Bleach:  The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

by Matt Besley on 14-8-2017

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The horror stories we hear about bleach when we carry out COSHH training never cease to amaze us.  One time I was told a cleaner at a school made up a solution with bleach and another chemical in a mop bucket - the reaction knocked the poor cleaner out on the floor (it could have easily been a fatal mistake!).  Another time someone knew of someone who had drunk bleach and didnt survive.

Perhaps there is no other chemical which divides opinion so much.  Or is it the most misunderstood, and dangerous chemical to use today, and is there still a place for it?

The Good

There is definitely still a place for bleach, but only for a couple of applications:

  • Cleaning mould and mildew in shower areas can only be shifted by a bleached-based product.  Dettol Mould and Mildew is the best product that we have found on the market for this - highly effective and fast acting, it also contains a mould inhibitant which prevents mould from coming back.
  • Cleaning algae and organic 'green' growth outside.  When your paths etc get green with algae and organic growth then bleach is a very effective product to get this back.

The Bad

The smell is one factor which really divides opinion - older people seem to be more tolerable to it, whilst the younger generation seem to be less tolerable.  It's strong and can be quite overpowering.

It isnt all that effective.  Some people feel that it will clean everything no problem at all.  One example is that people often use it in toilet bowl cleaning, or on the toilet floor etc where you have a limescale build up and it is black with scale.  The perception is that it will clean it back, but in reality it only whitens the limescale, it doesnt remove it - that's why the toilets go black quickly after you clean it (read our blog post about it here -  

Modern day sanitisers have generally been tested and certified against many more microorganisms than bleach, and they have more EN standard certifications. In short, modern day surfactants and disinfectants are now much better cleaners than bleach.  

The Ugly

Bleach can irritate the eyes and skin as well as causing irritation when inhaled.  If that wasnt enough to put you off, it can also be fatal.  

Mixing some chemicals with bleach is highly dangerous.  In fact, so dangerous that it can kill you.  When some acids are mixed with bleach in particular it gives off toxic chlorine gas (or mustard gas) - something that was used in world war 1 to gas out the enemy.   Needless to say you should never mix any chemicals with bleach in any form, and this includes on a surface - you may be in a shower area and need to clean the mould, but also be using a very strong maintenance descaler for the limescale issue - be warned, you will need to use extreme care to rinse very very thoroughly to prevent a reaction.    

The Alternatives

The good news is that chemical formulation has come on a long way, so there are alternatives products for almost every application:

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