Unilever logo
Cleanipedia AU logo

Understanding bleach: uses and definition

You may know how to use bleach, but do you know what it is, why it’s so effective, or what all the bleach uses are in your home? Click here to find out.



Bleach is a versatile and robust household cleaner – one that you probably use on a regular basis without even really thinking about it. But just what do you know about this cleaner? And are you aware of how to use bleach correctly? We’ve compiled all the information here so read on for instructions to different uses for bleach and answers to burning questions like ‘how does bleach kill bacteria?’ and ‘is bleach an acid or a base?’

Whether you’re cleaning floors with bleach or whitening clothes, always check the manufacturer’s directions first. Test it on a small area too so you don’t cause any damage.

Bleach definition

Bleach uses

What is bleach?

Bleach is a chemical which is used to whiten or sterilise surfaces and materials. People often ask, ‘Is bleach an acid or a base?’. The answer to this depends on which bleach you use, as different ones have a different chemical make-up. The most common household bleach is made from sodium hypochlorite, which is a base.

How does bleach kill bacteria?

So, you know that bleach is a powerful cleaner, but have you ever wondered how does bleach kill bacteria?

Researchers investigating this question found that bleach attacks the proteins in bacteria, causing them to lose their structure and effectively killing the bacteria. This process is relatively quick, and happens even at low concentrations, which is why bleach is so effective for sanitisation.

What is bleach used for?

Cleaning floors with bleach, washing bathrooms with it and whitening clothes with it are all good examples of how to use bleach. For more information on these bleach uses, try these tips:

  • Want to start cleaning floors with bleach? Dilute 125ml of bleach – like Domestos – in 5 litres of water to mop tiles, vinyl, lino, and ceramic floors. Do not use on wood floors.

  • Struggling to clean your toilet? Squirt 100ml of a thickened bleach around the top of the toilet bowl and under the rim. Leave for 10 minutes before scrubbing and flushing.

  • Not sure how to bleach clothes? Dilute liquid bleach in water and soak white clothes for a couple of hours before washing them as normal. Do not use a chlorine based bleach with any coloured clothing. Alternatively, use an oxygen bleach powder directly in your washing machine or with any garment that contains colour. Find out how to bleach clothes using oxygen bleach powder.

  • Need to get rid of mould and mildew? Carefully apply undiluted Domestos onto surfaces like tiles or shower curtains and leave to soak in it for a 10 minutes. Rinse and dry thoroughly afterwards. Check out our mould removal tips for more information.

  • Wondering how to get rid of garbage smells? Stop your bins from smelling by mixing a dash of liquid bleach with water and using a brush to scrub inside the bins with it. Remember to wear protective gear when scrubbing the bin like old clothes, gloves and safety googles.

  • Hoping to eliminate germs and bacteria? Bleach is often used to sanitise surfaces because of its germ fighting power. Always follow the pack instructions on your bleach for sanitising.

What shouldn’t you use bleach for?

Some materials may not be suitable for cleaning with bleach. These are normally porous materials, such as wood, but the label on your bleach should tell you more.

There are also some stains that don’t respond as well to bleach as you might expect. These include rust stains which can actually be made worse by bleach. Instead, check out our stain removal tips to learn the right method for removing rust or other tricky stains.

Having a better idea of what bleach is used for can help you make your home safer and cleaner. Just follow our tips above and read our other cleaning tips for more advice.

Safety warning

Only use bleach in a well-ventilated area while wearing protective clothing. Use and store it away from children and pets, and never mix bleach with other cleaning products. Doing so could produce toxic gasses.

Originally published