Is it safe to mix dish soap and bleach? This is a great question, and one that not many people are asking (who should be).
After all, how often do you clean up a space with a sponge full of dish soap and water, and then finish the area with a wipe down of a bleach solution? Or maybe you throw sponges or even clothing that have dish soap on them into a bucket containing water and bleach?
In general, the answer is going to be NO, don’t mix dish soap and bleach. But if you’d like to know more about why that is, read on.
Bleach is a wildcard, and should not be mixed with other chemicals unless you know what you are doing
Bleach can react with other chemicals (such as ammonia) to create strong and potentially dangerous byproducts (such as chlorine gas). I think by now most of us know that we shouldn’t mix bleach with vinegar (though the opportunity arises frequently in my house).
A prime example of how this could happen in my house is that I start cleaning a surface (such as the toilet bowl, shower or tub with a mixture of vinegar and baking soda, and find that the stain or everyever I want to remove or clean up won’t come off. And without cleaning up the surface I’ll grab the next strongest cleaner I have….something that contains bleach.
Luckily I’ve never killed myself or my family with chlorine gas, but it is pretty easy to see how someone could accidentally mix the chemicals.
The same is true with ammonia.
So does this mean that it is, or is not, safe to mix bleach in with dish soap?
As I said above, in general the answer is going to be no. But since all dish soaps are not created equally, it is useful to have a look at their ingredients to say definitely, yes or no. Each of the ingredients need to be analyzed, though I think most dish soaps will have major similarities.
Let’s look at a common dish soap, such as Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid, Original. Those ingredients are:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
- Lauramine Oxide
- Alcohol Denatured
- Sodium Chloride
- Sodium Hydroxide
- PEI-14 PEG-10/PPG-7 Copolymer
- Red 33
- Blue 1
- Yellow 5
PHEW. Wow, I have no idea what most of that stuff is. As I flip through other products, I see that many of these ingredients are common throughout the various options.
Let’s take a look through them.
Nitrogen is the problem
Alright, in trying to explain our answer to this question, I am finding that I need to go deeper than just what you can find easily on the internet.
Bleach reacts to chloramines, which are made of of nitrogen and chlorine. Presumably, chlorine gas cannot be made without the presence of nitrogen. Thus, we can presume (I think) that if any of the substances above do not contain nitrogen, then the mixing of bleach with the ingredients above will not create the toxic chlorine gas.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
This is a surfactant used in tons of products and cosmetics. It’s chemical make-up does not contain any Nitrogen. (source) Thus is is unlikely to cause a bad reaction.
- Lauramine Oxide
This is a foam builder, wetting agent, emulsifier, lubricant, surfactant, and viscosity controlling agent, among other things. (source) Looking at the chemical makeup, there is a Nitrogen in there. (Ruh roh)
In looking at the other chemicals, we see that Methylisothiazolinone has Nitrogen as well.
Alright, I’m going to stop right there.
This particular formulation of Dawn has Nitrogen in it. Given that fact, even in small amounts, I would not want to be mixing this dish soap with any sort of bleach. And I can see that the ingredients I’ve already listed are contained in most dish soaps sold in stores.
Check the labels
Not wanting to take the time to look at the ingredients list to see if the dish soap you want to use contains Nitrogen? You can probably trouble shoot much more quickly simply by looking at the label of the dish soap you want to use. In general, you’ll find that most dish soap labels that has chemicals in it that would react badly with bleach (anything ammonia-derived, for example), the label will specifically state “do not mix with bleach.”
You know, I had never actually looked at my dish soap label to see what it said about mixing it with bleach. After writing the above paragraph, I got out of my office chair, ambled down the hall to the kitchen, and checked my dish soap label. And loe and behold…there it was. The “do not mix with bleach” statement on the back of my dishsoap bottle.
I can honestly say that I have never noticed that before.
But what is also troubling is that I have another dish soap bottle on the counter made by a different company with almost the same ingredients, and there is no statement about not mixing it with bleach.
So what if the label doesn’t say “do not mix with bleach”? Should I be okay?
I think at this point. I am going to avoid mixing any sort of dish soap, from whatever the source or formulation, with bleach. It is hard to trust the labels to state every single danger that the product presents. The chemical compounds that could create toxic gas are probably present in just about every kind of dishsoap, though in varying degrees. I’d rather than creating any toxic gas in my house, even if it was just only a little bit.
I’m going to recommend that you do the same (meaning never mix them).
What if I want to use bleach in the same area that I use dish soap?
Lots of people do this, especially in the restaurant industry where there is a constant issue of contamination. The risk of creating toxic gas is outweighed by the need to keep people safe from illness and disease.
It makes sense to be careful about mixing the two substances. Clearly, you’d want to avoid directly mixing the substances, especially if the bleach is not significantly diluted with water.
Next, you’d want to make sure that any surface that you intend to use bleach on has been thoroughly rinsed and cleared of the dish soap (and the sink or basin as well).
And any time you are using bleach, it makes sense as a precaution to ventilate the room, because the fumes are not good.
What if I am worried that I already gassed up my house?
Well, first of all, you will want to take care of yourself. If you exposed yourself to the gas mixture, and are still experiencing symptoms (rash, watering eyes, difficulty breathing), you should seek medical treatment.
Rinse off the exposed areas if you can with clear lukewarm water, and change your clothes.
You can also contact the local poison control hotline for some advice (such as the CDC in the US).
Next, you’ll want to open up the house and vent the gas if it is safe to do so. If you are in an apartment, and you think that other people are in danger of being exposed to the gas, contact your apartment management or super to get some help.
Naturally, if you can, you’ll want to get the offending chemicals out of your house (the bucket, etc).
When all else fails, get help.
Other things to consider
People don’t even realize how easy it is to cause a reaction with bleach and dish soap. Sending bleach down the drain of your own house seems like it would be fine, except that the bleach can meet up with dish soap from other homes down in the pipes, potentially close to your house (and send the gas back up to you).
In general, it is best to use bleach or products containing bleach as little as possible. If you do, use as dilute a solution as possible. If you send it down the drain, try to follow it up with a lot of water, so that it doesn’t sit in the pipes close to your house.
Well, I learned something!
When I started this article, I had no idea where it was going to take me. I will actually go out of my way in the future to use bleach less, because there are just so many opportunities to mix it with something else I use in my house that would cause a nasty gas.
What about you? Do you like to use bleach in your house? Will knowing this information change anything you do?
Let us know in the comments section below.
Emily Anderson is a mother of three children, all under the age of 10. Located in the Pacific Northwest of the US, Emily is a mom and part-time blogger, jumping in front of the computer when the kids are sleeping. She started this blog in April of 2019 and is proud that the blog is now paying for itself. If you want to know about her journey as a blogger, check out out her personal digital journal or her post about failing her way to blogging success.