For many years bleach has been a go-to product for cleaning and disinfecting our homes, businesses, and anyplace else that needs a good cleaning/sanitizing.
In this week's blog, we are going to take a look at some of the truths about bleach use that are less than pleasant.
"Bleach is a highly hazardous chemical that can be found in many cleaning supplies such as toilet cleaners, stain removers, and even tile residue removers. Unfortunately, many households use these products without the slightest of (sic) clue that it contains chemicals within its composition that can taint the indoor air and potentially impact the health of those exposed to these dangerous chemicals in the air." (1)
In and of itself, bleach is an effective disinfectant and is often recommended as the go-to product by several industries. When serving as the program director of a group home, the Minnesota Department of Health required us to use a water/bleach mix for everything several times a day. That was several years ago, but bleach is still widely used today, maybe even more so in the past couple of years.
But is bleach okay for daily or even weekly use?
Let's look at a few things.
What is bleach?
According to Wikipedia "Bleach is the generic name for any chemical product that is used industrially and domestically to remove the color from fabric or fiber or to clean or to remove stains in a process called bleaching. It often refers, specifically, to a dilute solution of sodium hypochlorite, also called "liquid bleach".
Many bleaches have broad-spectrum bactericidal properties, making them useful for disinfecting and sterilizing, and are used in swimming pool sanitation to control bacteria, viruses, and algae and in many places where sterile conditions are required. They are also used in many industrial processes, notably in the bleaching of wood pulp. Bleaches also have other minor uses like removing mildew, killing weeds, and increasing the longevity of cut flowers.
"Chlorine, a powerful oxidizer, is the active agent in many household bleaches. Since pure chlorine is a toxic corrosive gas, these products usually contain hypochlorite, which releases chlorine when needed. "Bleaching powder" usually means a formulation containing calcium hypochlorite.
Oxidizing bleaching agents that do not contain chlorine are usually based on peroxides such as hydrogen peroxide, sodium percarbonate, and sodium perborate. These bleaches are called 'non-chlorine bleach,' 'oxygen bleach' or 'color-safe bleach.'"
Given the above description of some of the chemical agents, bleach may not always seem like the best "first-choice." (2)
Perhaps the $100,000 question is this: Is bleach safe?
According to an AARP article titled 6 things you should never do with bleach, "liquid bleach can be a safe and efficient cleaner and disinfectant when handled correctly but can be rather harmful when not used properly. Though a staple in American homes for more than a century, many households appear to be unfamiliar with its potential dangers." (3)
The fact is, that bleach by itself is not a "cleaner," but is useful as a disinfectant. Bleach, when combined with certain chemicals can be a good cleaner, but it still may not be the safest or best option.
According to the article found at EnviroKlenz Air Purifiers, "The inherent risks and dangers of bleach is a commonly known threat, as the warning labels listed on this product clearly addresses – including risks if swallowed and other exposure risks. According to a publication that addresses Bleach Toxicity, they concluded the following about the toxicity risks of bleach;
“The toxicity of bleach depends on where it is applied. Bleach can cause significant eye irritation and irritation to the mouth and throat. A dangerous threat of bleach is when this chemical agent is mixed with other household cleaners, such as ammonia.” (1)
According to a fact sheet used to teach about bleach (4) breathing in bleach fumes can be dangerous especially for young children whose lungs are still developing.
If you have used bleach, you also are aware that the fumes can be nasty. But there are many ways you can be harmed by bleach. According to a fact sheet from the Michigan Department of Community Health, you can be harmed in the following ways: (5)
You can be harmed by bleach by breathing in the chlorine gas it releases, by drinking it, or by touching it.
Breathing - People using chlorine-containing household products such as laundry bleach are not usually exposed to chlorine gas when bleach is used as directed on the label. However, you can be exposed to harmful levels of chlorine gas if bleach is mixed with products that contain acid, such as toilet bowl cleaner, or products that contain ammonia.
Drinking - People can be harmed by drinking products that contain high amounts of bleach. Drinking water from a municipal water supply has very low levels of chlorine; not enough to be a risk to your health.
Touching - Chlorine can irritate or burn the skin, especially moist areas such as the mouth. Chlorine does not absorb very well into the skin, but a small amount can pass through.
Eye contact – Your eyes can be exposed to chlorine in the air or through contact with water that contains chlorine. Moisture on the eye combines with chlorine to form an acid, causing burning and irritation.
From experience, I can tell you that mixing bleach with other household cleaners is a big no-no! When I was younger and just starting out as a housekeeper, I needed to clean some really nasty showers so I mixed bleach with toilet bowl cleaner... BIG MISTAKE!
Fortunately, we had other bathroom facilities within the building and I was able to close off the shower part for the rest of the day and let it air out. The smell was still there for several days afterward, however.
I never made that mistake again. After that mishap, I was much more careful to read the labels on products before I used them.
Why use bleach when there is a better, longer-lasting, safer alternative?
Vital Oxide is a great alternative to using bleach. It doesn't have the toxic fumes or other dangerous chemicals that can cause you, your children, or your pets problems. (Always keep cleaners, disinfectants, sanitizers out of reach of children and pets!)
Vital Oxide can be safely used on surfaces that need sanitizing. It kills microbes, bacteria, and other icky things that could harm us humans and our second step, BioProtect, keeps them away for up to 90 days!
Can bleach say that? Nope, in fact, bleach has a shelf life of about six months before it starts to degrade—even when stored in its original container. If it is diluted with water, it is much shorter. (6)
Check out this article for more information about Vital Oxide and its many uses.
Do you have more questions? Find an agent near you who will be happy to assist you.