Monday, June 18, 2012

Why I Am Giving Up Bleach

I grew up in a bleached world. For a while, during my adolescence, I lived with my grandmother. She was an old-school true believer in bleach. She would dilute it in a bucket and scrub down the counters, the cutting boards, the sinks, the toilets, the tubs, and the floors. As my white socks turned a grimy dark grey from my refusal to wear slippers, she would corral me and show me how to scrub them out in a tub of a strong bleach solution, then let them soak overnight until they were an acceptable shade. I thought bleach could clean everything.

I'm not denying that bleach is an excellent cleaner and sanitizer, but I really have to stop using it. You see, I have studied enough chemistry that it sort of makes me nervous.

When I use the word 'bleach' I am referring specifically to sodium hypochlorite, like what is in Clorox. (The actual definition is anything that can remove the color from something else. Technically, the sun qualifies as a bleaching agent).

Sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) likes to react with other chemicals, including other common ones that might be in your cleaning products, including ammonia and vinegar. Unfortunately a lot of these reactions can have products that are toxic to people and pets.

1) Reacting with ammonia can produce hydrazine. HYDRAZINE IS TOXIC.
Don't believe me? Read the material safety data sheet (MSDS). Go right to section 3.

2) Reacting with vinegar or other acids can produce chlorine gas. CHLORINE GAS IS TOXIC.
Feel free to read the MSDS for this one, too.

For the longest time I have used bleach or bleach products to clean my home without a major catastrophe. What makes me so nervous now? Simple. I have two little boys. As I am doing the laundry, or cleaning the kitchen, or scrubbing the bathrooms, or mopping the floors, my sons are following me and trying to help. If there is even a little hydrazine or chlorine floating around, do I really want it in their lungs? On their skin? Stinging their curious little eyes?

No. Never.

So, I'm going bleach free. I'll let you know how it goes.

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