The Dirt on Bleach: What Makes Chlorine Bleach Bad News?

The Dirt on Bleach: What Makes Chlorine Bleach Bad News?

Angie Cho
Sep 2, 2010

In our quest for bright white fabrics and germ free homes, we've gone overboard with our love affair with chlorine bleach. From laundry detergents to disinfectant cleaners, chlorine bleach has claimed its reign. Re-Nest and the Environmental Working Group think it's time for a coup.

The Skinny Science:
Common household chlorine bleach is a solution of 4% to 6% sodium hypochlorite. In addition to being used in many household cleaning products, manufacturers also use chlorine bleach to remove color from textiles, paper, food, and other materials.

Word to the Wise:
Everyone already knows the corrosive nature of chlorine bleach in its liquid state. What may be less known is that even its fumes are very damaging. It irritates your eyes, nasal passages, throat, lungs and skin. This is especially true for people with allergies or chronic respiratory problems like asthma, emphysema or bronchitis.

Green your Routine:
What is a healthier way to achieve bright whites? Read Emily's post on eco-friendly alternatives to using chlorine bleach. She wrote about using ingredients like distilled white vinegar, baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, dishwasher detergent, lemon juice, lemon pre-soak, and even sunlight! Go to Emily's post for the full details.

Prevention is the Best Cure:
The residue from chlorine bleach transfers to skin and all surfaces it comes into contact with. To avoid chlorine bleach, search labels for it and its alternative names, hypochlorite and sodium hypochlorite, in the following products:

  • Dishwasher detergents
  • Laundry detergents
  • Coffee filters
  • Paper products like paper towels, napkins, tissue, and toilet paper
  • All purpose household cleaners
  • Toilet cleaners
  • Mildew removers
  • Disinfectant cleaners

As always, stay informed and green your routine to what fits you best.

Extra Tidbits:

  • Alternative names quick list: sodium hypochlorite, hypochlorite.
  • The paper industry is the third greatest industrial emitter of global warming pollution. It's bleaching processes releases dioxins and other cancer-linked chemicals that end up in our bodies and our environment.
  • For more information, check out this source: Environmental Working Group.

Previous Decoding Household Chemicals Posts:

(Image: Courtesy of Flickr member Maggie Mullen)

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