Learning Objective: To discuss the dangers of mixing bleach with other cleaners.
The danger of making your own sanitizer can be significant and we thought it timely to send out an Inspection Tip to make sure everyone stays safe. As we navigate our way through the COVID-19 virus, we all understand the importance of maintaining a clean environment around us. Unfortunately, when a shortage of product occurs, people may resort to making their own sanitizing products that may result in dangers they never knew existed. In this document, we will discuss some of the dangers of attempting to mix bleach with various cleaners found around the home.
Sodium Hypochlorite is the active ingredient in chlorine bleach, it is found in household bleach and many other disinfectants. Sodium hypochlorite reacts with ammonia, drain cleaners, and other acids. Many household products state that they contain bleach on the label.
Mixing Bleach with Acids
When chlorine bleach is mixed with an acid, chlorine gas is given off. Chlorine gas and water combine to make hydrochloric acid.
Chlorine gas exposure, even at low levels and for short periods, usually irritates the mucous membranes (eyes, throat, and nose). This can cause coughing and breathing problems, burning and watery eyes, and a runny nose. 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.
Products containing acids include vinegar and some glass and window cleaners, automatic dishwasher detergents and rinses, toilet bowl cleaners, drain cleaners, rust removal products, and brick and concrete cleaners.
Mixing Bleach with Ammonia
When bleach is is mixed with ammonia, toxic gases called chloramines are produced. Exposure to chloramine gases can cause the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Watery eyes
- Chest pain
- Irritation to the throat, nose, and eyes
- Pneumonia and fluid in the lungs
In addition to using ammonia as a cleaning product, ammonia can be found in some glass and window cleaners, interior and exterior paints, and in urine (use caution when cleaning litter boxes, diaper pails, or toilet bowls).
Mixing Bleach with Other Cleaning Products
Bleach also reacts with some oven cleaners, hydrogen peroxide, and some insecticides. Pool chemicals frequently contain calcium hypochlorite or sodium hypochlorite and should not be mixed with other cleaning products.
Some Common Household Products to avoid mixing
1. Bleach + vinegar = chlorine gas.
This can lead to coughing, breathing problems, burning and watery eyes.
Chlorine gas and water also combine to make hydrochloric acid.
2. Bleach + ammonia = chloramine.
This can cause shortness of breath and chest pain.
3. Bleach + rubbing alcohol = chloroform.
This is highly toxic.
4. Hydrogen peroxide + vinegar = per acetic/peroxyacetic acid.
This can be highly corrosive.
- Product labels usually have a toll-free telephone number that you can call to learn more about the product you have purchased. Most manufacturers also have web sites with product information
- If you or someone you know has been exposed to a chemical mixture and is experiencing symptoms of illness, contact a health care provider or emergency response service (911).
For additional information, contact:
Doug Taylor, CRM, CCPI
Managing Director, Risk Management Group