How is chlorine bleach made?

Written by lillian teague
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How is chlorine bleach made?
Many household cleaning products use chlorine bleach for removing stains and disinfecting. (bottles of cleaning product. bleach. disinfectant. image by L. Shat from Fotolia.com)

According to How Products Are Made, the most common form of bleach in U.S. homes is chlorine bleach, also called sodium hypochlorite. Bleach effectively disinfects and removes stains. Used to sanitise drinking water since 1895, chlorine bleach is an approved chemical by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture for sanitising food industry equipment. The manufacturing process remains inexpensive, driving the popularity of bleach as an ingredient in many cleaning products.

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Raw Materials

Household bleach manufacturing includes chlorine, caustic soda and water. Directly producing an electric current through a sodium chloride (salt) solution produces chlorine and caustic soda.

Preparation

Bleach manufactures receive caustic soda in a concentrated 50 per cent solution. Bleach manufacturers then dilute the concentration with water to form a 25 per cent solution. When diluting caustic soda, heat is produced. The diluted caustic soda must be cooled before it moves to the reaction phase.

Reaction

Caustic soda is mixed with chlorine in either a batch of 14,000 gallons or inside a continuous reactor. The reaction occurs immediately, resulting in chlorine bleach.

Purification

The bleach solution cools and then enters a purification stage. Manufacturers remove impurities through a settling process or multi-stage filtration. Impurities left in chlorine bleach can cause discolouration or premature decomposition.

Bottling

Manufactures have the option of either shipping chlorine bleach to a bottling plant or bottling it on-site. Travel takes place in liquid form inside special railroad tankers with double walls. In the event of a derailment, the tankers are designed to be rupture-proof. Tankers are equipped with shutoff valves and chlorine detection systems. The general household strength chlorine bleach is 5.25 per cent sodium hypochlorite mixed with an aqueous solution. Ultra-strength solutions contain 6 per cent sodium hypochlorite.

Safety

Chlorine gas presents dangerous and volatile circumstances should it escape. Along with the safety measures taken during transportation, safety concerns are addressed during any storage in bottling or manufacturing facilities. Chlorine vats are kept in "car barns". These barns have air filtration systems that inhale escaped chlorine gas. The gas is then recycled into the manufacturing process.

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