We all know that bleach is a powerful cleaner, but what is bleach actually made of? Why does it work, and why are there all these warnings about it? If you’re wondering how to use bleach in your home, or you simply want to learn more, keep reading.
What is bleach?
Bleach is a name for a collection of chemicals. They’re not all made using the same substance, but they have two main things in common: they’re very effective at killing bacteria and they remove staining from surfaces and fabrics – usually turning them white.
Humans have been bleaching things for thousands of years, using everything from sunlight to chemicals. Household bleach as we know it exists thanks to the work of 18th-century scientists, who identified the safest and easiest substances to use for making cleaning products.
Common bleach uses
When you’re working out how to use bleach, it’s important to know what’s in it. There are two main types of household bleach: chlorine bleach and peroxide bleach. Chlorine bleaches tend to be stronger, so they’re used in household cleaning and water treatment. They’re what makes swimming pool water smell so distinctive, for example.
Peroxide bleach uses oxygen, releasing it when the bleach powder comes into contact with water. This makes it easier to dilute and often gentler, so you’re more likely to find peroxide in laundry detergents or skin and hair lightening products. Peroxide bleach is sometimes known as oxygen bleach because of how it works.
How to use bleach in your home
There are thousands of household bleach uses, so pick a few from this list that seem relevant to you:
- Cleaning toilets. Most popular toilet cleaners, like Domex, contain enough bleach to kill most of the bacteria that live in your toilet bowl.
- Restoring whiteness to clothes. Keep in mind that some bleaches are too strong to be used for clothing. Choose one that lists clothing among its potential bleach uses.
- Sterilising kitchen utensils. From chopping boards to tiled floors, bleach can be used to keep you and your family healthy and safe from many common germs. Again, check the manufacturer’s recommendations for how to bleach these surfaces safely and follow dilution instructions carefully.
- Removing mould. Whether you’re cleaning grout or you’ve noticed a bit of a damp problem on your walls, bleach can stop mould and mildew from growing and restore brightness to white surfaces.
- Keep cut flowers looking better for longer. Strange but true – adding a couple of drops of bleach to your vase water will help bouquets stay fresh. It also keeps that weird scum from developing at the bottom of the vase!
- Brighten white clothes. Certain fabrics can be bleached at home to make them brighter. This should only be done with white clothes (otherwise you’ll be left with unsightly stains) and you must always check the care label and complete a patch test first. If you’re not sure how to do bleach patch tests on your clothes, simply dilute the bleach as instructed on the packaging and apply it to a hidden area of the clothing (like the seam). Leave for a few minutes, then rinse the area and check for signs of damage or discolouration.
If you want to harness the power of bleach, but you’re worried about safety, you can look for a cleaner that contains bleach alongside other cleaning agents. Domex is one example.