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How to disinfect with bleach

Lori Alma, RN, is a registered nurse and cystic fibrosis expert who assists families in a Florida Department of Health program for special needs children.

How to disinfect with bleach

Sanja Jelic, MD, is board-certified in sleep medicine, critical care medicine, pulmonary disease, and internal medicine.

How to disinfect with bleach

James Lacy, MLS, is a fact-checker and researcher. James received a Master of Library Science degree from Dominican University.

Household chlorine bleach is a powerful disinfectant (chemical cleaner that destroys harmful bacteria) that is cheap, easy to find, and strong enough to kill dangerous germs. Keeping a clean home is important for any family, but it’s especially important for people with autoimmune conditions or other health problems like cystic fibrosis.

Before you start using bleach everywhere, it’s important to know that bleach can burn your skin and give off dangerous fumes. That’s why it’s important to dilute (water down) your bleach. Do not use it at full strength or mix it with other solutions and chemicals. Never touch bleach with bare skin or swallow it.

How to disinfect with bleach

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends using different amounts of bleach and water depending on what you clean. Follow these steps to make a safe bleach solution for your cleaning needs.

Are you ready to make your own disinfectant bleach solution? Keep reading to find out the safe way to do it.

Supplies and Ingredients for Mixing Bleach

Making a bleach solution to disinfect your home can be easy. You just need a few supplies to get started:

  • A quart-sized plastic spray bottle or a glass jar with lid
  • A measuring cup
  • A damp cloth
  • Household rubber gloves
  • Household bleach (found at any grocery store)
  • Water

After gathering your supplies, putting together the ingredients safely requires a bit of know-how and preparation.

Wear clothes and shoes you don’t mind messing up in case you spill some bleach. Pull back your hair and wear rubber gloves for added safety.

When making a bleach solution, either go outside or find a well-ventilated room. Choose one with open windows and a cross-draft. Create a cross-draft by opening windows opposite each other or using a fan to direct the air. Full-strength bleach gives off toxic fumes and should never be used in small or closed-in spaces.

Mixing a Bleach Solution

The strength of the bleach mixture will depend on what you plan to use it for. For example, to clean hard surfaces like plates and countertops, the ratio is 1:80. This equals 1 cup (240 milliliters) of bleach to 5 gallons (18.9 liters) of water or 2.5 tablespoons of bleach to 2 cups of water.

Steps for Mixing a Bleach Solution

  1. Carefully pour the bleach into the spray bottle. Then add the water. Mixing the solution in this order will keep the bleach from splashing on you. If you get any bleach on your skin, wipe it off immediately with a damp cloth.
  2. Place the lid tightly on the container.
  3. Gently mix it by shaking.
  4. After mixing, your solution is ready to use.

3 Products Never to Mix With Bleach

Never add any other ingredient to the bleach solution. These three are especially dangerous:

  • Ammonia changes the chlorine in bleach to chloramine gas. Breathing in the fumes can cause coughing, shortness of breath, and pneumonia.
  • Acidic compounds such as vinegar or window cleaner create chlorine gas when mixed with bleach. Too much exposure to chlorine gas can cause chest pain, vomiting, and even death.
  • Alcohol changes to chloroform when mixed with bleach. Breathing in chloroform can cause fatigue, dizziness, and fainting.

Using a Bleach Solution

You can wash surfaces with soap and hot, clean water before using the bleach solution. After applying the bleach solution, let the surface you are cleaning air dry.

Chlorine bleach solution begins to lose its disinfectant power quickly when exposed to heat, sunlight, and evaporation (when a liquid turns into a vapor or gas). To make sure the solution is the right strength, mix a fresh batch each day and throw out whatever is left over.

Always keep the bleach solution out of the reach of children. Do not reuse the bleach solution container for other cleaning products.

Summary

Bleach is a powerful disinfectant that kills the germs that make people sick. But it’s important to learn how to use it safely whenever you try to clean things around the house. Using it the wrong way can lead to sickness or even death.

Always add the correct amount of water to dilute the bleach before using it to clean. Make sure the room is well ventilated to avoid poisonous fumes.

A Word From Verywell

Making your own bleach solution isn’t expensive, but you must take steps to stay safe. If you want, you can just buy a mild cleaning solution containing a small amount of bleach at the store. That way, you can avoid any spillage or possible injury.

How to disinfect with bleach

Hand washing dishes may eliminate visible food and dirt, but it’s not enough to kill bacteria like salmonella. To sanitize, you can rinse your dishes with a bleach and water solution after washing.

Bacteria on dishes can make you sick

Food poisoning — stomach cramps, diarrhea, and worse—can be caused by dangerous bacteria on the items we use to eat, drink and cook with. Harmful bacteria can also make the food we eat and drink taste off.

And it’s not just a problem for dishes and glassware; it’s really obvious in an insulated water bottle or coffee tumbler, and even stainless steel reusable straws. Fortunately, it’s also easy to fix!

Safely wash dishes with bleach

If you don’t have an automatic dishwasher, and wash all your dishes by hand, adding in a routine sanitizing step after washing and rinsing is pretty easy to do. Or maybe you do have a dishwasher, and only hand wash items that aren’t dishwasher safe.

Either way, always be sure to measure the correct amounts of bleach and water to make the sanitizing solution.

Container Amount of Water Amount of Bleach
Large sink 3 gallons 2 tablespoons
Large dishpan 2 gallons 1 tbsp + 1 tsp
Small dishpan 1 gallon 2 teaspoons
32 oz. water bottle Fill with water ½ teaspoon
24 oz. coffee tumbler Fill with water ¼ + ⅛ tsp
16 oz. water bottle Fill with water ¼ teaspoon

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Sanitizing dishes is simple

  1. Wash the dishes with dish detergent.
  2. Rinse the dishes with clean water.
  3. Soak the dishes for 2 minutes in a 185ppm available chlorine bleach and water colution.
  4. Drain or drip dry. No additional rinsing is required!

You can mix up the bleach and water solution in a larger container or sink. This makes it easier to sanitize a large number of items. Or if you just need to sanitize one item, you can sometimes treat the item itself.

For coffee tumblers or any other item with a lid, be sure to sanitize the lid, too. If necessary, disassemble the lid to thoroughly sanitize all the pieces.

Don’t wash non-stainless steel, aluminum, silver or chipped enamel with bleach. Disinfect these by scalding.

Gather your supplies

How to disinfect with bleach

How to disinfect with bleach

How to disinfect with bleach

How to disinfect with bleach

How to disinfect with bleach

How to disinfect with bleach

Steps to sanitize your dishes

Wash your dishes

Use hot water and dish detergent. Use your sink or a dishpan depending on the amount of dishes you want to wash and fill it with hot soapy water, then wash the dishes. As you work, transfer the washed dishes to a second dishpan or the other half of your sink filled with clean water.

How to disinfect with bleach

Rinse the dishes

Drop the soapy dishes into the rinse water. They can stay there while you mix up the bleach and water solution.

How to disinfect with bleach

Prepare the bleach and water solution

To mix up the correct sanitizing solution, use the table earlier in this article to determine how much bleach and water to add for your situation. Use cool tap water. You can use a third dishpan, or clean out your sink and use it to mix up the bleach and water solution.

How to disinfect with bleach

Confirm the bleach solution concentration

Use a chlorine test strip to confirm you have the correct concentration of sanitizing solution, 185ppm available chlorine. If the level is too low, carefully add a small amount of bleach and re-test with a fresh test strip.

If you’re sanitizing a large number of items, periodically re-test the sanitizing solution to make sure you maintain the correct level of bleach active. If necessary, add a small amount of bleach when needed when the bleach active level falls below 185ppm.

How to disinfect with bleach

Sanitize the dishes

Submerge the dishes in the bleach and water solution, allowing them to soak for 2 minutes.

How to disinfect with bleach

Let the dishes drip or air dry

Remove the dishes from the sanitizing solution and transfer them to the drying rack to air dry. You don’t need to rinse them when you take them out of the bleach and water solution — no rinsing is required after the sanitizing step.

How to disinfect with bleach

Frequently asked questions

Yes, only use potable water. This application is not the same as what we recommend to make water safe to drink in an emergency.

Why can’t I just add the bleach to the sudsy water?

The washing, rinsing, and sanitizing steps must all be done separately. That’s because bleach breaks down very quickly in the presence of organic matter. So the organics coming off your dishes would very quickly degrade the bleach if they were together in the same solution, and you would no longer have the correct concentration of bleach to kill the bacteria.

Can I use splashless bleach to sanitize dishes?

No — even though Clorox® Splash-Less® Bleach is now EPA-registered, sanitizing dishes and other food contact surfaces is not an approved use on the EPA registration.

Can I put bleach in my dishwasher with my dishes?

Regular bleach is not intended for use by itself in a household dishwasher. Instead, look for Automatic Dishwashing Detergents that already contain bleach. Commercial dishwashers (like what you’d see in a restaurant or other institution) do allow for bleach use depending on the model. Check the instruction manual or ask a service technician for guidance on proper use.

I bought my bleach at warehouse store and it has a different name. Can I use it instead?

Yes. Depending on where you buy your bleach, you could also use any of the following: Clorox® Bleach1, Clorox® Regular Bleach3, Clorox® Performance Bleach2 and Clorox® Germicidal Bleach4.

How to disinfect with bleach

Make your own disinfectant cleaning solution using the Clorox disinfecting bleach you have at home and remember to follow the safety precautions on the label.

Follow these easy steps using the Clorox ® disinfecting bleach you have at home. Always remember to follow the safety precautions on the label.

Make sure to check that your bleach disinfects before getting started. Disinfecting items will usually say “Kills 99.9% of Germs” or have specific instructions for disinfection on the bottle.

Related products

How to disinfect with bleach

How to disinfect with bleach

How to disinfect with bleach

1. If the surface is dirty, pre-clean to remove any dirt or grime

2. Identify which bleach product you have

Grab your bottle and locate the UPC number on the back label. It will start with the numbers 44600.

How to disinfect with bleach

3. Measure bleach water, then mix

Make a fresh bleach and water solution every time you clean. Don’t save a diluted bleach solution as it will degrade over time into salt and water.

For the following products use 2 teaspoons bleach to 2 cups water for a small batch and ⅓ cup bleach to 1 gallon of water for a large batch:

For the following products use 1 tablespoons bleach to 2 cups water for a small batch and ½ cup bleach to 1 gallon of water for a large batch:

4. Apply the bleach solution directly to the hard, nonporous surface

You can use a microfiber cloth or a synthetic mop or sponge. Paper towels or other natural fiber materials (such as paper, cotton, wool, bamboo, etc.) should not be used since they degrade the bleach solution, making it less effective.

The diluted solution should be fine to use on the following surfaces, but you should test a small inconspicuous area first.

  • Appliances
  • Most bathroom surfaces, including glazed tile, tubs, fiberglass, glass shower doors, vinyl curtains, counters, cabinets, sinks and no-wax floors.
  • Hard, nonporous kitchen countertops, including synthetic or cultured marble (though not on natural marble)
  • Other surfaces around the home, including Linoleum, Formica® counters or Corian® countertops, stainless steel, sealed granite and chrome

Related articles

  • How to Clean Floors by Mopping with Bleach
  • How to Disinfect and Clean a Bathtub or Shower With Bleach
  • How to Clean a Toilet With Bleach

5. Make sure the surface stays visibly wet for the correct amount of time to be effective

For the following products, allow the solution to contact the surface for 6 minutes, then rinse with clean water and let the surface air dry:

For the following products, allow the solution to contact the surface for 5 minutes, then rinse with clean water and let the surface air dry:

If you’re sanitizing a surface that contacts food or beverages, such as a plastic cutting board or water bottle, follow our instructions for food contact sanitization.

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In an emergency situation where regular water service has been interrupted – like a hurricane, flood, or water pipe breakage – local authorities may recommend using only bottled water, boiled water, or disinfected water until regular water service is restored. The instructions below show you how to boil and disinfect water to kill most disease-causing microorganisms that may be present in the water. However, boiling or disinfection will not destroy other contaminants, such as heavy metals, salts, and most other chemicals.

ONLY USE WATER THAT HAS BEEN PROPERLY DISINFECTED FOR DRINKING, COOKING, MAKING ANY PREPARED DRINK, WASHING DISHES AND FOR BRUSHING TEETH.

How to disinfect with bleach

  • Use bottled water or water you have properly prepared and stored as an emergency water supply.
  • Boil water, if you do not have bottled water. Boiling is sufficient to kill pathogenic bacteria, viruses and protozoa (WHO, 2015).
    • If water is cloudy, let it settle and filter it through a clean cloth, paperboiling water towel, or coffee filter.
    • Bring water to a rolling boil for at least one minute. At altitudes above 5,000 feet (1,000 meters), boil water for three minutes.
    • Let water cool naturally and store it in clean containers with covers.

    How to disinfect with bleach

    How to disinfect with bleach

  • Stir and let stand for 30 minutes. The water should have a slight chlorine odor. If it doesn’t, repeat the dosage and let stand for another 15 minutes before use.
  • If the chlorine taste is too strong, pour the water from one clean container to another and let it stand for a few hours before use.
Volume of Water Amount of 6% Bleach to Add* Amount of 8.25% Bleach to Add*
1 quart/liter 2 drops 2 drops
1 gallon 8 drops 6 drops
2 gallons 16 drops (1/4 tsp) 12 drops (1/8 teaspoon)
4 gallons 1/3 teaspoon 1/4 teaspoon
8 gallons 2/3 teaspoon 1/2 teaspoon

*Bleach may contain 6 or 8.25% sodium hypochlorite.

Additional Water Guidance

  • Prepare and store an emergency water supply. Visit the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Website for additional guidance on preparing and storing an emergency water supply.
  • Look for other sources of water in and around your home. Although bottled water is your best choice, you may be able to find other sources of water by melting ice cubes or draining your hot water tank or pipes. You can also use river or lake water. It is generally better to use flowing water than still, stagnant water. However, do not use water with floating material in it or water that has a dark color or questionable odor. Regardless of the source, treat the water by following the instructions on the main page above. If you have a well on your property that has been flooded, make sure to disinfect and test the well water after the flood. Contact your state or local health department for advice or review our “What to do With Your Private Well After a Flood” document.

How to disinfect with bleach

Other Disinfection Methods

If you don’t have liquid bleach, you can use one of the other disinfection methods described below.

  • Granular calcium hypochlorite. The first step is to make a chlorine solution that you will use to disinfect your water. For your safety, do it in a ventilated area and wear eye protection. Add one heaping teaspoon (approximately ¼ ounce) of high-test granular calcium hypochlorite (HTH) to two gallons of water and stir until the particles have dissolved. The mixture will produce a chlorine solution of approximately 500 milligrams per liter. To disinfect water, add one part of the chlorine solution to each 100 parts of water you are treating. This is about the same as adding 1 pint (16 ounces) of the chlorine solution to 12.5 gallons of water. If the chlorine taste is too strong, pour the water from one clean container to another and let it stand for a few hours before use. CAUTION: HTH is a very powerful oxidant. Follow the instructions on the label for safe handling and storage of this chemical.
  • Common household iodine (or “tincture of iodine”). You may have iodine in your medicine cabinet or first aid kit. Add five drops of 2% tincture of iodine to each quart or liter of water that you are disinfecting. If the water is cloudy or colored, add 10 drops of iodine. Stir and let the water stand for at least 30 minutes before use.
  • Water disinfection tablets. You can disinfect water with tablets that contain chlorine, iodine, chlorine dioxide, or other disinfecting agents. These tablets are available online or at pharmacies and sporting goods stores. Follow the instructions on the product label as each product may have a different strength.

Disinfection practices are important to reduce the potential for COVID-19 virus contamination in non-healthcare settings, such as in the home, office, schools, gyms, publicly accessible buildings, faith-based community centres, markets, transportation and business settings or restaurants. High-touch surfaces in these non-health care settings should be identified for priority disinfection such as door and window handles, kitchen and food preparation areas, counter tops, bathroom surfaces, toilets and taps, touchscreen personal devices, personal computer keyboards, and work surfaces.

In non-health care settings, sodium hypochlorite (bleach / chlorine) may be used at a recommended concentration of 0.1% or 1,000ppm (1 part of 5% strength household bleach to 49 parts of water). Alcohol at 70-90% can also be used for surface disinfection. Surfaces must be cleaned with water and soap or a detergent first to remove dirt, followed by disinfection. Cleaning should always start from the least soiled (cleanest) area to the most soiled (dirtiest) area in order to not spread the dirty to areas that are less soiled.

All disinfectant solutions should be stored in opaque containers, in a well-ventilated, covered area that is not exposed to direct sunlight and ideally should be freshly prepared every day.

In indoor spaces, routine application of disinfectants to surfaces via spraying is not recommended for COVID-19. If disinfectants are to be applied, these should be via a cloth or wipe which is soaked in the disinfectant.

It is important to reduce your risk when using disinfectants:

  • The disinfectant and its concentration should be carefully selected to avoid damaging surfaces and to avoid or minimize toxic effects on household members (or users of public spaces).
  • Avoid combining disinfectants, such as bleach and ammonia, since mixtures can cause respiratory irritation and release potentially fatal gases.
  • Keep children, pets and other people away during the application of the product until it is dry and there is no odour.
  • Open windows and use fans to ventilate. Step away from odours if they become too strong. Disinfectant solutions should always be prepared in well-ventilated areas.
  • Wash your hands after using any disinfectant, including surface wipes.
  • Keep lids tightly closed when not in use. Spills and accidents are more likely to happen when containers are open.
  • Do not allow children to use disinfectant wipes. Keep cleaning fluids and disinfectants out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Throw away disposable items like gloves and masks if they are used during cleaning. Do not clean and re-use.
  • Do not use disinfectant wipes to clean hands or as baby wipes.
  • The minimum recommended personal protective equipment when disinfecting in non-health care settings is rubber gloves, waterproof aprons and closed shoes. Eye protection and medical masks may also be needed to protect against chemicals in use or if there is a risk of splashing.

Note: Where cleaning and disinfection are not possible on a regular basis due to resource limitations, frequent hand washing and avoiding touching the face should be the primary prevention approaches to reduce any potential transmission associated with surface contamination.

In outdoor spaces, large-scale spraying or fumigation in areas such as streets or open market places for the COVID-19 virus or other pathogens is not recommended. Streets and sidewalks are not considered as routes of infection for COVID-19. Spraying disinfectants, even outdoors, can be noxious for people’s health and cause eye, respiratory or skin irritation or damage.

This practice will be ineffective since the presence of dirt or rubbish for example, inactivates the disinfectant, and manual cleaning to physically remove all matter is not feasible. This is even less effective on porous surfaces such as sidewalks and unpaved walkways. Even in the absence of dirt or rubbish, it is unlikely that chemical spraying would adequately cover surfaces allowing the required contact time to inactivate pathogens.

No. Spraying of individuals with disinfectants (such as in a tunnel, cabinet, or chamber) is not recommended under any circumstances. This practice could be physically and psychologically harmful and would not reduce an infected person’s ability to spread the virus through droplets or contact. Even if someone who is infected with COVID-19 goes through a disinfection tunnel or chamber, as soon as they start speaking, coughing or sneezing they can still spread the virus.

The toxic effect of spraying with chemicals such as chlorine on individuals can lead to eye and skin irritation, bronchospasm due to inhalation, and potentially gastrointestinal effects such as nausea and vomiting. In addition to health safety concerns, the use of chlorine in large-scale spraying practices may prevent this resource from being used for important interventions such as drinking water treatment and environmental disinfection of health care facilities.

Thorough hand hygiene: washing hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand gel, should be performed before touching surfaces, items, pets, and people within the household environment. Please see: https://www.who.int/media/docs/default-source/integrated-health-services-(ihs)/infection-prevention-and-control/hand-hygiene-when-and-how-leaflet.pdf

While outside, people should always follow physical distancing measures, staying at least one metre from another person; perform hand hygiene by washing hands frequently with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub; follow good respiratory hygiene by covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and avoid crowded places.

No. The use of gloves by the public in public spaces is not a recommended or proven prevention measure. Wearing gloves in public spaces does not replace the need for hand hygiene, nor does it offer any additional measure of protection against the COVID-19 virus than hand hygiene. Gloves do not provide complete protection against hand contamination, as pathogens may gain access to the hands via small defects in gloves or by contamination of the hands during glove removal. People can also transfer pathogens from one surface to another by touching with gloved hands, or even transfer pathogens to the mouth, nose, or eyes if they touch their face with gloved hands.

There is no evidence to date of viruses that cause respiratory illnesses being transmitted via food or food packaging. Coronaviruses cannot multiply in food; they need an animal or human host to multiply.

The COVID-19 virus is generally thought to be spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. Currently, there is no evidence to support transmission of the COVID-19 virus associated with food.

This article was co-authored by Eduardo Peralta. Eduardo Peralta is a House Cleaning Specialist and the Manager of Best Maid House Cleaning based in San Jose, California. With over five years of experience, Eduardo and the Best Maid House Cleaning team specialize in home deep-cleaning, post-construction cleaning, and green and eco-friendly cleaning services. Best Maid House Cleaning is fully licensed and insured.

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So, you’ve got a moldy or super dirty surface you want to get clean. No problem. You can just reach for the handy container of bleach and clean it up, right? Not so fast! While bleach can be a highly effective cleaning and sanitizing solution, it’s also a really potent and potentially dangerous chemical. Don’t worry though. As long as you follow the proper safety precautions, like making sure to dilute the bleach first, you can use bleach to sanitize and disinfect a variety of surfaces.

How to disinfect with bleach

Eduardo Peralta
House Cleaning Specialist Expert Interview. 29 October 2021. [2] X Research source

  • You can also turn on some fans in the room.
  • Another option is to dilute the bleach outside so you don’t breathe in the vapors from the concentrated bleach.

How to disinfect with bleach

Eduardo Peralta
House Cleaning Specialist Expert Interview. 29 October 2021.

  • You could also wear pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
  • Bleach can damage and discolor clothing, so make sure you wear something you don’t mind getting stained, or cover ti with a long apron. [4] X Expert Source

How to disinfect with bleach

Eduardo Peralta
House Cleaning Specialist Expert Interview. 29 October 2021.

  • If you do accidentally mix bleach with another chemical, leave the area and get outside into fresh air immediately.

How to disinfect with bleachAn image of the COVID-19 virus, which can last on surfaces for up to nine days but can be destroyed with a dilute chlorine bleach solution

Image courtesy of the CDC Public Health Image Library, Alissa Eckert, MS, Dan Higgins, MAMS

As our society adapts to the new realities of life during the COVID-19 pandemic, we wish to offer a simple formula for disinfecting surfaces against the “globe-trotting” “novel coronavirus” (COVID-19 virus). The CDC reports that just ⅓ of a cup of regular chlorine bleach can be mixed with 1 gallon of water to make a solution that can destroy the virus on frequently touched hard surfaces, such as door knobs, handrails, and toilets. Surfaces must stay wet with the solution for 1 minute to be effective. To prepare a smaller volume of solution, mix 4 teaspoons of bleach into 1 quart of water. The solution can be applied with a cloth or poured into a clean spray bottle and sprayed onto surfaces.

Solutions should be made fresh daily as bleach loses its effectiveness over time. Never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaning products as harmful gases can be produced.

The disinfecting solution works best when surfaces are first washed with soapy water and then rinsed with clear water. We invite you to download the poster , which uses pictograms to illustrate all the steps needed to disinfect frequently touched surfaces. An image of the poster is shown below.

How to disinfect with bleach

Linda F. Golodner is President Emeritus of the National Consumers League and Vice Chair of the Water Quality & Health Council.