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What Happens When You Mix Bleach and Ammonia Cleanzen Infographic

 

If you found yourself sleeping through chemistry class or you didn’t learn from your cleaning-crazed relatives while growing up, mixing bleach and ammonia can actually kill you.

 

You might think that mixing these chemicals can boost their effect, but when combined, these two common cleaning agents produce a chemical reaction that releases toxic fumes capable of anything from a sore throat to unconsciousness and even death.

 

In this article, we’ll tell you about the gasses created when bleach and ammonia are mixed, the symptoms of exposure to the toxic gas, and how it is treated. You’ll also find out what to look out for in cleaning products and what to do if you’ve been exposed.

 

Keep reading to find out how to keep you and your family safe when cleaning.

What is Ammonia Used For?

 

Maybe you’ve used ammonia to clean for years, or maybe it’s recently been recommended, and you’re researching its uses and risks. No matter how familiar you are with the chemicals, it never hurts to be properly informed before using any chemicals for cleaning around the house.

 

What Happens When You Mix Bleach and Ammonia Cleanzen Image Bottle of Ammonia

 

Ammonia for household use can be a powerful cleaner that cuts through even the toughest stains. It’s also great for cleaning items, and even repelling the occasional pest. Here are a few ways you can use ammonia around your house:

  • Remove concrete stains
  • Clean up glass
  • Pretreat Laundry Stains
  • Cut through grease on stove burners
  • Clean carpet and upholstery stains
  • Shine up your electric oven
  • Refresh bathroom and kitchen tiles
  • Brighten your jewelry

 

What Happens When You Mix Bleach & Ammonia?

 

Mixing chlorine bleach with ammonia creates a chemical reaction that can be deadly. Here is your mini chemistry lesson for the day: Sodium hypochlorite is the active ingredient in chlorine bleach. When it mixes with ammonia, chloramine gas is released into the air. Inhaling chloramine gas can be toxic and lead to death by chemical pneumonitis.

 

Chemical pneumonitis is inflammation that occurs when a person inhales material that is toxic to the lungs. Surprisingly, or maybe unsurprisingly to some, reports of chloramine gas exposure due to mixing cleaning products that contained bleach and ammonia actually increased in 2020 during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

Can mixing bleach & ammonia kill you?

Yes, mixing bleach and ammonia can kill you. Depending on how much of the gas is released and the length of time you’re exposed to it, inhaling chloramine gas can make you sick, damage your airways, and even cause death.

 

Watch this video to understand the dangerous chemistry behind mixing ammonia and bleach:

 

 

What to Do if You’ve Been Exposed to Bleach & Ammonia

 

If you have been exposed to a mixture of ammonia and bleach, call poison control at 1-800-222-1222 or 911. Poison control will talk you through the steps you should take in case of chloramine gas exposure.

 

If you have accidentally mixed ammonia and bleach, it is important to take action. If you smell strong odors, you should leave the area immediately and get fresh air. It only takes a few moments for toxic fumes to overwhelm you.

 

Get help immediately. If someone is passed out or displaying symptoms of exposure, call 911. The 911 operator will likely connect you with poison control. If a person is unconscious, try to move them outside or to a well-ventilated area away from the fumes. If you are unable to move the person, ventilate the room as much as possible.

 

Toxic exposure to gas formed by mixing bleach and ammonia is treated with oxygen therapy and steroid breathing treatments. In extreme cases, chemical pneumonitis can occur. This may require temporary assistance from a breathing machine and suction of the trachea.

 

Symptoms of bleach and ammonia exposure

Exposure to chloramine gas fumes, caused by mixing bleach with ammonia, can irritate the throat, nose, and eyes. Symptoms can come on after just a few moments and last about 24 hours in mild cases. Symptoms of exposure to toxic gasses like chloramine include:

  • Chest pain
  • Coughing
  • Nausea
  • Pneumonia and fluid in the lungs
  • Shortness of breath
  • Watery eyes
  • Wheezing

Exposure to high concentrations of chloramine fumes can cause loss of consciousness, coma, and possibly even death.

 

How to Safely Handle Bleach & Ammonia

 

To prevent accidental poisoning with bleach and ammonia, follow these basic guidelines:

  • Always store cleaning products in their original containers.
  • Read and follow the directions and warnings on product labels before using. If you’re not sure, call the information number on the product label.
  • Don’t mix bleach with any other cleaning products.
  • Don’t clean litter boxes, diaper pails, and pet urine stains with bleach. Urine contains small amounts of ammonia.

If you’re using strong cleaners of any kind, always ensure you have good ventilation. Consider using products that meet the Safer Choice Standard from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

 

Other Products You Shouldn’t Mix With BleachWhat Happens When You Mix Bleach and Ammonia Cleanzen Image Bottles of Commercial Cleaners

In addition to not mixing bleach with ammonia, you should avoid mixing bleach with acids. Acid-based cleaning ingredients includes:

  • Acetic acid
  • Citric acid
  • Dilute hydrochloric acid
  • Dilute sulfuric acid
  • Glycolic acid
  • Levulinic acid
  • Oxalic acid
  • Sodium bisulfate
  • Vinegar

 

When bleach is mixed with an acid it can form chlorine gas. Similar to chloramine gas, chlorine gas is even more toxic and can be deadly. In addition, pool water contains chlorine and should not be mixed with cleaning supplies.

 

Bleach should also not be mixed with hydrogen peroxide. When combined, bleach and hydrogen peroxide emit a highly flammable gas.

 

FAQs

 

What happens if bleach is mixed with ammonia?

The combination creates chloramine gas, which can be poisonous if inhaled. Cleaning supplies that contain ammonia may have ammonium hydroxide or ammonia on the label. Bleach may be listed as bleach, chlorine bleach, or sodium hypochlorite.

 

What to do if you accidentally make chlorine gas?

Get away from the area where the chlorine gas was released and breathe fresh air. Make sure you understand your local emergency notification system if you have one.

 

Can you neutralize bleach and ammonia?

No. If you accidentally mix bleach with ammonia or acid-based cleaning supplies you should not try to neutralize it. You should open windows to ventilate the area and call 911.

 

How long does it take for bleach and ammonia to dissipate?

Chlorine gas has a habit of dissipating out across a large space, contaminating every available cubic inch. However, the length of time for which this gas remains in the air depends on the concentration of the gas that has been released and the size of the space the gas has been released into.

 

In a larger space, the concentration of gas in any one location will be relatively low. However, it may take longer for the gas to be removed, and for the air quality to be returned to a safe level, than it would if the contamination happened in a small space.

 

Mixing cleaning supplies can lead to a dangerous chemical reaction that can be deadly. Even natural cleaners, such as vinegar or hydrogen peroxide, can react with bleach and cause toxic fumes. You can avoid a toxic reaction by not combining cleaning agents and reading the labels carefully before mixing.

 

If you or a family member accidentally mix cleaning supplies or if you’re using a strong-smelling cleaner, remember to always work in a ventilated area in order to avoid being overcome by fumes. If you accidentally mix bleach with ammonia or acids or notice a strong odor, vacate the area and call Poison Control or 911.

 

While we can’t help you clean up after a toxic chemical spill, we can help you clean up your space without the risk of any lethal fumes. Check out our apartment cleaning services in Boston for more information and contact us today to schedule your services.

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