Clorox Hazards

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Clorox is an effective cleaner and disinfectant, but it can also be hazardous if not used properly.
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Clorox bleach is commonly used for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and fabrics. In fact, most of the world's health organizations recommend using bleach to help control the spread of pathogens that can make people sick. While used in homes regularly, bleach causes more injuries and illnesses in children than any other household cleaner. It is important for consumers to understand the potential hazards of Clorox bleach in order to avoid accidents or injuries.

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Health Problems and Bleach

Clorox bleach can be harmful to humans if ingested or inhaled, or if it stays on the skin for too long. If Clorox makes prolonged contact with the skin, such as when using disinfectant wipes, it can cause skin irritation. If you swallow bleach or it gets into your eyes, it can cause serious symptoms, including nausea and vomiting and temporary blindness.

Exposure to bleach vapors and mist from Clorox spray products while cleaning can aggravate the symptoms of certain heart and respiratory conditions, such as asthma, emphysema or chronic bronchitis. In addition, frequent exposure to bleach fumes can cause asthma as well as trigger attacks in asthmatic individuals.

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Oxidization and Bleach

Bleach is an oxidizing agent, meaning that it will cause metal corrosion. When bleach is diluted in water, it breaks down into salt and water very quickly. If you are storing bleach solution in a spray bottle with metal parts, over time the bleach can corrode the metal parts in the trigger mechanism. With prolonged contact, undiluted Clorox can cause metal to pit and discolor.

Toxic Gases and Bleach

When mixed with other chemicals, such as ammonia, vinegar, acids or other cleaners containing chlorine, Clorox produces hazardous gases that can be harmful or even fatal. Clorox should only be diluted with water, according to the specific instructions on the bottle.

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Toxic Chemicals and Clorox Bleach

While chlorine bleach is used to lighten wood and remove stains, do not use Clorox bleach on pressure-treated wood manufactured before February 2002. Before that date, most pressure-treated wood was made with chromated copper arsenate, or CCA, a type of arsenic. When you use bleach on this type of wood, the CCA combines with the bleach to form toxic hexavalent chromium. Hexavalent chromium is very dangerous and can cause cancer and other health problems.

Removing Dye From Fabric

While one of the reasons that many people use Clorox is its ability to remove stains and discoloration from white fabrics, Clorox will also remove dyes from fabric. Be careful not to let Clorox bleach or bleach pens have any contact with colored fabrics, unless you want to remove the color.

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Clorox Safety Tips

You can avoid accidents or injuries from Clorox products by following the use and safety precautions listed on the containers. Always keep bleach away from children, even if it has a child-proof cap. Store bleach in the original container on a high shelf or a locked cabinet, not under the sink or next to the washer where children and pets may access it.

Never use bleach without diluting it, and let surfaces dry completely before allowing children and pets near them. Use Clorox in a well-ventilated area, and wear a mask if you will be using bleach for an extended period of time or if you are sensitive to the fumes. To quickly clear the Clorox fumes from cleaning, add a fan to a nearby window to pull the air out of the room.

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Kristen Hamlin

Kristen Hamlin

An adjunct instructor at Central Maine Community College, Kristen Hamlin is also a freelance writer on topics including lifestyle, education, and business. She is the author of Graduate! Everything You Need to Succeed After College (Capital Books), and her work has appeared in Lewiston Auburn Magazine, Young Money, USA Today and a variety of online outlets. She has a B.A. in Communication from Stonehill College, and a Master of Liberal Studies in Creative Writing from the University of Denver.