I’m always amazed by the sheer number of folks who think household bleach is a cleaning product. Just the other day, I had another professional in the green cleaning world tell me that they will, “Usually use green products, but for first cleans and very nasty things like greasy stoves, we’ll get out the bleach.”
Bleach for grease? Really?
We’ve talked about alternatives to chlorine bleach on this blog several times. It’s poisonous, may cause certain types of cancer, smells horrible, et cetera. But it’s also just not that great of a cleaning product. There, I said it. Let me get on my soapbox about some common myths- and uncommon truths- about Chlorine Bleach.
1. Bleach is a verb that means “to remove color from.”
Common household bleach, sodium hypochlorite, is an oxidizing color remover. It works by changing color molecules called “chromophores” into non-colored molecules. “Oxidizing” is the same chemical process that rusts steel, turns fat rancid, and causes great damage to cellular membranes (which is why it’s an effective disinfectant).
2. Bleach is not a degreaser, surfactant, or detergent.
It will not cut grease or soap scum any more effectively than your average spray cleaner. It is caustic, so it will eat through certain types of soils, eventually. But you’d be better off using a true degreasing product like citrus-solve, or other d-Limonene natural product.
3. Bleach is the number 1 cause of poisoning cases in the U.S.
According to the Nation Center for Injury Prevention and Control, chlorine bleach was responsible for more calls to poison control than any other product. The quick stats:
- 218,316 reported poison exposures in 2005 were from household cleaning products.
- Hypochlorite (bleach) was the source of 54,433 poisonings in 2005; 25% of the total
exposures from household cleaning substances and the cause of 8 deaths.
- 121,498 children under the age of 6 were poisoned by household cleaners last year.
4. Chlorine Bleach is useful for ONE thing!
I’m a huge advocate of natural and safer cleaning products. Most of the time I will use a different type of oxidizing bleach product such as Sodium Perborate, Sodium Percarbonate (marketed as “oxy-clean”), or Hydrogen Peroxide. But Chlorine bleach really can’t be beat for very stained whites, and even I use it occasionally.
However, as a disinfectant, and a house cleaning product, it is outdated and the risks far outweigh the benefits.
Thanks for letting me vent.