Bleaches are very commonly found in households as they’re just so darn useful to have.
Whether you are bleaching your toilet or your hair, you are bound to have some bottles lying around your bathroom or utility room - but despite their handiness when it comes to cleaning, bleaches can pose a hazard to your health.
Everyone knows that bleaches should be handled with caution. If it is exposed to your skin or your eyes or lungs, it can cause irritation that can lead to other health problems if not addressed. But there is another way bleach can be a danger to you and your family - fires.
What are bleaches like in a fire? Are they flammable? Do they explode? Should we be more concerned about bleaches than we already are?
To answer all these questions, here is some vital information about bleach that may just save you and your family a lot of trouble and pain.
What Is Bleach?
Bleach is just a generic name for any chemical produced used to clean or remove colour from a fabric or fiber. It is available in two different types: chlorine bleach (which is the most common kind) and non chlorine bleach.
The most common version - chlorine bleach - is basically a mixture of chlorine and water and used in pretty much every bathroom across the country. The non chlorine bleach contains a chemical compound called hydrogen peroxide, but is less commonly used.
The reason why chlorine bleach is so good at cleaning is because it contains sodium hypochlorite.
This active ingredient in bleach attacks protein in microorganisms like bacteria and fungi, completely eradicating any germs that may be lurking at the bottom of your toilet bowl. It is pretty cheap and widely available which is why bleach is so commonly used to clean our houses.
However, bleach is not just this magical liquid that comes with no disadvantages. Like we said earlier, bleach is an irritant and should not be exposed to any skin or organs.
Chlorine bleach can also form chlorine gas when it comes in contact with ammonia or acids, a dangerous gas that can result in accidental death.
But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use bleach - it is an everyday cleaning product used by thousands of people all the time. The actual number of accidents involving bleach compared to how often it is used is relatively low.
But what are the dangers concerning bleach and fire?
Is Bleach Flammable?
For something to be considered flammable, it needs to be able to catch fire all by itself.
For a liquid like bleach to be classed as flammable, it needs a flash point (the temperature at which a vapor forms above the liquid and ignites) of below 100 fahrenheit. Luckily, bleach does not have a flash point.
Both chlorine and hydrogen peroxide bleaches are considered non flammable liquids.
So no - bleach is not flammable.
Bleach cannot catch fire by itself - but that does not mean that it isn’t hazardous in the event of a fire. While bleach may not be flammable, it contains oxidizers that can make a fire ignite more easily and spread quicker.
Chlorine is a very strong oxidizing agent, meaning that it can help combustible materials catch fire. Oxidizers like chlorine are considered very dangerous fire hazards as they can help make a fire way worse by helping it catch and spread.
So although your bleach is not flammable, it can still be very dangerous if exposed and involved in a fire.
And non-chlorine based bleaches aren’t off the hook either. Hydrogen peroxide, as already mentioned above, is found in non-chlorine based bleaches and is also a very strong oxidizing agent.
So how should you handle these fire hazardous chemicals?
The best thing for you to do is to move them away from any heat sources and combustible materials and store them somewhere else in a safe manner. Make sure that they are covered, as the water within the solution can dissolve and enter the air - helping fire to spread more quickly.
Because bleach is so vital to everyday use, we don’t expect you to stop using bleach just in case they may make a potential fire even worse. Just handle them with care and caution, and you and your family will be fine.
Can Bleach Explode?
Reports of bottles of bleach exploding are few and far between but it is possible. Don’t worry - so long as you store your bleach properly, then it is very unlikely to happen.
Bleach can explode when it is heated up. This is why the labels on your bleach recommend you store them out of the sun and keep them away from sunlight for long periods of time.
When bleach is heated up, it causes a reaction that releases chlorine gas. In a trapped bottle, the gas builds up and can cause the bottle to bulge, then eventually explode.
Not only that, but chlorine gas is poisonous and when inhaled, can also cause serious medical issues and even lead to death.
As for hydrogen peroxide, it is also capable of exploding when it is mixed with other chemicals such as chlorine based bleach. This is because mixing the two together causes oxygen gas to be created so quickly and violently, that it can cause an explosion.
But you shouldn’t mix these two together, anyway - this is also another way to create chlorine gas.
So basically, don’t mix bleach with anything other than plain old water.
Mixing bleach with pretty much anything else can create chlorine gas and potentially cause an explosion. Just keep your chemicals separate and away from heat, and you probably will most likely never have to deal with an exploding bottle of bleach in your life.
So is bleach flammable?
No - bleach (chlorine and non chlorine based) is a non flammable liquid. It will not catch fire by itself, but its oxidizing properties may help a fire spread in your house and burn more intensely.
The best way to avoid this is to move your bottles of bleach away from heat sources and store them in a cabinet away from combustible materials.
And is bleach explosive?
Well, technically, yes. If you leave a bottle of bleach near a heat source or in strong sunlight, the heat will cause the bleach to create chlorine gas and this will eventually burst out of the bottle, causing an explosion. Mixing bleach with other chemicals may also cause a similar reaction.
But will your bottle of bleach randomly explode if it's kept in a cool cabinet somewhere? No, it shouldn’t.
Chlorine will only explode like that if it has reason to. As long as you properly store your bleach away in an appropriate place, then you should not have any spontaneously exploding bottles of bleach on your hands.
Now that you are more aware of the properties of bleach, we recommend that you go and check on your own and ensure that they are stored correctly. One wise decision now may save you a lot of trouble in the future.