Bleach: using chlor-alkali chemistry to protect our health
Chlorinated bleach (or simply bleach; or hypochlorite, amongst experts) has been an important household chemical for over two hundred years.
Used as a disinfectant to keep drinking water and swimming pools healthy, it was also valuable as a laundry whitener when there were no washing machines and no ultra-specific detergents.
It is also used on a daily basis in homes, public spaces and hospitals, for its role in removing bacteria and viruses, and has even been recommended for helping the fight against the recent COVID-19. Here, health experts advise diluting 20 ml of household bleach in one liter of water before use on rinsed surfaces.
However, like any household chemical, it must be sensibly and safely used:
- Bleach must be handled with proper care and protection for the hands and face, as it can irritate skin and eyes;
- It should never be drank or injected, even when diluted, either as a treatment for infections or in response to any joke or online "challenge", as this can be fatal;
- It must be kept in a dark and secure place, away from children, and the expiry date must be taken into account;
- It should never be mixed with other cleaning fluids (such as vinegar, ammonia or alcohol), as these chemicals can react and cause toxic and corrosive gases to form.
When stored, handled and used correctly, bleach is an essential tool to help protect our homes, hospitals and communities. It is one of several chlor-alkali chemicals that help keep us healthy.