Is Bleach a Safe Disinfectant? Here’s How to Use it To Get Rid of COVID-19.
Chlorine-based bleach has been around for a long, long, time. It was invented in Europe in the late 18th century, and many consider it the be-all and end-all solution to their cleaning needs. And now with concerns about the coronavirus (Covid-19), people are using bleach as a disinfectant at increasing rates. And with this increased use, we’ve heard households wondering, Is bleach a safe disinfectant? While bleach can be dangerous in some instances, the good news is that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a diluted bleach solution for disinfecting your Chicagoland home during Covid-19. (But make sure your bleach isn’t past its expiration date or it’ll be ineffective against the virus.)
The CDC recommends using the following solution on suitable hard surfaces:
5 tablespoons (1/3rd cup) bleach per gallon of water OR
4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water
Be sure to let your mixed solution set for at least one minute before using it to disinfect.
When Is Bleach Not Safe?
However, for some soft or hard surfaces, the CDC does say that bleach is dangerous — and instead recommends that you disinfect with any of these EPA-registered household disinfectants. (They meet EPA’s criteria for use against COVID-19.)
Even though in general bleach is a safe disinfectant, it’s important to remember that it can do your house great harm if you’re not careful. This is because bleach contains chlorine, which is a dangerous chemical. Here are ten reasons why bleach isn’t always the safest choice for cleaning your Chicagoland home:
Chlorine lacks detergency – in other words, it contains no wetting agents that allow it to penetrate soils, so surfaces must be pre-cleaned before chlorine will effectively kill germs. This is a 2-step process that requires more time.
Chlorine is very caustic to human tissue. It can produce irritation and burning on your skin and could cause blindness.
Chlorine reacts with other chemicals to create toxic byproducts and gases. For instance, when bleach mixes with ammonia, it can form chlorine gas, causing cellular damage in nasal passageways and lungs. The accidental mixture of these two products has resulted in death. It’s also incompatible with products that contain hydrochloric acid, phosphoric acid, and acetic acid (vinegar).
It may harm your children. After using, bleach remains on surfaces and continues to emit fumes. Recent studies show that children who been exposed to bleach in their homes are more likely to suffer from respiratory illness. In addition, various studies have linked the use of bleach in a household to a higher prevalence of asthma and allergies.
Using bleach can hurt your pets. Your cleaning products can stay on a pet’s paws or fur. Since cats and dogs often lick themselves, they may ingest harmful chemicals. Due to their tiny size, birds can become sick upon inhaling only a small amount of the fumes. Bleach poisoning in pets can result in vomiting, convulsions, and sometimes death.
Bleach can kill mold, BUT it depends on the surface the mold is on. Mold grows on both porous and non-porous materials. When dealing with mold on non-porous materials such as shower tiles, tubs, vinyl window trims, countertops, etc. you can use bleach to kill the mold and disinfect. But using bleach to remove mold from porous materials like drywall and wood can actually accelerate mold growth rather than killing it! How? When bleach is used on porous materials, the chlorine is left on the surface and only the water component of the bleach is absorbed into the material, aggravating the situation as this provides more moisture for the mold to feed on, where it may then produce allergens and irritants. If your Chicago area home or business has a mold infestation, call ServiceMaster Restoration By Simons to professionally remove it
Chlorine is extremely corrosive to metal surfaces and can permanently discolor countertops. It can also damage floor finishes, requiring them to be stripped and recoated, which is an expensive process.
Chlorine discolors fibers and colored surfaces. Carpets, upholstery, and clothing are just a few of the materials that may be damaged.
Chlorine bleach’s disinfectant power is rapidly inactivated by contact with organic matter, such as blood, saliva, tissue, urine, feces, dirt, etc. Chlorine is also weakened by sunlight.
Diluted chlorine bleach quickly loses its effectiveness, is unstable and can lose its disinfectant qualities very rapidly compared to other, more stable disinfectants.
Safe and Effective Alternatives to Bleach
If you’re looking for a safer alternative to bleach, here are some ideas:
Baking soda and white vinegar – they’re non-toxic and non-corrosive. Use them to freshen fabrics, eliminate grease, and clean glass. (Not effective against COVID-19)
Rubbing alcohol – effectively cleans plastic surfaces of electronics (A concentration of around 70% will kill COVID-19)
Hydrogen peroxide – it’s non-toxic and can be used to disinfect household surfaces. Unlike bleach, hydrogen peroxide is safe to use around food products. (Effective against COVID-19)
Soap and warm water – the basics! It’ll clean just about anything in your home and won’t present any health risks. (Follow up with a disinfectant to be effective against COVID-19)
Bleach is a safe disinfectant —usually. And, it’s a cheap chemical to find at the store, making a great purchase for families on a budget. However, although bleach products may be a bargain, you owe it to yourself, your family, and coworkers to use a product that truly cleans, thoroughly disinfects and is safe to use. We’re not saying not to use bleach to disinfect your home, but definitely consider if it’s safe in specific instances, and don’t be afraid to use alternatives that are just as effective if you are worried about it!
Sometimes, DIY disinfecting with bleach just isn’t an option. If you’re looking for COVID-19 disinfection or cleaning in the Chicagoland area, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We provide effective coronavirus cleaning and Decontamination Services to commercial and residential properties — complete with a stamp of disinfection!
Nasutsa Mabwa is President of ServiceMaster by Simons, a MBE/WBE City of Chicago and State of Illinois certified firm. She is a 2020 Daily Herald Business Ledger C-Suite awardee, a member of Crain’s Chicago Business 40 under 40 and a 2018 ServiceMaster(c) Achiever Award recipient. She is a Civic Federation Board Member, an Advisory Board Member for as President Elect on the Executive Committee for the Evanston Chamber of Commerce. She is IICRC certified for WRT & FSRT.