The Absolute Right Way to Use Bleach in the Kitchen

published Jul 15, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Let’s face it: Bleach gets a bad rap. It’s a dangerous chemical that requires careful use, especially around children and pets. And, as we’ve all been told, mixing bleach with other cleaning products, such as those containing ammonia or vinegar, can create toxic fumes. It almost makes you wonder whether you need to have bleach around at all.

Still, there’s a time and place for products that reliably disinfect surfaces when used properly. The kitchen is home to some of the dirtiest places in the entire house, so regular disinfecting is helpful. Think about your cutting board dedicated to handling raw meat, the smelly plastic garbage can, and, of course, the grimy kitchen sink. We’re here to help. Here are seven steps to make sure you’re using bleach safely and effectively.

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1. Clean first.

Surprise! Bleach is not a cleaning solution and shouldn’t be used as one. Yep, let’s say that again: Bleach should only be used to disinfect an area after it’s been cleaned. Just as with any disinfecting product, it’s important to clean your area before disinfecting it.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

2. Dilute your bleach.

Using straight bleach is unsafe and unnecessary. To make a general disinfecting solution, mix bleach and water in a one part bleach to 10 parts water ratio, or about half a cup of bleach per gallon of water. 

3. Mix your bleach solution just before using it.

Temperature, light, and contamination can cause bleach to degrade, so we recommended that you not pre-mix your diluted bleach solution. For bleach with full potency, mix your solution just before using it to disinfect. (An OXO Good Grips bucket makes this easy to do.)

4. Let the bleach sit for 10 minutes.

“Dwell time” is an important step of effective disinfecting. Be patient. Once you apply the bleach solution, allow it to remain in contact with the surface you’re treating for at least 10 minutes

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5. Use a rag, and wear rubber gloves.

Using a spray bottle to clean is convenient, and it makes sense in most applications. But don’t reach for a spray bottle when using bleach. A bleach solution in a spray bottle causes the inner workings of the spray mechanism to rust and can degrade the solution. Use a rag (and always wear rubber gloves to protect your skin!) to apply bleach to your surfaces. 

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6. Provide plenty of ventilation.

Bleach fumes are harsh and can irritate respiratory passageways. Make sure to turn on vents and open windows whenever you’re using bleach. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman

7. Store it away properly.

Once you’re done with the bleach, be sure to store it away properly. It’s a good idea to keep the bottle on a high shelf or even locked in a cabinet away from curious kids and pets. The ideal storage temperature for bleach is between 50 and 70°F, so store your bottle in a cool, dry area away from sunlight.

Did we miss anything? Tell us how you safely use bleach in your kitchen.