Bleach (Household)

What is it?
First Aid

What is bleach?

Bleach is a general term that refers to chemicals used for whitening. When most people think of bleach, they think of household bleach, which is sold under familiar brand names like Clorox and is used to whiten or disinfect.

Household bleach, also called chlorine bleach, contains the chemical sodium hypochlorite. Most cleaners that say “with bleach” include sodium hypochlorite. The label on the product will tell you if it contains sodium hypochlorite.

Household bleach is safe when used in the right way.

Bleach can become harmful if:

  • You mix it with an acid, such as vinegar, or with ammonia. Mixing these substances can create very irritating fumes (chlorine or chloramine gas). Acids and ammonia are ingredients in many cleaners, including some products for toilets, drains, tubs and tiles. Check the product label for a warning about mixing with bleach.
  • You swallow it, get it on your skin or get it in your eyes.

What symptoms can bleach cause?

If you mix bleach with other chemicals:

The gases created from mixing bleach with acids or ammonia can be very irritating to your eyes, nose and throat, and make it hard to breathe. These symptoms can be especially bad for people with breathing problems, such as asthma or COPD, who may need medical help.

If you swallow bleach or get it on your skin or in your eyes:

You may get a burning feeling. Small amounts of household bleach usually will not cause severe symptoms. Larger amounts or stronger types of bleach, such as pool bleach, can cause worse symptoms. Symptoms can also be worse if you leave bleach on your skin or in your eye for a long time before washing it off. You must remove clothing and wash hair with bleach on it right away

What should you do about bleach poisonings?

If someone has used bleach in a harmful way, follow these first aid steps and call the poison center at 1-800-222-1222, chat online or text POISON to 85511.

If the person:

  • Swallowed bleach or got it in their mouth: Rinse their mouth out with some water.
  • Got bleach in their eye: Flush the eye with warm water for 10-15 minutes. The poison center can help you flush in the right way.
  • Got bleach on their skin or hair: Wash up right away. Remove any clothing with bleach on it.
If someone is having trouble breathing after mixing bleach with another chemical,
get them to fresh air right away and call 911.

How can you prevent bleach poisonings?

  • Read the label on the product and follow all the instructions.
  • Do not mix the product with anything else unless the instructions tell you to.
  • Keep bleach products up high, out of the reach of children.

Last Updated: Friday March 4th 2016