Many cleaners contain chlorine bleach because of the whitening power bleach possesses, but there are many hazardous health-related and inconvenient factors involved in bleach-based cleaners that should be considered. Bleach is a disinfectant with germ-killing properties, but the potential toxicity of the product leads many consumers and businesses to find alternative cleaners.
Chlorine bleach contains sodium hypochlorite. This is a chemical compound that takes the form of powder, pellets and liquids. The odour of chlorine bleach is distinctive and often discernible in pool cleaners, household cleaners, laundry and dish detergents and disinfectants. Bleach is not flammable by itself but when mixed with other materials, such as ammonia, can have explosive results. Bleach is poisonous and corrosive when ingested and corrosive to skin and soft body tissues.
1. Bleach is corrosive
The reason that bleach is most frequently used -- making things white and bright again -- is also one of the biggest downfalls of using bleach and cleaning products containing bleach. Bleach can "bleach out" coloured fabrics, upholstery, carpet and even other types of flooring. Bleach can eat through finishes on wood floors, linoleum and certain cabinet finishes. Cleaners with bleach possess all of the corrosive properties of straight bleach. If cleaners with bleach whiten greying fabric and dingy surfaces, just think what those substances do to your skin. Bleach-based cleaners can burn flesh and irritate eyes and mucous passages.
2. Bleach is toxic
When bleach and cleaners containing bleach are mixed with ammonia-based products, ammonia, pool chemicals, oven and drain cleaners, and acidic-based products such as vinegar, toxic fumes and gases are produced. When an acid-based product, such as certain rust removing products or vinegar variations, mix with bleach, it will form chlorine gas. Chlorine gas at least is an irritant and at worst is fatal. When mixed with ammonia, bleach causes highly toxic chloramine gas. Ammonia isn't just found in cleaning products, it can be naturally occurring in urine, such as pet or baby urine. Never mix bleach with anything other than water.
3. Bleach is not suitable for cleaning!
Bleach-based cleaning products, as well as pure bleach, are disinfectants but bleach by itself is not a cleaner; it doesn't remove dirt. Bleach is a germ-killing solution. However, many bleach-based household cleaners incorporate cleaners so the consumer gets the properties of bleach combined with an effective cleanser. Household cleaners are labelled to indicate whether they are cleaners, disinfectants or both. Bleach-based cleaners kill viruses, such as influenza A and B, bacteria and fungi, such as athlete's foot.
Greener cleaning – the alternative
There may be no such thing as 'green' cleaning products – even plant and mineral-based formulations require water to neutralise their impact as well as energy for the manufacturing process and transport for their raw ingredients, potential fertiliser and pesticide use on the crops, plus competition between food and non-food uses of land. However, there are an increasing number of companies that are trying to produce or use cleaning products is a more responsible way. For virtually all of these companies, that means that they avoid petrochemicals and chemicals such as chlorine bleaches as well as phosphates and synthetic fragrances. One example of such companies is Cleaning Ventures (http://cleaningventures.co.uk), a Manchester-based commercial cleaning company who EMERGE is now working with to provide cleaning solutions for our commercial customers.
Cleaning Ventures: A case study
The 5 main cleaning products the company uses were chosen because they are the first manufactured in the UK to be accredited with the UK Ecolabel. As an example, their glass and mirror cleaner contains vinegar and their toilet cleaner uses a formula based on organic fruit acids. Pete Bridge-Collyns, Managing Director of Cleaning Ventures, said: “At Cleaning Ventures we are very keen to work with our customers to help maximise their environmental compliance. We ensure a squeaky clean, fresh, professional work environment without unnecessary use of harsh chemicals. Non-bleach based solutions are perfectly capable of ensuring the highest levels of cleanliness and hygiene, a crucial factor regularly applied elbow grease! We are delighted to work with EMERGE to offer high quality cleaning solutions for customers who share our values."