On 11 May 2018, the Facebook page ViralHog shared a video purporting to show a small amount of Monster Energy Drink outperforming industrial brake cleaner in the task of removing grime from a workbench:
While we are in no position to verify the authenticity of what is presented in this specific video, we can say that the scenario presented is entirely plausible from a scientific standpoint.
Brake cleaner is designed primarily to dissolve the oil found on brake pads, along with the dirt and metal particulates that get entrapped in that oil. For this reason, brake cleaner is made from organic solvents that dissolve motor oil — which is itself an organic compound. In the ViralHog video, the presenter first attempts to clean grime off of a metal workbench using Autozone non-chlorinated brake cleaner, which is made from a combination of two solvents: toluene and heptane.
We do not know the chemical makeup of the black grime on the table, but if that material isn’t dominantly oil based, it is would not be surprising that organic solvents — which dissolve things chemically similar to themselves — would be ineffective against the recalcitrant material on that workbench.
On the other hand, Monster Energy Drink contains, among other acids, citric acid — which is often used as a cleaning agent. More broadly, the liquid is highly acidic, according to the American Dental Association, with a pH of 3.48. Acids clean though entirely different chemical methods than solvents. While solvents typically dissolve a chemical into a solution, they do not alter the chemical they are removing. Acids, on the other hand, can chemically alter the metal to make it shinier, and also chemically break apart a range of other materials:
Particulates, smoke, and other environmental soils tend to be responsive to acid solutions. This makes acid-type cleaners especially popular for exterior applications. In addition, any solution with a pH at either end of the spectrum reacts with metals. While this reaction creates a significant mechanical (bubbling) action that contributes to cleaning effectiveness, it also removes a small layer of the metal the solution reacts with.
Acidic cleaners, as opposed to solvent-based cleaners, are a common feature of bathroom cleaning products that require the removal of hard mineral deposits, among other things. Without knowing the specific circumstances in the video, it is impossible to speak with complete confidence about its authenticity, but scientifically it is far from an outlandish proposition.
Importantly, however, this does not mean that one should go ahead and start using Monster instead of brake cleaner. It simply means that the highly acidic liquid contained within the beverage has the ability to remove certain chemicals and make metal shiny, as displayed in the viral video, and as predicted by chemistry.
Autozone.com. “Material Safety Data Sheet 232554”
Accessed 12 May 2018.
Montes, Ingrid, et al. “Like Dissolves Like: A Guided Inquiry Experiment for Organic Chemistry.”
Journal of Chemical Education. 1 April 2003.
Reddy, Avanija, et al. “The pH of Beverages in the United States.”
Journal of the American Dental Association. 1 December 2015.
ACHR News. “Acid, Alkaline, or Neutral Cleaners?”
11 May 2000.
HP Products Blog. “How Cleaning Chemicals Work”
6 November 2015.