Never Mix Dish Soap and Bleach (Chemical Reaction Explained)

As a mother and a homeowner, I’m obsessed with keeping my house spotless. Which often leads me to try different cleaning mixtures. However, when it comes to dish soap and bleach, you should never mix it!

But bleach is a disinfectant, isn’t it? And dish soap seems pretty harmless…

True, but do not mix dish soap and bleach in any amount as some of the ingredients in dish soap can produce several toxic gases.

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

The Chemical Reaction

Most dish soaps have a warning on their label to not mix with bleach and for a good reason.

Household bleach, sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl), is a highly reactive chemical; therefore, it should not be mixed with any cleaning products.

There is much confusion as to whether dish soap contains ammonia (NH3) since mixing it with bleach can release chloramine gas, which can be harmful to the eyes, nose, throat, and airways, potentially causing irreparable damage.

However, dish soap does not contain ammonia. Instead, it contains amines, which are derivatives of ammonia.

What this means is that when one or more hydrogen atoms are replaced by a substituent (like an alkyl or aryl group), you get what is called an amine molecule. 

This can get very technical, however, the important thing to know is that depending on how many hydrogen atoms are replaced, you can end up with:

  • Primary amines, where only one substituent replaces a hydrogen atom in the ammonia compound.
  • Secondary amines, where two hydrogen atoms are replaced by two substituents of the ammonia molecule.
  • Tertiary amines, where each of the three hydrogen atoms is replaced by a substituent in the ammonia molecule.

There are also Cyclic amines, where the secondary and tertiary amines form an aromatic ring.

As you can see, it can become quite complicated pretty quickly! 

The important takeaway is that while dish soaps do not contain ammonia, they do contain amines with similar structures to ammonia.

Dawn dish soap, for example, lists C10-16 Alkyldimethylamine oxide as an ingredient to “boost cleaning.”

Note: I recommend you try out one of my favorite cleaning solutions, mixing Pine-Sol and Venegar!

Dish Soap and Bleach

So, What Happens If I Mix Dish Soap and Bleach?

Most dish soaps contain some form of amines and denatured alcohol, also known as ethanol.

While not all dish soaps list their ingredients on their label, manufacturers are required to publish a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) online. 

If you are ever in doubt as to what your dish soap contains, consult the MSDS.

Mixing bleach with amines forms chlorine gas (Cl2) and chlorinated organics, all of which are toxic and/or carcinogenic. 

Chlorine gas can cause major damage to the lungs, eyes, nose, and throat and can be lethal. 

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 of chlorine gas exposure may not always appear immediately and depend upon the extent of the exposure. Some may even take several hours or days to appear.

Denatured alcohol or ethanol (CH3CH2OH or EtOH) forms chloroform, hydrochloric acid, chloroacetone, or dichloroacetone when mixed with bleach, which can all be hazardous to human health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Chloroform (CHCl3), also known as trichloromethane, is a colorless liquid that is very volatile, thus evaporating into gas that can harm the eyes, skin, liver, kidneys, and nervous system.

It can be toxic if inhaled or swallowed and extended exposure can cause cancer. Additionally, chloroform can render you unconscious, so beware!

Hydrochloric acid (HCl), also known as muriatic acid, is a strong acid (pH 0-1.1) and is highly corrosive. It is colorless or with a light-yellow tint and a pungent smell.

Exposure can cause severe chemical burns on the skin, blindness, and respiratory irritation.

Although it is not combustible, it does react violently when it is mixed with bases (high pH).

Chloroacetone (CH3COCH2Cl) is a colorless liquid that turns yellow or amber when exposed to light. It has a pungent smell and a 4.3 pH. 

It is highly toxic. Exposure can cause skin burns, nausea, bronchospasms, delayed pulmonary edema, and death. Known as tear gas, it was used during World War I as it can cause lacrimation. 

Dichloroacetone (1,1-dichloroacetone and 1,3-dichloroacetone) is highly flammable, corrosive, and a health hazard as it is acutely toxic and an irritant.

FAQs

Does bleach and dish soap make mustard gas?

No, it does not. Mixing bleach and dish soap makes chlorine gas (Cl2).

Mustard gas, also known as sulfur mustard, can be one of several compounds with the chemical structure SCH2CH2X or NCH2CH2X, where X can be chlorine (Cl) or Bromine (Br).

Does dish soap have ammonia?

No. Dish soap does not contain ammonia. Instead, it contains amines, which are derivatives of ammonia.

What about Palmolive dish soap, can I mix it with bleach?

No! Do not mix Palmolive dish soap with bleach as most dish soaps contain amines and/or denatured alcohol (ethanol).

Always follow the label’s instructions.

To Wrap Up

Dish soap is such a normal part of our lives that we rarely think about it and its ingredients.

Although it seems quite harmless, some of its ingredients can react when it is mixed with other household cleaning products. 

Therefore, mixing dish soap with bleach is never a good idea, as the combination can release toxic fumes that can be harmful, even fatal.

If you are anything like me, you like to experiment by mixing cleaning products. However, it is not advisable in many cases, and we must make sure we do all the necessary research before trying out something new!

Share your best cleaning tips/hacks in the comment below! I love to hear from you! 🙂

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