Chlorine bleach (known especially by the popular name brand Clorox) is useful to have on hand as a disinfectant, for some cleaning purposes and for getting white laundry exceptionally bright. It's ubiquitous in almost every household, but it's also hazardous. You can't simply pour bleach down a toilet or dispose of bleach in a storm drain and call it a day.
However, Clorox bleach has an expiration date, and you might need to get rid of your old jug after a while. There are numerous options when it comes to bleach disposal in order to protect the environment, your septic tank, and your family and pets.
Why Dispose of Bleach Safely?
Because chlorine bleach is fatal if swallowed and represents a skin, eye and respiratory irritant according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you likely keep track of its whereabouts in your home. It's your responsibility to be just as diligent when disposing of it to ensure it doesn't cause harm to someone else.
Chlorine bleach is a volatile substance that reacts with other chemicals. Critically, it will produce a fatal gas if mixed with ammonia. This is why it's important to not only use but also dispose of Chlorox bleach safely. You need to be confident that the bleach won't come into contact with other chemicals along the way, even at the trash dump.
In addition, the University of Wisconsin-Extension notes that chlorine bleach can also interact with other chemicals — including those found in septic tanks — to form hazardous substances called chlorinated hydrocarbons. According to a study published in Scientific Reports in January 2017, exposure to chlorinated hydrocarbons may cause renal failure, several types of cancer, seizure disorders and a range of acute symptoms, including nausea and vomiting. Safely disposing of chlorine bleach may seem like a small effort to make, but it helps protect your entire community.
The University of Wisconsin-Extension has a simple but effective suggestion for disposing of unwanted bleach: share it with others. Gift it to new parents, donate it to a local animal shelter or simply call up your best friend and tell them to take bleach off their shopping list.
However, bleach does expire over time, which means that old jug may not be worth passing along to someone else. But first, check the Clorox bleach expiration code. Bleach will begin to degrade after six months. Every year, it loses 20 percent of its effectiveness. A different disposal option may be more suitable for old bleach.
Possibly Flush Bleach Down Toilet
You can put small amounts of bleach down the drain as long as you follow certain precautions. Pouring bleach down the shower drain if you have a septic tank isn't the best idea due to the danger of chlorinated hydrocarbons. But, if you do decide to dispose of it this way, be sure to dilute the flushed bleach by running plenty of water at the same time. This will reduce the concentration of the bleach and the chances of it reacting with other chemicals in dangerous quantities.
Household Hazardous Waste Collection
If you have a septic tank or quite a bit of bleach to get rid of, the best way to dispose of it is to hand it over to the waste disposal authorities. Local governments typically run special collection events for household hazardous waste, but you can also call your local recycling facility to ask if they accept bleach any day of the week.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Facts About Chlorine
- University of Wisconsin-Extension: Disposing of Hazardous Wastes from the Home
- Scientific Reports: Residential Exposure to Chlorinated Hydrocarbons From Groundwater Contamination and the Impairment of Renal Function-An Ecological Study
- Bob Vila: Solved! The Shelf Life of Bleach
- Hazardous Waste Disposal Services
- 12 Amazing Ways to Use Bleach