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10 Harmful Chemicals in Bleach – Compound Formula – Uses – Effects

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Bleach is the popular chemical based product which is used to lighten or remove color, wash clothes and another household things. It can also be used as the disinfectant and stain removers. There’s some types of bleach that you’ll find in the market. To have better understanding about bleach, you should read this helpful article.


Bleach comes with different types of chemicals. Popularly, bleach can be divided into chlorine based bleach and peroxide based bleach. However, there’re some other bleaches types and chemicals in bleach with different formula and function.

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Chlorine-Based Bleaches

This kind of bleach is popularly used as the cleaners in your homes. Chlorine based bleach is commonly classified by its percentage of active chlorine containment in the bleach. For an example, if you have a cleaner with the one gram containment of 100% active chlorine bleach, you’ll get the bleaching power as powerful as one gram of chlorine. You need to consider that this type of bleach can interact actively with other chemicals in your homes, like vinegar to create the toxic gas. The dangerous effect of this interaction will be detailed more on the Bleach & Vinegar reaction section on this article.

1. Sodium Hypochlorite

This type of chemical can be said as one of the most used bleaching agent than the other chemicals. Sodium hypochlorite is commonly taken as the dilute solution in water with the concentration about 3 to 6 percent. This type of bleach is the first commercially produced bleach in the world. This type of bleach may become the first chemical found in the first commercial household cleaner.

The reaction of the sodium hypochlorite can be expressed as follow:

Cl2 (g) + 2 NaOH (aq) → NaCl (aq) + NaClO (aq) + H2O (l)

In that reaction, chlorine gas in inserted to the dilute sodium hydroxide to further create the sodium hypochlorite. However, this type of bleach can also be made by the following reaction:

2 Cl → Cl2 + 2 e

Cl2 + H2O ↔ HClO + Cl + H+

Based on above reaction, we know that sodium hypochlorite is made by preforming electrolysis process to the sodium chloride in the water.

This type of bleach has been famously used as the household cleaners for laundry and disinfectant for hard surface in your house. People also use this bleach as the cleaner for the swimming pools to keep it free from the agents of infection.

2. Bleaching Powder

Bleaching powder is the next popular type of chlorine based bleach. This bleaching power has the composition of calcium hypochlorite, calcium hydroxide and calcium chloride. Compared to sodium hypochlorite, this powder bleach has more chlorine in it and tends to be more stable. However, they are both used in many applications in our lives. There’s a variant of this bleach powder which is called HTH or High Test Hypochlorite. This variant has the higher purity and more stability than the common calcium hypochlorite.

You have also known about the bleaching tablet. It’s actually calcium hypochlorite which is mixed up with other chemicals to create more solid form. There’s also the tropical bleach. It’s the mix between calcium hypochlorite and calcium oxide. The bleaching powder has usually 20 percent of active chlorine. While the High Test Hypochlorite has higher percentage of active chlorine up to 70 percent of active chlorite containment.

3. Chlorine

This chemical is usually used for the preparation of calcium hypochlorite and sodium. It is created from the electrolysis process of sodium chloride. The chemical reaction of this substance is as follow:

2 NaCl + 2 H2O → Cl2 + H2 + 2 NaOH

Chlorine can be found in the water treatment system. It’s commonly used in swimming pool and drinking water making process. It’s also popularly used to bleach wood pulp.

4. Chlorine dioxide

This type of bleach can be used to many areas such as wood pulp bleaching, textiles, beeswax, skin and other industries. This chemical has the unstable gas property. It’s usually used as dilute water solutions. There’re 2 different types of chemical reaction to create the chlorine dioxide. First, you can do oxidizing sodium chlorite with chlorine. The reaction is as stated below:

2 NaClO2 + Cl2 → 2 ClO2 + 2 NaCl

Secondly, you can make reduction reaction of sodium chlorate by mixing it with reducing agent like methanol, hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide or hydrogen peroxide.

2 NaClO3 + 2 HX + “R” → 2 NaX + 2 ClO2 + “RO” + H2O

The ‘R’ means the reducing agent used while ‘RO’ means that reducing agent substance in the oxidized form.

5. Chemical Interactions

You also have to consider the chemical reaction of chlorine based bleach with other substances. If you do the mix between hypochlorite bleach and acid, it can release the chlorine gas. Chlorine itself is a respiratory irritant that can attack mucous membranes and burn your skin. The little containment of chlorine can be considered as the odor. While the high amount of chlorine, let say 1000 ppm, can be extremely dangerous if it enters your respiratory system. The OHSA in USA has limited the use of chlorine to 0.5 ppm

Sodium hypochlorite and ammonia can be reacted to create many chemical forms based on its reaction temperature, concentration and process. The popular reaction of these two chemicals are the mix between chloramine (NH2Cl), dichloramine (NHCl2) nitrogen trichloride (NCl3).

NH3 + NaOCl → NaOH + NH2Cl

NH2Cl + NaOCl → NaOH + NHCl2

NHCl2 + NaOCl → NaOH + NCl3

These three chemicals are very irritating to the eyes and lungs. They are also toxic the certain of concentration. While the nitrogen trichloride can be easily exploded. Here’re these chemical reactions of Sodium hypochlorite and ammonia

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Peroxide-Based Bleaches

Another popular type of bleach is the peroxide based bleaches. Peroxide can be defined as the compounds having the oxygen-oxygen single bond, O-O. This bond can be considered as the weak bond so the chemical reactions to create the bleach often involve the process of breaking this bond.

Most peroxide bleaches are adducts of hydrogen peroxide. They have hydrogen peroxide form of HOOH in mixed with another chemical like sodium carbonate. This peroxide based bleach will release hydrogen peroxide when dissolved in water. This type of bleach is often used as the catalyst and activators. The popular example of peroxide based catalyst and activator are tetraacetylethylenediamine

1. Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide can be created from many different chemical reactions. This type of peroxide based bleach is often used in the large scale since it plays as the oxidizer in its chemical reaction. The application of hydrogen peroxide includes wood pulp bleaching, hair bleaching and other industries. It can also be used to prepare other bleaching agents such perborates, percarbonates and some others.

2. Sodium Percarbonate

This bleach is made by the reaction of sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide which is continued by crystallization process. The chemical reaction is as follow:

2Na2CO3 + 3H2O2→2Na2CO3.3H2O2

The dry sodium carbonate can be reacted directly with the hydrogen peroxide solution to make the sodium percarbonate. This type of bleach is popularly used in many industries so that’s why sodium percarbonate is commonly made industrially in the large scale. This bleach can dissolve in the water and is considered as the environment friendly bleach.

3. Sodium Perborate

This bleach can be made by the reaction of borax with sodium hydroxide to create sodium metaborate (NaBO2). This sodium metaborate then will be mixed up with hydrogen peroxide to create hydrated sodium perborate. Below is the chemical reaction of sodium perborate:

Na2B4O7 + 2 NaOH → 4 NaBO2 + H2O

2 NaBO2 + 2 H2O2 + 6 H2O → [NaBO2(OH)2 x 3 H2O]2

This bleach has the stable property since it has many peroxide anions. This bleach is very useful due to its stability.


How Bleach Works

Based on its containment, the oxidizing bleach works by breaking the chemical bond of the molecule part named chromophore. It’s the part of the chemical molecule that possess color. It can change the molecule so that it will be colorless or having the color based on the reflection of the color outside the visible spectrum.

While the reducing bleach works differently than the oxidizing bleach. The reducing bleach will change the double bonds of the chromophore into one bond. This will change the optical properties of the molecule which then make it have no color.

Other than chemicals, energy can disrupt chemical bonds to bleach out color. As an example, the high energy photons of sunlight can disrupt the bonds in chromophores to make them colorless.

Bleach Chemicals Facts 

Meanwhile, here are the facts about bleach that you may never know before:

1. Chlorine based bleach is way more effective as a disinfectant if it’s diluted. The recommended mixture of chlorine based bleach dilution is 1 part bleach to 9 parts water.

2. Bleach actually possess  expiration date. Commonly, a container of unopened bleach will lose 20% of its effectiveness each year. If it’s opened, it will lose the significant amount of its strength after 6 months

3. If there’re the organic material like protein or blood in your clothes, as an example, you need to use higher percentage of bleach to clean it up. This because the organic materials will react with bleach and they will neutralize the bleach.

4. It’s more effective to add sodium hypochlorite bleach to your laundry after your wash cycle has been filled with water and started to agitate. It’s not recommended to mix that bleach with the detergent because it will reduce the effectiveness of stain remover and the detergent itself.

5. In contrast, oxygen-based bleach is recommended to be added to hot water before laundry is inserted. Oxygen-based bleaches are more color-safe and will preserve whiteness. However, it’s not really effective to remove color.

6. As we have mentioned on the above section, it’s not recommended to mix bleach with other chemical substances since it has the risk of creating the toxic gases. It’s not advised to mix up bleach with other cleaners in your homes. It’s also not allowed to mix bleach with acetone, vinegar, alcohol and ammonia.

7. Bleach can corrode metal. If you want to clean or disinfect a metal surface using the bleach, you have to wipe it down with alcohol or water after that.

8. There’re a popular myth about drinking bleach. It’s said that drinking bleach can make you have negative blood or urine test even though you use drugs. It’s totally wrong.

9. Chlorine bleach is powerful as a disinfectant, while the peroxide bleach is not good for this function. Chlorine bleach disinfects because it is an oxidizer with the capability of disrupting microbial cells. Oxidation is also the process on how bleach can remove color, as has been explained in the above section.

10. Even though you will smell the strong odor of chlorine in bleach, when bleach is used, the chemical reaction tends to produce salt water and not chlorine gas.

11. Toxic chemical dioxin has been commonly known to happen in bleaching products using in the wood pulp and paper industry, household bleach is free from dioxin because gaseous chlorine must be present for dioxin to form.

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Potential Hazards Chemicals in Bleach

As we’ve stated previously, bleach can have a dangerous risk to our bodies. It can possibly cause the irritation in your mouth, eyes, lungs or skin. It can burn human tissue, internally or externally, especially in small children. The bleach is also risky for people having the asthma or other respiratory disorders. We also know that most of the bleach manufacture also produces the dioxin. Dioxin itself is the chemical which is dreadful to our environment.

Since it’s the reactive substance, bleach actually contains high risk. If it’s reacted with ammonia, acids or other cleaners, its reaction can lead to serious effect. The reaction of bleach with ammonia will create the toxic fume called chloramines. If the chlorine based bleach is reacted with the acid, like vinegar, detergents or drain cleaners, there will be chlorine gas formed. We’ve known already that even the small amount of chlorine gas can lead to irritation of mucous membrane.

This will then lead to cough and breathing problems, eyes irritation and nose problems. In the higher level, chlorine gas can cause serious breathing disorders, pneumonia, chest pain, fluid in lungs and some other. On the very high amount, chlorine gas can lead to human death.

Here’re some simple tips to get rid of dreadful effect of the bleach:

  • Always use and storage bleach properly
  • Don’t try to mix bleach with other cleaners in your home
  • Always wear protective gloves when you use bleach
  • Use bleach in only well-ventilated areas with plenty of fresh air
  • Store bleach in a well-ventilated area away from your children

Reaction of Bleach and Vinegar

There are two reasons why people mix up bleach and vinegar. The first reason is that vinegar can decrease the pH of bleach, so that it can bea better disinfectant. The second reason is people don’t know or underestimate the risk. They used to believe some myths that say mixing some chemicals can make its cleaning ability to get stronger. They don’t have no idea about its potential hazard from its chemical reaction.

Chlorine based bleach possess sodium hypochlorite or NaOCl. Because bleach is sodium hypochlorite in water, the sodium hypochlorite in bleach actually exists as hypochlorous acid:

NaOCl + H2O ↔ HOCl + Na+ + OH

We know that hypochlorous acid is a strong oxidizer. This is what makes it so good at bleaching and disinfection. If you mix bleach with an acid, chlorine gas will be created. Here’s the reaction of it:

HOCl + HCl ↔ H2O + Cl2

As we said previously, chlorine gas can be very bad for your eyes, throat and lung. It can also possibly kill you. f you mix bleach with another acid, like vinegar, you get the reaction like this:

2HOCl + 2HAc ↔ Cl2 + 2H2O + 2Ac (Ac : CH3COO)

Bleach Alternatives

We know that bleach is the chemical based product and sometimes there’re commercial bleach products which are not eco-friendly. If you’re currently considering about using the more natural and safe tool as your house cleaner, this section may be helpful for you. If you want to seek the other products, you can look for the non-chlorine cleaner or the oxygen based whitener. However, you can make the natural alternative of bleach in your house by yourself. Here’re some items that will be helpful:

  • Lemon juice. You can add about half or 1 cup of lemon juice to your laundry. You can start to rub on the bad stain on your clothes and you’ll have your stain removed.
  • Washing soda or borax. The baking soda plays as a whitener and detergent will boost its effectiveness. You can use about ¼ to 1 cup of baking soda and detergent to your daily laundry.
  • Vinegar. White vinegar is popular natural cleaning substance that is able to clean your laundry. Add between ¼ cup and ½ cup to your laundry, along with detergent, and wash it as usual.
  • Mix up formula. You just need half cup of basic liquid formula, ¼ cup of borax and ¼ cup of lemon juice or vinegar (refer to its availability) and 6 drops of lemon essential oils. Basic formula itself is the mix up between 2 ¼ cups of liquid castile soap, 1 tablespoon of glycerin, 10 to 15 drops of any essential oils and ¾ cup of water. What you have to do is mix these items in one plastic container and shake that up till it’s mixed up. Then, you can simply add this formula to your laundry.

Thus, there are many harmful chemicals in bleach that may be bad for health. Thus, may the bleach alternative is useful for you to clean up your clothes perfectly. As a result, be careful of hazardous chemicals in bleach.

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Post Date: Tuesday 11th, April 2017 / 08:25 Oleh :
Kategori : Chemicals