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  • Writer's pictureRBG Janitorial

Why you won't find bleach in our closets

Many people use bleach as a cleaner and disinfectant. We are often asked when is bleach a good product. In our opinion, the answer is: never. Bleach is not a cleaner, it is a poor disinfectant, and it is very unstable by itself or with other products. You won’t find it in any of our janitors’ closets.

We are often asked when is bleach a good product. In our opinion, the answer is: never.
A plastic bottle of bleach

Bleach is a poor disinfectant

Bleach is often recommended as a disinfectant for the simple reason that it is inexpensive and commonly available. Bleach is a poor disinfectant, though, for many reasons. Bleach only disinfects with direct contact. This means it can’t disinfect porous surfaces like grout, brick, or wood.

Moreover, bleach is quickly neutralized when it comes into contact with organic matter. Bleach is added to laundry after the wash cycle because it won’t work otherwise. This also means that bleach doesn’t kill mold at the roots; it only whitens the surface of the mold. Most importantly, bleach only works as a disinfectant if it is used correctly, diluted to the effective ratio and applied for a suitable amount of time (in most cases, 30 minutes).

Bleach can't disinfect porous surfaces, doesn't kill mold, and takes 30 minutes to be effective.

Bleach is not a cleaner

Bleach contains no detergents. Bleach in a gallon bottle usually is 5% to 6% sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl), and the rest is water. There are no cleaning agents in the bottle. At most, the water in which bleach is diluted will loosen dry surface dirt so that it can be physically wiped away; you have the same cleaning effect with plain water. No agency recommends using bleach as a cleaning agent; in fact, OSHA and EPA specifically warn against using it for mold removal.

OSHA and EPA warn against using bleach.

Bleach is unstable

Bleach by itself is very unstable as a disinfectant. If you mix bleach with water and put it in a spray bottle, it will hold disinfectant properties for about 24 hours. To be classified as a disinfectant you need to have over 400 ppm of quaternary ammonia. Bleach will drop well below the 400 parts in less than 24 hours. Even on the shelf, in its original bottle, bleach will start to decompose after a few months, and lose 20% efficacy every year. Light or heat will increase the deterioration.

Chemist examining a glass bottle

Bleach is dangerous

Bleach does not play well with other chemicals. If you happen to mix bleach with ammonia it will create a deadly gas. If it comes into contact with another acid – say, toilet bowl cleaner or vinegar – it creates a deadly gas. Bleach fumes are an irritant to the lungs and airways, and bleach can burn skin and eyes.

Bleach is harmful to all organic matter

Bleach removes stains by oxidizing organic substances. Unfortunately, it also corrodes the fabric, as well as metals, wood, skin, and any other organic matter.

Bleach is a hazardous acid. Its limited use is greatly outweighed by its hazards.

A hospital grade janitorial disinfectant is made with ammonium chloride and detergent. It is normally mixed at 2 oz per gallon of water to be used for cleaning hard surfaces such as tables, walls, or floors. This solution will hold its 400 ppm for thirty days in normal hard water conditions, compared to the 24-hour life of bleach. Because it contains detergent, it also cleans as well as disinfects.

Whatever results your environment demands, there are many other products that achieve the same or better results without the danger.

About us: RBG Janitorial is a local, woman-owned small business providing first-class janitorial maintenance services in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

If you have questions about your cleaning products, send us a message. We are happy to help!


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