How Does Clorox Bleach Affect Plants?

Updated July 19, 2017

The old trusty Clorox bottle has many more uses than whitening your whites and disinfecting bathrooms and counter tops. Though household bleach is often assumed to be harmful to the environment, it actually is not. Household bleach starts and ends as salt water. During use and in disposal, 95 to 98 per cent breaks down; the rest is treated by sewer or septic systems.


The word "bleaching" is often used to describe the environmentally destructive process involved in making paper. The effects of paper bleaching are often confused with what occurs when household bleach is used. Household bleach will not form dioxins because the organic building blocks required for their formation are not present in this type of bleach. As for harmful mercury levels, Jim McCabe, whose job is to be sure that every Clorox product complies to all environmental safety regulations, says the last major testing in 2001 "found no detectable level of mercury in our final bleach product (the detection limit is less than 0.2 parts per billion)."


Clorox, the popular household bleach, can be a good friend in the garden and greenhouse. Used in the proper proportions, Clorox and water mixtures will combat destructive fungus and destroy infestations of predatory insects.

The Tomato Gambit

Heirloom tomato seeds, those tasty fruits of long ago, are prized by their growers. Often gardeners will trade these seeds, and they must be careful to offer only healthy seeds. The conscientious gardener has a way to cleanse the seeds of virus and it's right in her laundry room--Clorox bleach.

After you gather and clean your seeds, prepare a rinse of one part household bleach and five parts water. Leave the seeds in the mixture no more than two or three minutes before rinsing thoroughly and completing the drying process for storage.

Save the Roses

Aphids love roses. They love the tender tips of the plants, the undersides of leaves and even the juicy stems. And they can ruin the rose garden. The green gardener uses ladybirds and lacewing larvae to combat the invaders. After your insect troops have done the job, turn to the Clorox to keep your greenhouse free of any aphids or other pests. The Nature's Control website makes this suggestion: "Add a little bleach to some water in a shallow pan, and walk through it as you enter the greenhouse. Have visitors use it too."

Nice, Clean Dirt

The Schefflera, or "umbrella plant," is a common houseplant. Like many tropical plants, the Schefflera can easily fall victim to damping off, the destruction of seeds by disease in the soil. The Tom Clothier's Garden Walk and Talk website advises that when propagating from seed, you should choose only seeds without blemish and dip them in a 10 per cent solution of household bleach mixed with a few grains of detergent. Swirl the seeds around and remove from the water after one or two minutes. Plant at once and keep the seedlings indoors.

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About the Author

Nancy Virginia Varian is a freelance writer in New Mexico. A widely published author of fantasy fiction for more than 25 years, her short stories have been published in "DragonLance Tales Vol. 2" and "The Year’s Best Fantastic Fiction vol 1." Her range of interests include gardening, disability issues, history, language and the internet.