5 Mistakes You Keep Making When Cleaning with Bleach

When it comes to fighting bacteria and germs, bleach can be your ally. However, if you don't use it correctly, bleach can be a foe when it comes to some household cleaning chores. Before you grab the sponge and the bottle of bleach, take note of these five mistakes you keep making when it comes to cleaning with this powerful germ fighter.

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Mixing Bleach with Other Cleaners

It may seem like it would only help the fight against bacteria and germs, but mixing bleach with other cleaners can cause serious problems. The Association of Residential Cleaning Services, International (ARCSI) says bleach should never be mixed with the following:

  • Vinegar: When bleach and vinegar are mixed together, the combination creates chlorine gas which can cause eye irritation and breathing problems.
  • Ammonia: Bleach mixed with ammonia creates chloramine, a gas which is similar to chlorine gas. Additional symptoms from exposure to chloramine are shortness of breath and chest pain.
  • Pine-Sol: If you mix bleach and Pine-Sol in large amounts, it will create chlorine gas.
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Using Too Much Bleach in the Laundry

Bleach can fight stains and whiten your whites, but there is such a thing as too much bleach when it comes to doing your laundry. When you over-bleach your laundry, it can impact the strength and quality of the fibers over time. The American Cleaning Institute (ACI) offers these tips for using bleach in your laundry:

  • Read the care label as some fabrics cannot be bleached. Also, some detergents have color-safe bleach or bleach alternatives built in. However, these products do not disinfect.
  • Do a test. Dip a cotton swab in the bleach/water solution and dab on an inside seam. If the color remains, you should be safe.
  • Start small by laying a stained section of the clothing article flat and be sure there are not layers of fabric or anything underneath that can be affected by bleach. Work from the outer edge of the stain, and rinse with water when the stain is gone.
  • Read the label on the bleach container when bleaching a whole load of laundry to determine the amount to use. You should also consult your washing machine manual to see if you should add bleach to the drum or to a special dispenser.
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Dumping Bleach Down Drains

If your home has a septic system, you shouldn’t pour any type of bleach down the toilet or drains. According to Rapid First Plumbing, a residential plumbing company in California, bleach kills the beneficial bacteria that helps break down your home’s septic waste. “Without the breakdown of solids in your septic tank, your waste system may clog or fail to drain in your yard properly. You may permanently damage your septic system,” the company notes on its website. In addition, bleach can mix with other agents in your sink drains and contaminate the air in your home and even cause your pipes to burst.

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Using Bleach on Metal Surfaces

Bleach shouldn’t be applied to copper or stainless steel appliances. That’s because the corrosive chemicals in bleach can react with metal and leave behind stains and even corrosion, according to ARCSI. “Always use approved cleaners on metal surfaces. Also, never use bleach or ammonia to eliminate rust. This will set the stain and make it more difficult to remove,” the ARCSI warns.

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bleach cleaner

Not Diluting Bleach Enough

More bleach doesn’t mean a better clean. ACI notes the only advantage to using more bleach than prescribed is if the surface is soiled. When using bleach to clean floors, sinks, appliances, certain dishes and countertops, ACI says, “Do not use more than one cup of bleach per gallon of water.”

Rachel Brougham
Rachel Brougham lived through a major home renovation in 2019, knows the ups and downs of home improvement, and loves sharing tips with readers. A veteran journalist of both print and television, she’s won several awards for her writing and has covered everything from the environment and education to health care, politics and food. She’s written for several publications beyond newspapers including Bob Vila, Taste of Home and Minnesota Parent, and she currently writes a weekly syndicated newspaper column. Her memoir, Widowland, about the sudden loss of her husband, was published in 2022. She specializes in everything from home decor and design to lawn and garden, product reviews and pet care. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her tending to her garden (both vegetables and native plants), playing with her dog, watching sports with her family or getting some exercise. A native of Michigan, she currently lives in Minneapolis. An avid user of Instagram, you can follow her @RachBrougham.