TIPS TO USE HOUSEHOLD BLEACH SAFELY -FROM A MOM
Excuse me? You want me to use bleach in my house? Bleach is scary, toxic, and not good for my kids! Right?…
…But what if I told you that bleach actually has benefits that other cleaning products just can’t give you? And if you learn how to use bleach correctly and in the right situations, household bleach doesn’t have to be scary at all.
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What seems like many moons ago…because it was…I was using bleach almost everyday. Why? Because my degree is in Biology, and my first job out of college was in a laboratory.
I am not going to tell you exactly what we did in the lab, but I can tell you that bleach was needed over pretty much any other disinfectant.
Fast forward to having two kids and becoming a stay at home mom…I all of a sudden didn’t want bleach ANYWHERE in my home.
I read a lot. I mean…A LOT…about keeping my kids safe and keeping chemicals in my home to a minimum. I switched to disinfecting almost everything with vinegar, and cleaning with regular old soap and water.
But I have found over the years that sometimes you just need bleach. And if you use it the right way…and in the right situations, then you can rest assured that it is not a danger to you or your family members. And it may actually be highly beneficial.
WHAT IS HOUSEHOLD BLEACH?
Household bleach is what most of us refer to as liquid bleach. It is the bottle you can buy at the grocery store down the street that comes in a white plastic gallon size container.
Bleach can be used in two different ways in your home. As a disinfectant, or as a whitening agent.
*Know that there are actually two other types of bleach (Oxygen bleach, and bleaching powder) but in this article I will only be talking about liquid bleach for household use.
WHY YOU SHOULD USE BLEACH
Have you ever had to deal with the flu (like the real influenza virus) in your house? A stomach bug that involved diarrhea and puking? RSV?
Or maybe you or someone in your family has experienced food poisoning from salmonella or E.coli?
Then I can tell you from a professional standpoint…because I worked with all of these things in my lab…that white distilled vinegar WILL NOT kill them.
So then you are dealing with harmful viruses and/or bacteria in your home that others could be susceptible to.
Because you know that if little Sally brings it home, it will only take a few days for little Jimmy to get it.
That is where bleach comes in. You can stop the spread of many of the viruses and bacteria in your home if you know how to use it the right way.
HOW TO USE HOUSEHOLD BLEACH
To use household bleach properly when you have kids, pets, or even just to protect yourself, you need to know proper use instructions. In other words…no ER trips today folks!
Here I will give you tips for reducing the bleach smell which can be toxic, for creating a safer concentration, and for how to keep it off your skin.
First, let’s talk about the vapors. And I am not talking about those hot feelings that Blanche Dubois gets on Golden Girls.
STOPPING THE BLEACH VAPORS
Household bleach has a very strong “scent” for lack of a better word. And this scent can be bad for your lungs, eyes, nose and mouth. Because the “scent” is not really just a smell, but some of the chemical evaporating into the air. So it is best to not be in its presence for longer than you need to be.
Now, as scary as that sounds, if you do things properly, you can limit exposure to those vapors.
Tip 1: Ventilate
So first, I want you to properly ventilate the room where you are using the bleach. That means open a window or turn on a fan.
Tip 2: Close Off Other Rooms
In order to prevent the smell from moving into other areas of your home, close off those other areas by closing the doors.
Tips 3: Keep Others Out
Whether you have kids, dogs, or another adult living with you, you will want to make sure they are not in the area where you are using the bleach. This will limit their exposure to the vapors.
Tip 4: Mask Up (and goggle up)
Buy a mask and some goggles from the local hardware store to help prevent the vapors from irritating your eyes, nose and longs.
This is a good 3M mask for blocking vapors among other things. If you want to go simply, you could try an N95 mask like this one. But if you can smell the bleach while you have it on, you need a new mask.
Googles that actually help block out the vapors are actually going to be a laboratory-like google like this pair.
The next thing we should talk about is touching bleach…DO NOT DO IT! Remember that ER visit I talked about? Yea, let’s avoid it by NOT TOUCHING THE BLEACH.
Here is how…
DO NOT TOUCH THE BLEACH
Bleach is what is called a corrosive chemical. At the concentrations that it comes in, in the original bottle, it is strong enough to eat away at fabric, grout, and other pretty tough stuff. So do not think in any way that it will not burn your skin.
Yup, bleach can cause some serious burns, so let’s talk about some tips to keep your body safe.
Tip 1: Wear Gloves
Whenever you are working with bleach…even after you have diluted the concentration (next section) you should wear gloves.
The best are either latex or nitrile surgical gloves that you can buy here. Or just some rubber gloves you can get at the local dollar store will work fine too.
Tip 2: Goggle Up…Again
Yes, I am telling you to goggle up again. Do you know that this is one thing that most people do not do when they clean their homes. But if you ever were to get any cleaning chemicals in your eyes, you would know why this is so important.
So in case the bleach splashes up into your face…and yes, it really can happen…you want to have protection at least over your eyes. If you don’t want to fully geek up with the laboratory goggles, you can get a slightly less dorky looking pair here. OR just wear an actual pair of your own glasses or sun glasses.
DILUTE IT RIGHT
So the last thing we will talk about is concentration. And since this is not science class, I want to make this simple to understand.
Basically, the bleach that you buy at the store if very strong stuff. But you actually don’t need it that strong. So if you can create a product that is a little weaker in strength, it is safer to use overall.
A weaker solution will give off less vapors, it will cause less damage if you get it on your skin or in your eyes, and it will still disinfect the way you need it to.
The way to make the household bleach you just bought weaker, is to just add water.
Here is the most common way to make a household bleach solution that will disinfect anything:
Food Surfaces Dilution:
1 Tbsp of Bleach per 1 gallon of water
General Disinfecting Dilution(Changing Tables, Toys, Bathrooms):
¼ cup bleach per 1 gallon water or 1 Tablespoon bleach per 1 quart water
“Accidents” or Illnesses Dilution:
⅓ cup bleach per 1 gallon water or 2 tablespoons bleach per 1 quart water
NEVER MIX YOUR BLEACH WITH ANYTHING
Here are the three things you should never mix with your bleach…or you could wind up in the ER! (and remember…we are not making an ER trip today kids!)
- Never mix bleach with Ammonia
Mixing bleach with Ammonia will create a toxic gas called chloromine gas which if inhaled can do a lot of damage.
- Never mix bleach with anything acidic
Acidic household items consist of vinegar, lemon juice, dish washing detergent, glass cleaner, toilet bowl cleaners, brick and concrete detergents, drain cleaners, and rust removers.
- Never mix bleach with alcohol
Mixing bleach and alcohol can create chloroform which is toxic and carcinogenic
- Never mix bleach with other cleaners
Due to the fact that you don’t know what is in the other cleaners, mixing them with bleach can cause toxic fumes that could be harmful.
WHAT IS HOUSEHOLD BLEACH USED FOR?
Now that you know the right way to use household bleach, let’s talk about all the different places you can use it to keep your family safe from unwanted viruses, bacteria and mold. And some other ways you can use it…like to make your whites whiter. Each is noted in parentheses with which bleach dilution to follow from the guide above.
***KEEP IN MIND, I RECOMMEND USING VINEGAR FOR ALL GENERAL DISINFECTING. THIS LIST IS A LIST OF “COULD’S” FOR USING BLEACH NOT A LIST OF “SHOULD’S”
- Toilets (General)
- Toys (General)
- Floors (General)
- Laundry (General)
- Tub (General)
- Shower (General)
- Refrigerator (General)
- Kitchen Sink (General)
- Clothing (General)
- Garbage cans (Accidents or Illness)
- Bathroom sink (General)
- Mop head (General)
- Food containers (Food Surface)
- Dishrags (General)
- Washing machine (General)
- Changing pad (General)
- Doorknobs (General)
- Handles (General)
- Light switches (General)
- Remotes (General)
- Towels (General)
- Sheets (General)
- Mold (General)
- Mildew (General)
- Countertops (Food Surface)
- Vomit (Accidents or Illness)
- Diarrhea (Accidents or Illness)
- After illness (Accidents or Illness)
WHEN TO USE HOUSEHOLD BLEACH FOR DISINFECTING
The list above is what you CAN use household bleach to clean. That does not mean that you need to or should be cleaning all of those things with bleach all the time.
In general, I only use bleach when I have to. Like after an illness in the family or after chopping chicken on my cutting board. Things where there is a high potential of contamination and others getting sick.
I will occasionally use bleach in my laundry when I find that my towels, or dishrags have an odor that I cannot get rid of with regular washing. This usually indicates some sort of bacterial or mildew growth, so adding some bleach (like 1 tablespoon) just helps kill whatever is in the laundry.
But in most cases you can just use distilled white vinegar to disinfect. I have a whole article about how to use it here.
WHO SHOULD USE BLEACH
Only adults should use bleach. Under no circumstances should a child be allowed to use bleach. If they are helping you clean, make sure they are not using the bleach solution or even in the same room as the bleach (see tips above).
Frequently Asked Questions:
How do you mix bleach and water in a spray bottle?
I do not recommend putting bleach into a spray bottle. Not only can the bleach react with the plastic of the bottle, but spraying bleach will cause it to become more aerosolized and easier to inhale. Which could be harmful.
If you need a general disinfectant to add to your cleaning routine that is safe to put into a spray bottle, you can try diluting distilled whilte vinegar.
Do you need to rinse bleach off?
Yes. Always rinse bleach off any surface where you use it. This will cut down on the amount of contact others have with it and also cut down on harmful fumes.
How long does bleach take to disinfect?
Depending on what type of disinfecting you need, it could take anywhere from 5 minutes for general cleaning to the time it takes for a surface to dry for accident and illness cleaning.
What should you not use bleach on?
You should not use bleach on anything metal or on some types of plastic.
What is a natural substitute for bleach?
A natural substitute for bleach when you are doing general cleaning and disinfecting in your home is distilled white vinegar.
Here are some other alternatives for disinfecting:
HOUSEHOLD BLEACH CAN BE GOOD
Overall, household bleach can be a good thing in your home especially if you are trying to disinfect after a serious illness. But in general, most of your cleaning and disinfecting can be done with simple soap and water and some distilled white vinegar.
As a stay at home mom myself, I have found ways to keep myself sane and organized while loving what I do …be home with my kids! After 14 years of being home, I realized other moms may benefit from some of the tips and tricks I have learned over the years. Join me to learn ways to manage your home and life as a stay at home mom so you can make time to enjoy the best part…family. Things I love…feeling motivated, Harry Potter, being outside, and digging deeper into my life and my family’s life in order to make it better. I have a Degree in Biology and am also a freelance writer.