Why You Should Not Mix Bleach & Vinegar While Cleaning?


Cleaning agents are a common thing to have in every household. Among all the items, bleach and vinegar are the two most commonly used cleaning agents. While we use bleach to remove grime and tough stains, vinegar works as a disinfectant.

Now, in hindsight, thinking that bleach and vinegar would go together is not an uncommon thought. Almost every single one of us has had this thought strike our minds at least once. But there’s a reason why you should not mix bleach and vinegar while cleaning.

One of the main ingredients in bleach is sodium hypochlorite, and when it mixes with the acetic acid from the vinegar, it creates a lethal amount of chlorine gas, which is harmful. 

With the basic idea behind this out of the way, let us explore this subject in further detail in the article.

Is it Alright to Mix Bleach and Vinegar?

As we highlighted in the introduction, you should never mix bleach and vinegar. If you are still confused, let us understand things in detail.

Bleach is composed of a chemical called sodium hypochlorite. The most common issue is ensuring you aren’t using it with bare hands since it can irritate the skin. Besides that, for the most part, bleach is safe for cleaning around your home.

The active ingredient, sodium hypochlorite, comprises three elements – sodium, oxygen, and chlorine. When mixed with the acetic acid in the vinegar, a chemical reaction releases chlorine gas.

Sodium Hypochlorite
Image Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Natriumhypochloriet.png

Would you be surprised if we told you that chlorine gas was used during World War I to kill people? That’s the level of danger we are talking about.

One thing that you need to know about bleach is that it should always be used as a standalone cleaning agent. Never mix anything with bleach except water. Even other household cleaning products that contain ammonia don’t bode well with bleach, leading to the formation of chlorine gas.

Another quick thing is that if your cleaning product contains limonene, avoid mixing bleach with that as well.

Also read: How to Wash Bathroom Rugs with Rubber Backing

How Much is Too Much?

Now, you must think, “Well, what if I accidentally mixed some bleach and vinegar?” Well, you need to understand that even the lowest percentage or amount of chlorine gas exposure is bad for one’s health, leading to risks of irritation around the eyes, nose, and throat.

If you smell a pungent and irritating odor coming out of it, chances are that it’s releasing chlorine. Leave the area immediately until the odor fizzles out of the room.

Now, when it comes to the symptoms, they will vary depending on how much chlorine gas you have accidentally inhaled. 

Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • You will experience mouth and nose irritation when the levels are 5 to 15 ppm.
  • You will experience coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, and discomfort when the levels are over 30 ppm.
  • You will experience fluid build-up in the lungs when the levels are over 40 ppm.
  • It becomes lethal for the human body when the levels are over 430 ppm.
  • Above 1000 ppm can lead to fatalities.

Not just for cleaning around your house; it isn’t safe for you to add a mix of bleach and vinegar in the washing machine as well. The science behind this is the same. So, the build-up of chlorine will leave traces of the gas on the clothes and might damage the fabric.

What to do if One Accidentally Inhales Chlorine Gas?

So, let’s assume you didn’t mix much and the fumes are very low; leaving the room immediately and opening the windows is your best bet to avoid the risks.

If that doesn’t work out, the next thing you need to do is pay attention to the kind of symptoms you are experiencing. For example, if inhaling the gas has led to tightness and discomfort around the chest, it could indicate a potential risk of fluid build-up. What you can do in that case is consult a doctor immediately.

If you have accidentally inhaled chlorine gas, the best way to eliminate it from the body is by stepping out in the fresh air and breathing freely as much as you can. You can also read this article about chlorine poisoning by Healthline.

What are some Precautions to Take?

  • Avoid keeping bleach and vinegar together in your supply closet.
  • If you clean stubborn dirt, use bleach first and clean the residue thoroughly before using vinegar to disinfect.
  • Never use the same spray bottle for bleach and vinegar, even if you have washed it.
  • Always label your containers that contain bleach, vinegar, and other cleaning supplies.

That concludes why you should not mix bleach and vinegar.

Also read: How to Clean a Microwave | Best Ways to Clean Microwave

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why should you never mix bleach with any cleaner?

Bleach is highly potent, and when mixed with any cleaners, it tends to create chlorine gas, which is highly toxic.

Do vinegar and bleach work the same?

Bleach is excellent for removing stubborn dirt and grime, while vinegar is ideal for disinfecting surfaces while cleaning.

Is vinegar better to clean with than bleach?

If you are dealing with stubborn dirt, be assured that vinegar won’t be enough to clean it off. It isn’t as potent as bleach.

Are bleach and vinegar toxic?

Mixing bleach and vinegar leads to the formation and release of chlorine gas, which is highly toxic.

When can I use vinegar after bleach?

If you have used bleach to clean somewhere, wait at least a day before using vinegar on the same surface.

How do you use bleach and vinegar?

You shouldn’t use them together at all. However, if you use them, ensure that you use them separately.

Does vinegar whiten whites?

Yes, using vinegar can help you restore the freshness and whiteness of the pale-colored clothes that have lost their shine.

Can you mix vinegar and Dettol?

Vinegar and Dettol might not be lethal or toxic, but they do contain certain constituents that aren’t suitable, and they don’t mesh well.

What can I mix with bleach to clean floors?

The only thing ideal for mixing with bleach for cleaning is water to dilute the harshness of the chemical.

By James Edwards

James Edwards is a writer & editor with almost 15 years of experience from Murphys, California. He earned his bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Johns Hopkins University.

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