Can You Mix Bleach and Hydrogen Peroxide? No! (Here’s Why)

As we strive to keep our surroundings clean and germ-free, we may consider combining potent cleaners hoping to get the job done faster and without so much elbow grease.

But can you mix bleach and hydrogen peroxide? After all, they are two very efficient disinfectants and bleaching agents.

However, You should never mix bleach and hydrogen peroxide as doing so releases toxic fumes and produces an unstable, highly corrosive solution.

Let’s explore the chemical reaction when mixing these two together.

Why You Should Never Mix Bleach and Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide should never be mixed with household bleach.

When highly reactive hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) interacts with bleach, sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl), also a highly reactive chemical, the result is an unstable mixture that releases toxic fumes.

As sodium hypochlorite reacts with hydrogen peroxide, it releases water, sodium chloride, oxygen, and chlorine gas.

This rapid reaction is exothermic, meaning it releases heat. The resulting mixture is also highly unstable and corrosive.

Related: Can You Mix Bleach and OxiClean?

The Chemical Nature of Bleach

The active ingredient in household bleach is sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl). 

Chlorine bleach is a highly reactive substance with disinfecting properties, capable of killing a broad spectrum of germs, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, and algae.

Other ingredients in household bleach include sodium hydroxide and calcium hypochlorite.

The chlorine in bleach is a powerful oxidizer, meaning it can break chemical bonds by gaining electrons. This makes bleach highly reactive.

Because bleach is a highly concentrated product, it is important to always dilute it with ambient temperature or cold water before cleaning any surfaces. 

Bleach can irritate the respiratory system, skin, and eyes; therefore, diluting it in water is imperative. 

Therefore, do not use bleach in an enclosed space. Always ensure there is proper ventilation before using or mixing. Wear long, rubber gloves and protect your eyes with a pair of wraparound safety glasses.

Also, DO NOT mix bleach with hot water as it can release chlorine gas.

The Chemical Nature of Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a highly reactive, colorless, odorless oxidizing disinfectant. Like bleach, it can also destroy bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

As an oxidizing bleach, hydrogen peroxide takes electrons from molecules, breaking them apart.

Because of its oxidizing properties, hydrogen peroxide is highly unstable, reacting with any organic materials it encounters. 

As hydrogen peroxide reacts, it simply breaks down into water and oxygen.

Here’s What Happens When Mixing Bleach and Hydrogen Peroxide

When strongly reactive hydrogen peroxide is mixed with equally reactive bleach an instant and potentially violent reaction occurs, releasing oxygen and chlorine gas along with heat.

Oxygen Gas

Most living things require oxygen to survive. However, breathing oxygen at excessive levels can lead to oxygen toxicity

When hydrogen peroxide reacts with bleach, it releases oxygen. 

Exposure to high oxygen levels can damage lung tissues. The lungs either fill up with fluid or may collapse (they’re not able to inflate). 

When the lungs cannot breathe air, they can’t send oxygen into the blood and the body’s tissues and organs, leading them to fail.

Oxygen poisoning can also harm the central nervous system.

Symptoms of oxygen toxicity include:

  • Coughing and chest pain
  • Throat irritation
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Twitching muscles, especially in the face and hands
  • Dizziness and confusion
  • Blurred vision
  • Convulsions

If exposure is not extreme, the lungs may take several weeks or more to recover. Ventilators are often needed for collapsed lungs.

Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience any oxygen toxicity symptoms or fear you’ve been exposed to excessive oxygen levels.

Chlorine Gas

Hypochlorous acids, such as ClOH, can react with hydrogen peroxide to produce chlorine gas which can cause major damage to the lungs, eyes, nose, and throat and can be potentially lethal. 

During World War I, chlorine gas was introduced as a chemical warfare agent. In high enough concentrations, chlorine gas can react with moisture in the lungs creating a mixture of hydrochloric acid, hypochlorous acid, hypochlorite, and other corrosive compounds.

The lungs then fill with liquid causing chemical pneumonia and ultimately death.

Symptoms of chlorine gas exposure include:

  • Teary eyes and blurred vision
  • Headache or dizziness
  • Burning in eyes, nose, and throat
  • Coughing or shortness of breath
  • Tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Skin inflammation, including red blisters, burning or pain

Symptoms may not appear immediately after exposure. Some may take several hours or days to appear.

Follow up with a healthcare professional after being exposed, even if you initially experience no symptoms.

Dangerous Explosion

Hydrogen peroxide and bleach are highly reactive chemicals. 

The exothermic reaction from combining the two cleaning agents releases heat and gases so violently that it can potentially cause an explosion. 

Therefore, bleach should never be mixed with hydrogen peroxide, no matter how small the amount of hydrogen peroxide released may be. 

Can You Mix Bleach and Hydrogen Peroxide for Laundry?

No, you cannot mix bleach and hydrogen peroxide for laundry.

When highly reactive hydrogen peroxide is mixed with highly reactive bleach, the rapid, heat-releasing reaction produces an unstable solution and releases chlorine and oxygen gas that can be harmful and possibly fatal.

Additionally, the resulting solution is corrosive which can damage clothing and irritate skin.

More importantly, the exothermic reaction produced by the mixing of hydrogen peroxide and bleach releases heat and gases so violently that it can potentially cause an explosion.

Accidentally Mixed Bleach and Hydrogen Peroxide, What to Do?

Mistakes happen, I know. Sometimes I’m in such a hurry that I’m on autopilot and don’t even notice what I’m doing until I’ve done it.

If you find that you’ve accidentally mixed bleach and hydrogen peroxide don’t panic. Just follow these instructions.

If you’ve mixed the two solutions indoors, the sudden reaction may release a strong smell and fumes.

Do your best to remain calm, quickly open windows and doors, and move to a safe, well-ventilated location, preferably with fresh air. Do not attempt to clean up or remove the chemicals first!

Wait a few hours before re-entering a room, and when you do, wear a mask to protect you from breathing in the toxic fumes.

If you mix the products outdoors, leave the area and move to higher ground if possible as some gases, like chlorine gas, tend to remain in lower areas. 

Notify your neighbors if necessary and ensure the area is off-limits to people and animals until it is safe to enter.

If you find someone exposed to toxic fumes but unconscious, move them to an area with fresh air and call your local emergency services.

Call your local emergency services immediately if you have trouble breathing. If you can breathe but have been exposed to chemical fumes, call your local poison control center. They will direct you on what course of action to take.

Cleaning Up – Confirm the Toxic Smell is Gone Before Returning to the Area

Gently remove the solution from the area, place it outside, away from people and animals, and dilute it with water.

If you’ve mixed hydrogen peroxide and bleach in the laundry, let the fumes dissipate first and run it several times to rinse the items. Be sure to wear a mask and rubber gloves when handling any exposed items.

Discard any cleaning supplies that contacted the mixed cleaning solution as well, including brushes, sponges, and rags.

Do not pour any of the hydrogen peroxide-bleach mixture down the sink. If in doubt, call your local poison control center and follow their clean-up instructions.

Alternatives to Mixing Hydrogen Peroxide and Bleach for Cleaning

Since combining hydrogen peroxide and bleach can produce harmful substances and create a violent reaction, there are a few alternatives to using the potentially toxic combination.

Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is an old-fashioned, powerful abrasive perfect for deodorizing, lifting stains, neutralizing acid spills, and softening water.

Another abrasive cleaner readily found in your pantry is salt. When combined with lemon juice or vinegar, it can make a powerful cleaning paste. 

Additionally, you can add salt to half a lemon and use it to scrub difficult-to-clean surfaces, such as cutting boards and oven racks.

Made from vegetable oils, castile soap is a mild, natural, and versatile cleaner. It cuts through grease and grime to effectively clean surfaces, such as floors and countertops, and it can also be used for your laundry. Simply dilute in water to make a solution.

To Wrap Up

In our never-ending quest to maintain a clean and healthy home, we may consider combining two or more cleaning agents.

However, it is important to know bleach and hydrogen peroxide are highly reactive and should never be mixed as the resulting reaction can have harmful, even fatal consequences.

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