Bleach and Public Health

Get the Facts on the Safety of Bleach

A recent study in Pediatrics examined the patterns and trends of household cleaning product injuries among children treated in U.S. emergency departments.

Clorox supports the commitment of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to prevent household cleaning product injuries.  We agree that more work needs to be done to educate parents about how to keep household cleaners out of the hands of children.

Clorox products, and specifically Clorox® Regular-Bleach1, concentrated, are developed for maximum performance and consumer safety when used as directed.  Our products are in full compliance with all applicable regulations, including regulations from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

While the Pediatrics report indicates that the total number of reported incidences is higher with bleach, we believe that is because bleach is present in more households than most other cleaners.  In addition, although the number of reported incidences is high, the percentage of serious incidents is far lower than for other products.  The study states that, "although bleach did account for the majority of household cleaning product exposures, exposure to bleach did not increase the odds of hospitalization, whereas exposure to acids/alkalis and products containing ammonia did increase the odds of hospitalization."  In fact, the incident profile for bleach places it on a level between fluoride toothpaste and household plants.

Bleach is one of the most widely available and affordable disinfectants on earth. Since it was introduced in 1913, Clorox® brand liquid bleach has played a critical role in helping to protect public health by killing germs that cause illness.

Precaution should always be taken when using any household cleaning product.  Bleach is safe when used as directed. It is very important that people follow the precautionary statements on our package and keep all cleaners out of the reach of our children.

Get the Facts on the Value of Disinfecting

A recent report by Women's Voices for the Earth questions the value of disinfecting products.

Clorox shares the commitment of Women's Voices for the Earth to provide safe cleaning products to protect the health of families. We believe, however, Women's Voices for the Earth's recent report on disinfectants is misleading and confusing, wrongly categorizing all disinfectants as the same, despite clear differences in their composition. Furthermore, the report completely ignores the critical role disinfecting has played in protecting public health. For years, bleach has helped purify water – particularly during times of disaster. Disinfectants also help kill germs that can make people sick, including MRSA, Staph, Norovirus and C. diff. Right now, families are looking for ways to protect themselves from the flu virus. In addition to hand washing, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces is essential.

Also, The Soap and Detergent Association expressed disappointment that the report would discourage the use of cleaning and disinfecting products. The SDA statement noted that scientific and medical experts advocate that proper surface cleaning and disinfecting are important factors in reducing the spread of infectious diseases.

Questions about disinfecting? Here are the facts:

Q. What is the difference between cleaning and disinfecting?
A. Cleaning removes dust and debris from a surface. Disinfecting kills a variety of germs including bacteria such as Staph, Salmonella and E. coli, the viruses such as influenza (the "flu" virus) and rhinovirus (one of the causes of the common cold) and the fungus that causes athlete's foot. Disinfecting hard, nonporous surfaces is one of the most reliable ways to help lower the risk of spreading these germs from surfaces by touch.

Q: When is it appropriate to disinfect vs. clean?
A: Cleaning is effective when you need to remove dirt or stains from various surfaces. Disinfecting is necessary for removing germs and viruses that live on surfaces and lead to infection. Germs and viruses can thrive in the kitchen, bathroom, baby's room and laundry room, which make disinfecting crucial.

Q. Do I need to disinfect if soap and water are available?
A. Using soap and water along with frequent and proper hand washing are important parts of a cleaning routine. Disinfecting also plays a critically important role by helping to prevent the spread of illness-causing bacteria and viruses. It is especially important to disinfect when someone in your home or office is sick, immune compromised, or during an outbreak, such as the H1N1 2009 flu virus.

Q. Are disinfectants harmful to the environment?
A. No. During normal household use and disposal, bleach breaks down primarily into salt and water. Bleach does not contaminate ground water because it does not survive sewage treatment – neither in municipal sewage treatment plants nor in septic systems.

Q. Where can I find out what ingredients are in Clorox® disinfectants?
A. In an effort to inform consumers about the products they use in their homes, Clorox provides ingredient listings for a variety of products. To view the products, click here:

Q. Do bleach-based disinfectants cause asthma or allergies?
A. No, our bleach products do not contain any known ingredient to cause sensitization (allergies) or asthma. As with other products, bleach exposure may trigger asthma response through irritation when individuals are already at risk for asthma. If you have a family member with chronic respiratory problems such as asthma, discuss with your health care provider when and how to disinfect with bleach.

Bleach Use

Confidence in the efficacy and impact of disinfecting bleach is why the world's leading public health agencies - the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - recommend the use of bleach for controlling the spread of pathogens that can cause infections and other health threats. Bleach is one of the most widely available, affordable disinfectants on earth and the role it plays in public health continues to be critical.

  • In protecting school children: As part of a healthy routine in school kitchens, the School Food Safety Network recommends the proper use of bleach to water ratios for food-contact surface preparation areas to help reduce the potential for cross-contamination of food and the spread of Salmonella, E. coli and other bacteria that can make kids sick.

  • In protecting patients: Each year, an estimated 1.7 million Americans contract infections while hospitalized. As many as 90,000 die. To help combat the problem, Clorox has partnered with the Association of Professionals in Infection Control on Protect Our Patients, a program to raise awareness of the steps hospital staff, patients and families can take to help protect patients in the hospital and at home. Hand washing is critical; so is disinfecting surfaces to help prevent the spread of hospital-acquired infections and other illnesses. The proper Clorox bleach to water ratio for cleaning contact surfaces is listed at the bottom of the page.

From the World Health Organization to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommendations for use of EPA-registered bleach play a central role in helping control the spread of germs that cause infectious illness.

Following is a list of organisms that the proper Clorox Bleach to water ratios can kill

Staphylococcus aureus (Staph.)
Salmonella choleraesuis
Pseudomonas aeruginosa
Streptococcus pyogenes (Strep.)
Escherichia coli O157:H7 (E. coli)
Shigella dysenteriae
Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)

Trichophyton mentagrophytes (can cause Athlete's Foot)
Candida albicans (a yeast)

Rhinovirus Type 37 (a type of virus that can cause colds)
Influenza A (Flu virus)
Hepatitis A virus
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)
HIV-1 (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)*
Herpes simplex Type 2
Rubella virus
Adenovirus Type 2

*For health care settings only.

Clorox Bleach to water ratio for cleaning hard, nonporous food contact surface sanitizing (refrigerators, freezers, plastic cutting boards, stainless cutlery, dishes, glassware, countertops, pots and pans, stainless utensils):

Use 2 tablespoons of Clorox® Regular-Bleach1, concentrated per three gallons of water. Wash, wipe or rinse items with detergent and water then apply sanitizing solution. Let stand 2 minutes. Air dry. Kills the following:

  • Staphylococcus aureus (Staph.)
  • Escherichia coli 0157:H7 (E. coli)

For hard, nonporous surface disinfection:

Use ½ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1, concentrated in one gallon of water. Thoroughly wet surface with the solution and allow it to remain in contact with the surface for 5 minutes. Use a 10 minute contact time, to kill the following:

  • Feline parvovirus
  • Canine parvovirus
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Trichophyton mentagrophytes (can cause Athlete's Foot)