Chlorine Bleach / Sodium Hypochlorite Solution

Chlorine Bleach / Sodium Hypochlorite Solution

Updated February 22, 2022


Chlorine bleach is formed by mixing water with the chlorine-based compound sodium hypochlorite. This widely available product is commonly used as either a whitening and disinfecting agent in laundry or an all-purpose disinfectant with broad applications.

Uses & Benefits

Chlorine bleach is primarily known as a laundry cleaning and disinfecting product that destroys germs and helps make white clothes whiter. Bleach also has a wide range of other applications, including:

  • Safe water
    Before chlorine-based disinfectants like sodium hypochlorite solutions were routinely added to U.S. drinking water beginning over 100 years ago, many people became sick and died of waterborne diseases, such as cholera and typhoid fever. Chlorination destroys most waterborne germs to help keep drinking water safe. During emergencies, when the normal drinking water supply is interrupted or contaminated, chlorine bleach can safely disinfect non-potable water. Chlorine bleach also helps keep swimming pools free of waterborne germs that can cause diarrhea, swimmer’s ear and “hot tub rash.”
  • Safe food production and preparation
    Chlorine bleach added to water can destroy germs associated with raw foods. These solutions also can disinfect food production equipment, food preparation surfaces and food-transportation containers. Grocery stores and restaurants use bleach solutions to help sanitize food storage and preparation surfaces.
  • Medical uses
    Chlorine bleach solutions help disinfect many types of surfaces, including reusable equipment in hospitals, medical labs, doctors’ offices, and nursing homes, to help prevent the spread of infectious illnesses among patients, residents and healthcare professionals.
  • Household disinfection
    Consumers can use diluted chlorine bleach solutions to help disinfect household surfaces in bathrooms and the kitchen. Using bleach solutions to disinfect frequently touched surfaces also can help prevent the spread of colds, flu, norovirus and other infectious illnesses. During natural disasters, such as flooding, chlorine bleach can disinfect contaminated surfaces.

Safety Information

Chlorine bleach that is registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency1 is safe to use in everyday household applications, but users should take care to follow manufacturer’s directions on the product label. Chlorine bleach should never be used full strength; for specific applications, users should dilute the product with water according to label directions.

Chlorine bleach is corrosive, so users should avoid contact with the eyes and skin by wearing protective eyewear and plastic or rubber gloves and ensure good air ventilation when using bleach in a confined area.

It is important to store chlorine bleach out of the reach of children. Additionally, storing bleach out of direct sunlight and away from sources of heat can help extend its shelf life, as heat and light degrade this product over time.

Consumers should never mix chlorine bleach or any product containing chlorine bleach with ammonia,2 ammonia-based products or acidic products, as the combination can produce a toxic vapor.3



1Selected EPA-Registered Disinfectants | US EPA
2Dangers of Mixing Bleach with Cleaners | DOH (
3Using Bleach in Laundry | The American Cleaning Institute (ACI)