10 Things You Should Never Do With Bleach

Man cleaning with bleach
Photo by DGLimages / Shutterstock.com

If you’ve honed your cleaning skills in 2020, you’re not alone.

The coronavirus has many of us upping our disinfecting game. In the process, we’re rediscovering the germ-killing power of bleach.

But bleach isn’t an all-purpose cleaner. It needs to be used tactically and with safety considerations top of mind. Before you buy that next jug of Clorox, read on so that you know what not to do with it.

1. Never use bleach without wearing protective gear

Sodium hypochlorite (the active ingredient in bleach) is a powerful corrosive that can damage skin, eyes, and lungs.

When it’s time to use bleach, follow basic safety precautions and suit up. Protect your hands and arms with long rubber gloves. Wraparound safety goggles are ideal for shielding eyes from inadvertent splashes.

Finally, open windows and doors to promote cross-ventilation and avoid a build-up of fumes.

2. Never use bleach undiluted

When it comes to disinfecting power, more bleach isn’t better. In an interview with AARP, Robert Laumbach, an associate professor at Rutgers University’s Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute, emphasizes that higher concentrations of bleach are ineffective and potentially harmful.

To stay safe and get the most bang out of your buck, dilute bleach properly: Add no more than a half-cup of bleach per gallon of water.

3. Never dilute bleach with hot water

The hotter the water, the deeper the clean — unless you’re using bleach. Verity Mann, Head of Testing at the Good Housekeeping Institute, says mixing bleach with hot water is the one mistake we’re all making with bleach.

The chemicals that make bleach so effective break down more quickly in hot water. For the most effective clean, use cold or tepid water as your base.

4. Never mix bleach with other cleaners

If one cleaner is good, two or three must be better, right? Nope.

Some household cleaners should never be mixed, because of the dangerous chemical reactions they create.

According to Good Housekeeping, avoid mixing bleach with:

  • Ammonia: Together, bleach and ammonia create a toxic gas called chloramine. Even brief exposure to chloramine causes eye, nose, throat and lung irritation.
  • Rubbing alcohol: When mixed, bleach and rubbing alcohol create chloroform, a colorless liquid that quickly evaporates into a toxic gas.
  • Vinegar: When combined, bleach and vinegar create chlorine gas. Chlorine gas can lead to breathing problems, coughing and eye irritation.

The simplest rule of thumb? Don’t mix bleach with anything other than plain water.

5. Never wash produce with bleach

Coronavirus has made everyone more aware of food safety and sanitation But washing fresh fruits and vegetables with diluted bleach sounds a little . . . well, bananas. In the spirit of healthy eating, lettuce embrace a saner and safer approach.

According to EatingWell magazine, it’s important to remember that bleach is a harsh, poisonous chemical that should never be used on food.

Instead, follow EatingWell’s guide to washing produce for simple and effective food sanitation methods that can’t be beet (okay, I’m done).

6. Never buy bleach in bulk

When it comes to bleach, restrain your bargain-hunting instincts and don’t buy in bulk. The Scripps Research Institute reports that bleach has a shelf life of about six months. In fact, its disinfecting power lessens by 20% each year.

To get the most out of your bottle of bleach, store it properly. The American Cleaning Institute recommends storing bottles of household bleach away from direct sunlight in a dry area where the temperature range is 50°F to 70°F.

7. Never use bleach on stone countertops

We don’t think of stone as a porous material, but it is. According to Merry Maids, even when properly diluted, bleach can eat through the sealants that protect marble, granite and quartz countertops. Eventually, the chlorine will dull the surface and cause discoloration and pitting.

Instead of bleach, clean stone countertops using a cotton or microfiber cloth and a mixture of water and liquid dish soap.

8. Never use bleach on hardwood floors

Thinking of cleaning your gorgeous hardwood floors with bleach? Think again. More porous than stone, wood simply absorbs bleach. Since it can never be completely rinsed away, the bleach left behind will break down the natural fibers that give hardwood floors their flexibility and strength.

This Old House offers some excellent hardwood floor cleaning tips. Instead of bleach, use a damp microfiber mop and neutral cleaning solution like Bona free & simple Hardwood Floor Cleaner.

9. Never pour bleach down the drain

If your home has a septic tank, use bleach sparingly. Though septic systems can handle the moderate amount of diluted bleach used for household laundry, too much can lead to some extremely “messy” situations.

According to Septic Maxx, a nationwide commercial and residential septic service, chemicals in chlorine bleach kill the beneficial bacteria that septic systems rely on to break down solid waste. Over time, a backup of solids can lead to clogged drains and toilets, burst pipes, or a complete septic system failure.

10. Never wear your favorite jeans when using bleach

Unless you’re going for that tie-dye look, avoid using bleach while wearing your favorite jeans … or favorite anything.

Bleach has a way of showing even the most careful cleaner who’s boss. In a split second, a spill or splash can ruin clothes and turn a quick household chore into a moment of permanent regret. Take a little extra time and change into those old sweats you keep hidden in the back of the closet. No one’s watching.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
This Chase Card Is Great for Groceries and Cash Back on Everything
This Chase Card Is Great for Groceries and Cash Back on Everything

You could earn more than $600 cash back in your first year just from grocery shopping.

10 Common Expenses That Have Skyrocketed for Seniors
10 Common Expenses That Have Skyrocketed for Seniors

Retirees must stretch their dollars further and further these days — no thanks to these costs.

8 Types of Companies That Check Your Credit Report
8 Types of Companies That Check Your Credit Report

Federal law lets these entities peek at your credit — regardless of whether you’re borrowing money.

21 Purchases You Should Never Skimp On
21 Purchases You Should Never Skimp On

With some items, it makes sense to pay a little more rather than hopping on the lowest price.

12 Expenses You May Be Tempted to Claim as Tax Deductions — but Shouldn’t
12 Expenses You May Be Tempted to Claim as Tax Deductions — but Shouldn’t

Thinking of trying to deduct a few of these things on your federal tax return? That could be a costly mistake.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making
10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

You might as well flush your money down the loo if you spend it on these things.

The 16 Cars Most Likely to Last 200,000 Miles
The 16 Cars Most Likely to Last 200,000 Miles

One automaker takes half the spots on a list of the longest-lasting vehicles.

7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now
7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now

Confusion over Social Security is a shame, considering how many of us will need this money badly.

9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco
9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco

Are you missing out on serious savings at your favorite warehouse club?

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

They don’t make coffee makers like this anymore.

11 Products Now in Short Supply Due to the Pandemic
11 Products Now in Short Supply Due to the Pandemic

Many goods we take for granted have become tough to find in 2021.

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

Is Writing a Check Still Safe?
Is Writing a Check Still Safe?

Every time you pay by check, you hand your bank account numbers to a stranger.

6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers
6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers

Imagine having $245,000 stolen from your retirement account — and not being reimbursed.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.
This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.

This brand’s vehicles are least likely to give drivers repair headaches, according to J.D. Power.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know
7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know

These little-known departments of Amazon are gold mines for deal-seekers and impulse shoppers alike.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.