Sodium hydroxide in household products

Two of the more common household products containing sodium hydroxide are drain cleaners and oven cleaners. When most pipes are clogged it is with a combination of fats and grease. Cleaners that contain sodium hydroxide (either as a solid or already dissolved in water) convert the fats to soap, which dissolves in water. In addition, when sodium hydroxide dissolves in water a great deal of heat is given off. This heat helps to melt the clog. Sodium hydroxide is very damaging to human tissue (especially eyes). If a large amount of solid drain cleaner is added to a clogged drain, the heat produced can actually boil the water, leading to a splash in the eyes of a solution caustic enough to cause blindness. Some drain cleaners also contain small pieces of aluminum metal. Aluminum reacts with sodium hydroxide in water to produce hydrogen gas. The bubbles of hydrogen gas help to agitate the mixture, helping to dislodge the clog.

Oven cleaners work by converting built up grease (fats and oils) into soap, which can then be dissolved and wiped off with a wet sponge.