Inhalation of Clorox fumes is not something you would want to do willingly. However, there are situations where you will smell this chemical's fumes. Brief encounters should not cause harm. The product, however, should be used with caution. Inhaling the Clorox fumes can cause physical problems.
What is Clorox?
The name Clorox is the trademark name the company uses to identify its product. The common name of Clorox™ is bleach, and its chemical name is sodium hypochlorite. Clorox™ is a bleach that contains anywhere from three to six per cent sodium hypochlorite, the active ingredient in bleach.
Bleach is the most widely available disinfectant in the world, according to Facts About Bleach, an Website published by The Clorox Company. Its use around the world as a disinfectant has contributed significantly to germ reduction in hospitals, households and other habitats.
How is Bleach Made?
Sodium hypochlorite is pale-green in colour. It is also known as soda bleach and liquid bleach. Chemically, it is represented as NaOCI. Sodium hypochlorite is made with caustic soda, or sodium hydroxide, NaOH, pictured. Sodium hydroxide is a very corrosive substance and will burn the skin quite badly. The bleach is processed using sodium hydroxide and liquid or chlorine gas, in a reaction. When cooled, the bleach forms sodium hypochlorite--the liquid that is in Clorox.
Bleach comes in different states such as a solid or liquid, depending on its uses.
Uses of Clorox
Clorox, or bleach, is used in several applications in our lives. Some of the more common applications are in disinfecting, sanitation, odour control, chlorination of drinking water and swimming pools, cleaning clothes and bacteria control. Bleach is used across the world and praised for its antibacterial and antiviral properties.
Institutions like hospitals and nursing homes rely on bleach to sanitise the premises, and it is used extensively in restaurants for disinfecting utensils, food preparation equipment and more.
Hazards of Inhaling Clorox Fumes
Infrequent, short, exposure to Clorox fumes usually does not pose any problems. However, since sodium hypochlorite is an oxidising agent, and contains chlorine, it can cause irritation of the airway passages, as well as burns on the skin. The Clorox company's Material Data Safety Sheet warns:
"CORROSIVE to the eyes. May cause severe irritation or damage to eyes and skin. Harmful if swallowed; nausea, vomiting, and burning sensation of the mouth and throat may occur. The following medical conditions may be aggravated by exposure to high concentrations of vapour or mist: heart conditions, or chronic respiratory problems such as asthma, chronic bronchitis or obstructive lung disease. Some clinical reports suggest a low potential for skin sensitisation upon exaggerated exposure to sodium hypochlorite, particularly on damaged or irritated skin. No adverse health effects are expected with recommended use."
Never mix bleach with acids, or any ammoniated chemicals like amines. A very dangerous chlorine gas will be produced that can be deadly. Do not discard bleach indiscriminately because it has been known to cause spontaneous combustion when combined with wood, rags and other materials.
When working with bleach you should have adequate ventilation, wear protective clothing in case of spills and wear rubber gloves if handling the liquid. In the case of spills, you can neutralise bleach with sodium sulphide, sodium sulphite or solution. If you get this liquid on your hands or in your eyes, flush with water liberally.