Dangers of Mixing Bleach with Cleaners

Don't mix bleach with ammonia, acids, or other cleaners. Mixing bleach with common cleaning products can cause serious injuries. Be sure to always read the product label before using a cleaning product.

Chlorine Bleach

Sodium Hypochlorite is the active ingredient in chlorine bleach. It is found in household bleach and many other disinfectants. Sodium hypochlorite reacts with ammonia, drain cleaners, and other acids. Many household products state that they contain bleach on the label.

Mixing Bleach and Ammonia

When bleach is mixed with ammonia, toxic gases called chloramines are produced. Exposure to chloramine gases can cause the following symptoms:

  • Coughing.
  • Nausea.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Watery eyes.
  • Chest pain.
  • Irritation to the throat, nose, and eyes.
  • Wheezing.
  • Pneumonia and fluid in the lungs.

Ammonia Products

In addition to using ammonia as a cleaning product, ammonia can be found in some glass and window cleaners, interior and exterior paints, and in urine (use caution when cleaning litter boxes, diaper pails, or toilet bowls).

Mixing Bleach and Acids

When chlorine bleach is mixed with an acid, chlorine gas is given off. Chlorine gas and water combine to make hydrochloric and hypochlorous acids.

Chlorine gas exposure, even at low levels and short periods of time, almost always irritates the mucous membranes (eyes, throat, and nose), and causes coughing and breathing problems, burning and watery eyes, and a runny nose. Higher levels of exposure can cause chest pain, more severe breathing difficulties, vomiting, pneumonia, and fluid in the lungs. Very high levels can cause death.

Chlorine can be absorbed through the skin, resulting in pain, inflammation, swelling, and blistering. Hydrochloric acid also causes burns to the skin, eyes, nose, throat, mouth, and lungs.

Acid Products

Products containing acids include vinegar and some glass and window cleaners, automatic dishwasher detergents and rinses, toilet bowl cleaners, drain cleaners, rust removal products, and brick and concrete cleaners.

Mixing Bleach with Other Cleaning Products

Bleach also reacts with some oven cleaners, hydrogen peroxide, and some insecticides. Pool chemicals frequently contain calcium hypochlorite or sodium hypochlorite and should not be mixed with other cleaning products.

More Resources

  • Product labels usually have a toll-free telephone number that you can call to learn more about the product you have purchased. Most manufacturers also have web sites with product information.
  • To report a hazardous substance release, contact the Washington State Department of Emergency Management at 1-800-258-5990.
  • If you or someone you know has been exposed to a chemical mixture and is experiencing symptoms of illness, contact a health care provider or emergency response service (911).

Content Source: Indoor Air Quality Program