Chlorine bleach is used in many households as a disinfectant and as an effective cleaning solution. The sodium hypochlorite solution is highly toxic undiluted; especially to plants. It is the sodium in the bleach that poses the most risk to plants because it interferes with their mineral absorption. Small amounts of diluted chlorine bleach are safe for plants and in some cases even helpful. But it is still important to use caution when using excessive amounts of chlorine bleach around your plants.
Dilute bleach before use. The dilution amounts will vary depending on what it is that you are cleaning, but the Iowa Department of Public Health suggests that a bleach solution of 1 tbsp. bleach to 1 qt. water is a safe dilution to use for cleaning and disinfecting. Diluted chlorine bleach is usually safe to use around plants because the diluted chemicals burn off quickly. Straight chlorine bleach burns leaves.
Use chlorine bleach in an area that won't affect your outdoor plants. If you are cleaning your lawn furniture with a chlorine bleach product, do so in an area that will not affect your landscaping or garden. This could be out in the far end of your yard where you may not have any foliage, or even in your driveway.
Rinse your plants immediately if you accidentally spill a chlorine bleach product on them. This is best done with a garden hose or buckets of clear water. The water will help to dilute the chlorine bleach and prevent leaf scorching.
Cover your plants when using a chlorine bleach product to clean the exterior of your home. A small amount of diluted bleach is usually not enough to kill plants. But excessive amounts of bleach that are rinsed away from your siding can cause a problem. Use a large tarp or plastic sheeting to protect plants during exterior projects.
Use a hand pump spray bottle when you are using straight chlorine bleach to kill weeds. If you use a sprayer that attaches to a garden hose or a pump-style sprayer, you risk overspraying the chlorine bleach onto decorative landscaping and shrubbery. Using a traditional hand pump spray bottle gives you more control and will allow you to spray the bleach directly on the weeds.