Chlorine bleach, a water solution of sodium hypochlorite, can be hazardous if not used properly. Follow our tips on how to use this powerful cleaner properly to minimise the risk of accidents that could lead to accidental bleach poisoning.
Prevent bleach poisoning by handling it with care
Bleach can irritate your nose, skin, eyes and internal organs if not handled correctly. Make sure you follow these precautions at all times when storing or using it in your home.
- Only store the bleach in the bottle it was purchased in
- Do not decant bleach into other containers
- Always store out of reach of children and pets to reduce the risk of bleach poisoning
Always get immediate medical help if you suspect bleach poisoning.
- Wear protective gloves to keep the chemical off of your skin
- Wear eye protection at all times – flush your eye immediately with cold water and contact your doctor or the Poisons Information Centre 131 126 if contact does occur
- Ensure adequate ventilation of the room by opening the windows or using a fan – inhaling bleach fumes can be dangerous
- Only use chlorine bleach in fairly low concentrations – typically 5.25% or 6% sodium hypochlorite
- Keep children and pets out of the room – the effects of drinking bleach can be very harmful
- Test the bleach on a small area of the surface you intend to clean first to check the material will not be damaged
- Read the label on the product and follow the instructions carefully
- Only use the recommended dose as directed on the bottle
- Do not mix bleach with ammonia or any other cleaning products – this could create toxic gasses
Be able to identify the symptoms of bleach poisoning
Despite our best efforts, accidents do happen sometimes – and at these times knowledge is power. Learn the initial symptoms of different types of bleach poisoning – like what happens when you drink bleach – and follow our tips on how to prevent these situations occurring.
Bleach in the eyes
- Initial irritation usually causes a red, burning sensation
- Prevent by wearing eye protection at all times when using bleach
Inhaling bleach fumes
- Initial symptoms of bleach poisoning include coughing and gagging
- Prevent by wearing a face mask when using bleach and keeping the room well-ventilated
Bleach on the skin
- Prolonged exposure can cause blistering and chemical burns
- Prevent by wearing protective gloves and using a low concentration bleach in the recommended dosage
Effects of drinking bleach
- Pains in the mouth, throat and abdomen are common first symptoms
- Burns in the stomach and oesophagus can also occur
- Some people may also experience delirium and vomiting
- Prevent this type of bleach poisoning by storing bleach safely and never decanting it into other containers – keep children and pets away from bleach at all times
Find more information about bleach poisoning here.