The Truth About Cleaning With Bleach

bleach-147520_1280Many people over-use bleach because of the cultural idea that the whiter things are, the cleaner they are. Among other items, this may apply to clothes, sheets, bathtubs, kitchen sinks, and dishes.

It seems like a convenient chemical that can be used for quite a few purposes, and it is- the problem is that bleach has negative effects on both human/animal health and the environment as a whole. There are two main categories of bleach: chlorine based and non-chlorine based.

Chlorine bleach is the most commonly purchased type, and is usually the most harmful. Bleach usually acts as an oxidizing agent in order to whiten things, but not always. The main harmful ingredient in chlorine-based bleach is called sodium hypochlorite.

Common Bleach Types

  • Sodium hypochlorite
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Calcium hypochlorite
  • Calcium peroxide

Bleach is sometimes the easiest solution to a problem, and many of the ill effects it causes occur over time. However, even occasional bleach use may be unwise. Did you know that government regulations by the Occupational Safety And Healthy Administration for bleach use in the workplace require that employees wear gloves and goggles/masks, and that the area be well ventilated?

It is a strong carcinogen according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and may cause asthma in those who are exposed to it as children. Certain countries have laws that limit the use of chlorine-based bleach because of just how harmful it is proven to be.

A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that exposure to dioxin, a toxic byproduct of sodium hypochlorite, significantly increases the risk of long-term issues like diabetes, respiratory disease, lung cancer, and lymphoma.

Common Side Effects

  • Respiratory irritation
  • Stinging of the eyes
  • Burning of the skin
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Fainting

Recurrent or prolonged exposure to bleach can lead to far worse effects, including but not limited to scarring of the airway, nervous system damage, cancer, asthma, birth defects, and potentially death. The cancer-causing effects of bleach and chlorine have been proven in many scientific experiments and studies. It’s actually pretty scary to think about just how often you’re exposed to bleach.

White grains like bread are chemically bleached during production, most packaged water has chlorine in it, swimming pools are often treated with bleach and/or chlorine, many white clothing items are bleached; printer paper, baby diapers, toilet paper, feminine hygiene products, notebook paper, and tissues are all commonly bleached, too. Simply wearing bleached clothing is bad for us, and it can cause skin and respiratory problems over time.

Most of the items that are commercially bleached simply do not need to be, and as for the household, there are plenty of other products that are less harmful to people, animals, and the environment. There are also simple recipes online for creating homemade, eco-friendly, inexpensive, and safe cleaners.

Effects On The Environment

  • Bleach is often disposed of wrongly, such as down sink drains, rather than being treated like the harsh, caustic chemical that it is. This results in water pollution. Chlorine bleach can be very reactive, and it often produces other toxic molecules in the water. Some of these are extremely harmful and may take a long time to dissipate.
  • Air pollution is also a result of the over-use of chlorine bleach. It is significantly harmful to inhale bleach fumes, and while chemicals in the air do dissipate over large areas of space, they still build up in the atmosphere. The effects of bleach air pollution are especially prominent near factories that produce or use bleach every day, and for people, plants, and animals that are exposed to it frequently.
  • Among other chemicals, dioxin is responsible for damage to wildlife. It has led to the decline in many populations of animals like fish and birds, and when populations of animals start to disappear, it often has a domino effect on the animals higher up the food chain. Some of the chemicals that are created in the water because of bleach are so corrosive that they can cause gene mutations in animals.
  • Obviously, the fact that animals are exposed to these chemicals is a huge problem- but it gets worse. Because these chemicals linger in the water, their levels are building up over time. These negative effects will continue to get worse until chlorine bleach stops being used as often as it is. The problems that dioxin and other chlorine-derived toxins cause in fish and other wildlife will cause more harm to humans as time goes on.
  • A 2010 scientific article in the Chemosphere journal demonstrated that exposure to sodium hypochlorite triggered oxidative stress in fish; oxidative stress causes cell death and damage throughout the body.

Safer Bleach Alternatives

  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Vinegar
  • Baking Soda
  • Lemon Juice
  • White vinegar

Homemade bleach recipes often involved a few of the above ingredients mixed together.

There are so many varieties out there, but hydrogen peroxide mixed with with lemon juice is especially common.

Making your own cleaners is always a great idea, but if you aren’t able to, then some of the non-chlorine based bleach varieties may be suitable. Some are made with hydrogen peroxide as the main active ingredient, and may not be much worse than a homemade kind. Just be sure that you don’t over-use it!

Related Article – 8 Toxic Household Products You Should Get Rid Of

8 Toxic Household Products You Should Get Rid Of

About the Author:

Emma Deangela is the best selling author of The Alkaline Diet Program and 80/20 Fat Loss. She has helped over tens of thousands of men and women to lose weight and transform their health with sound nutrition advice.

Which wonderful friends in your life would appreciate this information about knowing more about bleaching?

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28 responses to “The Truth About Cleaning With Bleach”

  1. Mary Avatar

    My Daughter uses lavendar oil diluted with water. .is that a good clea n in agent

    1. Beth S Avatar
      Beth S

      As long as the Lavender oil is pure, it is a great cleaner, as is orange or lemon or grapefruit essential oil. Mixing it with Witch Hazel is another way to get things clean.

  2. SALLY BUGG Avatar

    I have reoccuring C_DIF , they say bleach is the only way to kill these germs . I can’t use bleach , I have asthma and breathing problems , i can’t stand to be around bleach !!

    1. Gina Valdez Avatar
      Gina Valdez

      Try using Kleen Green. It kills all kinds of germs and parasites.

    2. Roger Avatar

      My older relatives,& myself used , plain white vinegar & water mixed 50-50 ,as a cleaner. Works very well, no harsh chemicals, all natural.

    3. Donna Ann Tustin Avatar
      Donna Ann Tustin

      Dr. Winer of Pittsburgh PA states that C DIF is caused by overuse of antibiotics and the cure is probiotics. Even some of the hospitals in Pittsburgh proscribe probiotics for C DIF to replace the good bacteria killed in your intestines from the use of antibiotics that allowed the bad bacteria to take over and cause diarrhea and other symptoms.

  3. Mark Avatar

    In one section you say that hydrogen peroxide is one of the nasty forms of bleach, yet later you say that hydrogen peroxide is one of the safer alternatives to bleach.

    Get your facts straight. How are we to believe things you write when you have these kinds of gross errors?

    1. Lurch Avatar

      Mark, you need to re-read to see that her facts ARE straight. NOWHERE did she say hydrogen peroxide was one of the nasty forms. It was listed as a common form of bleach. HYPOCHLORITES = NASTY; PEROXIDES = NOT. Do a little research instead of making yourself sound foolish and ignorant. Hydrogen peroxide is safe, as long as the concentration is a low one. It’s even used in tooth bleaching preparations used by dentists and sold for home use. It’s even great for getting blood out of fabrics and carpet, if a low concentration and not overdone.

    2. Stuart Perry Avatar
      Stuart Perry

      Mark, reread the article , the author states the types of bleach which he includes Hydrogen peroxide, when state the negative effects o f bleach he is citing the most common one we use chlorine bleach.

  4. Deborah Avatar

    Most whites get dingy due to too much detergent in the wash. All you really need is enough to make the water feel sticky when rubbed between two fingers. I don’t use as much as the recommend amount. I like to make my own laundry powder. And the way people used to bleach their whites was to hang them outside, oron green bushes. Chlorophyll in the green bushes, help to bleach out whites.

    1. rene vermillion Avatar
      rene vermillion

      great comment, Deborah – that is scientifically supported since sunlight it the best natural bleach and chlorophyll draws sunlight – makes perfect sense!

  5. Gina Valdez Avatar
    Gina Valdez

    I am currently suffering from shortness of breath. I came into the kitchen/laundry area from my bedroom and was assaulted by the strong scent of bleach! It has burned my bronchial tubes and lungs. Taking a deep breath is very painful, to say the least.
    I myself, do not use bleach, but my mother does. How harmful is it? Let me tell you what happened to her over a year ago.
    She spilled the cup of bleach she was putting into the washer all over her feet and the little rug. So, she promptly filled up another cup to put in the wash.
    A short time later she was eating lunch and suddenly felt faint. She tried to get up from the chair but found her legs couldn’t hold her. She crawled into her bedroom and there removed the tainted shoes.
    When I came home I found her exhausted and very agitated. She was disorientated and nauseous. The cause of course was the spilled bleach, plus the heavy scent of the bleach in the washer.
    Bleach is NOT safe to use! My whites are white and I use no bleach at all.
    You’d think Mom would learn, but she is 96 and still uses bleach and now I am suffering with respiratory problems.

  6. Daisyrose648 Avatar

    There is so many resistant bacteria, that complicate the healing process today of friends and loved ones. I think before we jump to conclusions about NOT using BLEACH we should ponder a few things! The lack of appropriate disinfecting in the the necessary areas cause a lot of the problematic bacteria now. (Period)
    Yes, bleach is poisonous (it kills germs and bacteria, viruses, all kinds of icky and yucky stuff so is rubbing alcohol and a lot of other necessary chemicals that we use.
    We also need to use our common sense when we use these items. Killing bacteria like C. diff. is very important. C. diff. is very easily spread if not treated properly with the necessary chemicals.
    Was C. diff around years ago, why now is it a problem?
    Think about it?

    1. rene vermillion Avatar
      rene vermillion

      bleach was all the rage when AIDS was first recognized and became so rampant (in the late 70s and 80s, and law officers, EMTs began carrying bleach with them to be able to respond in an emergent situation (where blood may be an issue)

  7. Connie Coleman Avatar

    I can not even breathe the odor of bleach. If a product can eat up yr clothing over a period of time, then what can it be doing to yr bodies. It’s not all about the short term effects but more concerned about long term effects. There are much safer products to use. We as humans are destroying our planet every day by using products that kill off wile life , human life, our children have respiratory problems more often all in the name of wanting things whiter, cleaner, no germs. Is it really worth using these products.

    1. rene vermillion Avatar
      rene vermillion

      I began developing a serious reaction to bleach some seven or eight years in my early 50s, after using it regularly all my life, with gloves, of course, but always doing my own housekeeping and laundry, never over-using it, though. My immune system had been seriously compromised to due life-threatening anemia and years of infusion therapy, and suddenly I could not breathe when I was using bleach, not matter how well ventilated the area – husband just told me to forget about it! (also would immediately cause severe head pain and skin burn, too)

  8. wanda sullard Avatar
    wanda sullard

    I am 78 yrs old and have used chlorine bleach snce I was a young girl helping my mother with the laundry.I have always hated the fumes and now I know why.I will definitely try some of the safer methods. Thank you! Old Dog, learning new tricks

    1. DG Avatar

      Good for you!

  9. Nancy Avatar

    We use chlorine bleach in our cistern to kill germs every once in awhile.

    We use 1 Cup per 1,000 gallons of rainwater.

    What do you recommend to use instead?


  10. rene vermillion Avatar
    rene vermillion

    Does anyone have any knowledge of the Kangen water sold @ health food stores, basically just tap water with small amount of bleach added, pushing the alkaline diet? Wondering if this is detrimental – been doing it for awhile, but when the amount (bleach) was upped, I experienced severe stomach pain and could not drink the water, so had to have it adjusted back down… is not common knowledge that it is basically bleach, but I have done the research.

    1. Dr. Flora Mason Van Orden Avatar
      Dr. Flora Mason Van Orden

      Kangen water has no bleach added to it. I am severely reactive to bleach, Pine Sol and ammonia. This is not an allergy because chlorine is a toxin. Because I am part of a grant writing team, my boss protects me from these chemicals, which disorganize me mentally and create physical instability. Even flushing a toilet or washing hands without a filter is dangerous for seniors and other sensitive people. A chlorine filter on a shower helps too.

      1. Charlene Woodland Avatar
        Charlene Woodland

        Hello Ms. Van Orden, I read your article regarding the harmful
        effects of using bleach, and I totally agree with it. I also
        noticed that you are part of a grant writing team. I am
        looking for someone to help me with trying to get a grant
        for my daughter who is currently going to school for fashion.
        She wants to design fashion and own her own business when
        she finishes. Right now she has to pay a slightly small amount
        every month to help pay for school, but really can’t afford it
        due to having to pay rent, car payment, insurance, credit
        card, etc. We have never applied for grants before, and since
        you mentioned that you are part of a grant writing team, I
        was wondering if you can give me some help as to how to
        apply for a grant aye for school. If there is a fee, ease let me know. Thank you

  11. Nancy Creek Avatar
    Nancy Creek

    After reading your information, I have decided to get rid of the bleach! I don’t want to pour it down the drain, what should I do with it?

  12. Ian Blair Hamilton Avatar

    Emma, your excellent article missed one very significant alternative. Using a water ionizer to produce strong H2 water that is shown in lab reports to kill all forms of germs.

  13. Jake McKenna Avatar
    Jake McKenna

    Corporate Police and policy is NOT the LAW.

           WHY ARE SOME COPS ACTING MORE LIKE NAZI STORM TROOPERS THAN ACTUAL PEACE OFFICERS? ARTICLE 1 section 8 of our CONSTITUTION PROHIBITS  ILLEGAL  MADE UP AGENCIES, LIKE THE SO-CALLED D.H.S.(NAZI VERSION  OF FATHERLAND SECURITY) AND N.A.T.O.(RUSSIAN, POLISH) FOREIGN TROOPS ON AMERICAN SOIL. WHAT IS GOING ON HERE ? AS IF I DID NOT KNOW ALREADY. THE LORD OF lords AND KING OF kings have MERCY on them ALL.  George Bush Jr. once said, “THIS WOULD BE A LOT EASIER IF THIS WERE A DICTADORSHIP, AS LONG AS I’M THE DICTADOR”. It Would not surprise us in the least if,  most politicians are thinking the same Way, including “OBAMA”. IS AMERICA TURNING INTO A NAZI(FASCIST) NATION”?  Hitler said; He first needed the “ENABLING Act” EQUAL TO THE SO CALLED “PATRIOT Act”. A two-thirds majority was needed, since the law would actually alter the constitution. Hitler needed 31 non-Nazi votes to pass it. He got those votes from the CATHOLIC Center Party after making a false promise to restore some basic rights already taken away by decree. That is HISTORY.
    Are there some individuals in our GOVERNMENT trying to turn America into  WWII “NAZI GERMANY?
    The term “HOMELAND SECURITY” is just another way of saying “FATHERLAND SECURITY”. That is the same term that HITLER USED in NAZI GERMANY just before they started their GENOCIDAL SLAUGHTER AND MURDER OF MILLIONS in the name of SO CALLED “NATIONAL SECURITY”, another NAZI TERM used as an excuse to kill those who could not defend themselves. That explains why they want to take AWAY our guns. It seems like the only way these EVIL people know how to deal with a population difficulty is by,  “MURDERING” millions and millions of innocent people. IS MURDER THE ONLY SOLUTION THESE PEOPLE KNOW? They are POISONING the very AIR we breathe, the WATER we drink and the FOOD we eat and causing more CANCER and DISEASE for the MEDICAL INDUSTRY TO MAKE MORE MONEY. Out of curiosity, why are there so many “FASCIA”(NAZI) SYMBOLS in the house of CONGRESS, the SENATE and in all our STATE SHIELDS, SEALS and FLAGS? Also, why are we using an ADMIRALTY FLAG in our court system that belongs in our OCEANS and NOT on LAND, with the GOLD TRIM around it(THE CHOCK HOLD SYMBOL) OF MARTIAL LAW? Instead, why not use the PROPER civilian American FLAG without that EVIL GOLD TRIM? “HOMELAND SECURITY”? I am so GLAD that HITLER IS GONE. Tha is a GOOD THING. I hope? We really do not care if ALL the MEDIA CENSORS this information. We just want them to know, that WE ARE AWARE of the EVIL THEY ARE PLOTTING AGAINST AMERICA AND THE WHOLE WORLD. By the way. Why did FATHERLAND SECURITY(HOMELAND SECURITY) PURCHASE SO MUCH AMO and 30,000 GUILLOTINES? GOD help us all. They are going to use NATO TROOPS IN U.S. SOIL to do the dirty deed so they can BLAME someone else. So sad. Pitiful…A new “HOLOCAUST” in AMERICA ??? THE BROWN SHiRTS ARE COMING!!!                                                         
    C M

  14. donna Avatar

    Thank you so much for your articles. I am amazed by how much you know and share. I am going to try the peroxide and lemon.

  15. Marina perez Avatar
    Marina perez

    Si gracias por esta información a serca del uso de clorocblech , trabajo en limpieza de casas ,y he usado clorocblech y con el tiempo padesco de alergias ,,problemas respiratorios. Ahora me cuido al usarlo pero es un poco tarde ,,,no usen ese químico es muy dañino ,,,,,Gracias ,,,,

  16. Marisa Carrio Avatar
    Marisa Carrio

    My mother was cleaning her bathroom and she put too much bleach in the tub and when she inhaled the fumes her nostrils were burned. She had problems for a long time. I can’t stand the smell of bleach. My husband and I renovate homes and always recommend our clients to clean the tile with vinegar.
    Thank you for the article.

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