Cleaning and disinfecting your home are both effective ways to prevent the spread of illnesses and disease, according to the CDC. Bleach, a chemical that is diluted with water and sold for household use, is a popular disinfectant that can kill most bacteria, fungi and viruses.
Is it safe to mix bleach with other household cleaners?
No, it is not safe to mix bleach with other household cleaners.
WHAT WE FOUND
You should “never mix household bleach with any other cleaners or disinfectants,” the CDC says, because doing so “can release vapors that may be very dangerous to breathe in.” The Washington State Department of Health, Utah Department of Health and The Clorox Company, a global manufacturer of household cleaning products, all agree.
“Don't mix bleach with ammonia, acids, or other cleaners,” the Washington State Department of Health warns on its website. “Mixing bleach with common cleaning products can cause serious injuries.”
The Washington State Department of Health explains that when bleach is mixed with ammonia, toxic gasses called chloramines are produced. If a person is exposed to chloramine gas, it can cause harmful symptoms, including coughing, nausea, shortness of breath, watery eyes, chest pain, irritation to the throat, nose, and eyes, wheezing, and even pneumonia.
The Clorox Company warns on its website that the combination could be deadly.
Ammonia can be found in some glass and window cleaners, interior and exterior paints, and in urine, therefore, it is important to use caution when cleaning litter boxes, diaper pails, or toilet bowls, the Washington State Department of Health says.
Sodium hypochlorite, the active ingredient in chlorine bleach, is found in household bleach and many other disinfectants. Sodium hypochlorite can react with ammonia, drain cleaners and other acids, according to the Washington State and Utah health departments. When chlorine bleach is mixed with cleaning products that contain acid, it could produce chlorine gas.
“Chlorine gas exposure, even at low levels and short periods of time, almost always irritates the mucous membranes (eyes, throat, and nose), and causes coughing and breathing problems, burning and watery eyes, and a runny nose,” the Washington State Department of Health says. “Higher levels of exposure can cause chest pain, more severe breathing difficulties, vomiting, pneumonia, and fluid in the lungs. Very high levels can cause death.”
Cleaning products that contain acids include vinegar, some glass and window cleaners, automatic dishwasher detergents and rinses, toilet bowl cleaners, drain cleaners, rust removal products, and brick and concrete cleaners. Bleach also reacts with some oven cleaners, hydrogen peroxide, and some insecticides, so it is very important to always read the product label before using a cleaning product.
The American Cleaning Institute, an organization that represents producers of household, industrial, and institutional cleaning products, also says “it’s dangerous to mix bleach with other cleaning agents.” On its website, it shares some helpful tips on how to safely clean with bleach, including:
- Dilute the bleach with water at room temperature unless otherwise stated on the label.
- Pre-clean the surface with soap and water before disinfecting because bleach becomes less effective when there’s dirt on the surface.
- Wear gloves to protect your skin, and wash your hands with soap and water after you’re done disinfecting.
- Ventilate the room while you’re using bleach.
- Rinse food contact surfaces and toys with water, after the bleach has been left on the surface for as long as recommended on the label.
- Store the bleach out of reach of children and pets.
If you or someone you know has been exposed to a chemical mixture and is experiencing symptoms of illness, you should contact a healthcare provider or call the emergency response service in your area.
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