemicals other than the base, reactions will produce poisonous gases as well. Experiment at your own risk!

  1. Wear gloves!
  2. Test your reactants first and/or use a dropper apparatus to avoid overreactions like you had. If the balloon burst, getting the reactant on your face probably wouldn't make for a fun afternoon.
  3. Have a backup plan to slow the reaction if you're not sure. Having the bottle in a water bath (as a thermal sink) and that you can dump ammonium nitrate in would be a good one (if your glass will tolerate the temperature shock).
  4. Preferably use an overflow bottle and plastic reaction-ware. (Don't use an overflow bottle and glass(ware) together, because if your gas-line clogged, flying glass will be even less fun than flying hydroxide).

How d you know that hydrogen is being produced?

The gas created fills the balloon!

It might be a good idea to put the rolled up aluminum foil in the balloon then attach the balloon before letting the aluminum drop down that way your not messing with it while the reaction is in process.

As drain cleaner and aluminium foil reacts it releases hedrogen

Can you give me the format of this experiment? please please please, i need it

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