Why You Should *Never* Mix Bleach with Other Cleaners

updated Dec 12, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Bleach is a controversial substance when it comes to household (and especially cleaning with bleach in the kitchen) use. With increased awareness about chemical exposure and the impact on both our health and the environment, many of us have tried to decrease our overall load, including the products we use to clean our homes. Solutions like vinegar and Castile soap have become increasingly popular.

But here’s the thing, I will not give up my bleach. (I’m also the one who’s written about the times I’ve switched from natural products to more commercial choices.) Why? There are seasons in life when I just really need to get those whites white or make absolutely certain that I’m killing germs. If you use bleach in the kitchen, or other areas of your home — or are thinking about using bleach! — I support you! I just want to make sure a few key things are on your radar.

The Right Way to Use Bleach

First of all, it’s important to note that bleach is technically not a cleaner; it’s a disinfectant. Bleach’s potency is greatly reduced with it comes into contact with dirt. So clean first, then use bleach to disinfect, if needed.

Bleach alone is not a substance to be trifled with: Bleach should always be stored away from children, diluted with water, and used with gloves and eye protection if there’s a risk of contact exposure or splashing.

Related: Mistakes to Avoid When Using Bleach in the Kitchen

But the real risk with bleach comes when it’s mixed with other chemicals. Here are a few of the dangerous, sometimes deadly, ramifications of mixing bleach with other substances.

Credit: The Kitchn

Things You Should Never, Ever Mix with Bleach

  • Bleach and ammonia. This is probably the most well-known no-no when it comes to mixing bleach with other products. The problem is that many cleaners surprisingly contain ammonia (mildew cleaner does, for instance). Which is why we say to never mix bleach with other cleaning agents — because you might not realize that something has ammonia in it! When combined, bleach and ammonia produce chloramine gas, which can burn your eyes and respiratory tract and can cause internal organ damage. And if the concentration of ammonia is high enough, hydrazine may be produced, which is not only toxic, but also explosive.
  • Bleach and vinegar. Vinegar seems so innocuous, but not so when it’s mixed with bleach. The combination produces chlorine gas, as in the chemical warfare agent. Chlorine gas causes coughing and will irritate mucous membranes. It causes chemical burns and can be deadly if concentrations are high enough or exposure is prolonged. Vinegar is not the only acid that produces chlorine gas when mixed with bleach. Any acid mixed with bleach does the same, including lemon juice and some toilet bowl cleaners (hence the reason you should never pour bleach in your toilet bowl).
  • Bleach and rubbing alcohol. This combination produces chloroform, which can knock you out! And if you pass out, you’re obviously unable to move yourself to fresh air. Breathing too much chloroform is deadly. Other dangerous substances can also be produced by combining bleach and rubbing alcohol, including hydrochloric acid (which can cause chemical burns), and chloroacetone and dichloroacetone (which can lead to organ damage, cancer, and other diseases). 

My point? Because bleach is so reactive, the best rule is to never, ever mix bleach with anything besides water

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