Posted on December 14th, 2020
Experts recommend against using bleach for everyday cleaning, and for good reason: Unless it’s handled with care, bleach can injure humans and animals and damage porous materials. There are, however, situations where the benefits of using bleach outweigh the risks. As a powerful disinfectant, bleach can eliminate dangerous bacteria – like salmonella and E. coli – in the kitchen and bathroom. It can also help you clean up after fleas, or even mold, and rodents without getting sick. In this article, we’ll explain how to use bleach safely and outline which cleaning tasks should be tackled with this potent germ-fighting solution.
5 Safety Precautions to Take Before Cleaning With Bleach
Open doors and windows.
To reduce the risk of respiratory problems when cleaning with bleach, ventilate the area you plan to work in by opening doors and windows before you get started. Leave the doors and windows open for an hour after you stop cleaning to completely get rid of residual fumes.
Put on protective gear.
Bleach is corrosive; when applied directly to skin, it can cause irritation and chemical burns. Before cleaning with bleach, you should therefore put on durable rubber gloves, eye protection, a mask, and long-sleeved clothing. You should also wash your hands immediately after you finish cleaning.
Avoid mixing bleach with other cleaners.
Most people know that mixing bleach with ammonia can create chlorine gas, which is highly toxic if inhaled. However, it’s equally important to avoid mixing bleach with vinegar, alcohol, and a wide range of household cleaners (such as window and toilet cleaner). The only thing you can safely mix with bleach is plain water.
Dilute bleach before use.
Using bleach at strong concentrations greatly increases the risk of experiencing adverse health effects, but it’s an incredibly common mistake: In fact, according to a study conducted by the Water Quality & Health Council in 2010, 82% of Americans don’t know how much bleach to use when cleaning, and 50% of respondents reported using too much bleach. To kill pathogens, a mixture of just 1/3rd of a cup of bleach per gallon of water is perfectly sufficient.
Don’t use expired bleach.
Bleach slowly degrades with time and exposure to heat and light, even when it’s stored in an unopened, sealed bottle. To ensure you properly disinfect surfaces, don’t use bleach that’s been stored in an unopened container for longer than one year or stored in an opened container for longer than six months. You should also use homemade cleaning solutions that contain bleach within 24 hours of making them.
Where Should You Use Bleach in the Home?
Bleach is safe for use on most hard, non-porous surfaces, including plastic items, vinyl flooring, countertops, shower curtains, and glass dishes. (You should proceed with caution when using bleach on wood, stainless steel, or porous materials like fabric.) Make sure you rinse items you’ve cleaned with bleach before using them again, especially if you’re washing pet dishes or children’s toys. Thorough rinsing will completely remove any potentially harmful bleach residue, because bleach is water soluble.
Before you use bleach to sanitize an area, be sure to scrub away any dirt, grime, or dust that’s present. Bleach is a disinfectant, not an all-purpose cleaner, so it works optimally on surfaces that are already free of debris. Here are some of the best ways to use bleach to keep your home fresh, clean, and free of dangerous bacteria:
In the kitchen:
To disinfect your kitchen with bleach, create a diluted bleach mixture and spray it over your countertops, inside your sink, inside your garbage can, and inside your refrigerator (after removing the contents of your fridge). Let the solution sit for five minutes, then wipe surfaces down with a damp sponge and let them air-dry. If your floor has been contaminated with bacteria (for example, you dropped a piece of raw meat, or your pet vomited on the floor), you can also use this method to sanitize non-hardwood floors.
Take any leftover bleach solution and pour it into a bucket. Soak cutting boards, kitchen cloths, and cleaning sponges in the solution for five to ten minutes, then rinse them thoroughly and let them dry.
In the bathroom:
In addition to sanitizing hard surfaces throughout the bathroom, bleach can be used to quickly disinfect the toilet: Simply pour half a cup of bleach into the toilet bowl, scrub with a toilet brush, and then wait five minutes before flushing.
In the laundry:
Bleach is an excellent stain remover and deodorizer for clothes, but it needs to be handled with care: Bleach can remove the dye from colored clothing and damage delicate fabrics (such as spandex, wool, silk, mohair, and leather), so you should never use it on items that aren’t durable and color-fast. To test for color-fastness, dab a tiny bit of diluted bleach onto a discreet corner of an item of clothing, wait one minute, then pat the area with a tissue. If the spot doesn’t change color or bleed dye onto the tissue, you should be able to wash the item with bleach.
When laundering with bleach, never allow undiluted bleach to make direct contact with clothing. Instead, add 3/4ths of a cup of bleach to your washer’s bleach dispenser, so the bleach is added automatically when the washer is full.
Finally, remember not to over-use bleach; its corrosive nature can prematurely wear out even the toughest fabrics with repeated washings. Save bleach for times when you need to brighten stained whites, remove bacteria from baby clothes, deodorize gym clothes, or clean heavily soiled work clothes.
If You Don’t Feel Comfortable Using Bleach, Call the Pros
Working with bleach can be intimidating and risky, even if you know the right techniques to use. If you’re considering hiring professional help, understand that while cleaning companies might not always send the same cleaner, every member of their team is proficient in handling bleach, ensuring a safe and thorough cleaning experience. For people with respiratory issues, parents, and pet owners, hiring professional maids is safer and easier than trying to disinfect with bleach at home. Our team of conscientious, affordable maids in Indianapolis can keep your home fresh and hygienic, so you don’t have to worry about bleach fumes or damage. Book an appointment with DeluxeMaid today to enjoy our hassle-free cleaning services.