The effects of bleach on skin & eyes

Updated February 21, 2017

Bleach is a solution of a compound called sodium hypochlorite; sometimes calcium hypochlorite is called bleach as well. Both compounds dissolve readily in water and are highly alkaline. The Material Safety Data Sheet for Clorox regular bleach, for example, lists the pH of its product as 11.9. Bleach can pose a personal health and safety hazard if used improperly.

Skin Damage

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, bleach is a strong irritant that can blister the skin, trigger inflammation and cause burning pain. Exposure to concentrated hypochlorites can cause severe chemical burns. The extent of damage can be more significant than it initially appears to be. Prolonged or chronic exposure can cause irritation and allergic reaction or hypersensitivity.

Eye Irritation

At considerably low concentrations or in extremely dilute solutions, bleach can cause tearing and mild eye irritation. If the chemical is quickly rinsed from the eye, the effects may only be temporary; if it's not washed from the eye, on the other hand, more serious damage may occur over time.

Eye Damage

Concentrated solutions of bleach can rapidly cause severe pain and serious eye damage. Eye injuries that result from bleach exposure can include clouded vision, swelling or inflammation of the cornea, cataracts, swelling or inflammation of the middle part of the eye and inflammation of the retina. These conditions could potentially result in permanent blindness.

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About the Author

Based in San Diego, John Brennan has been writing about science and the environment since 2006. His articles have appeared in "Plenty," "San Diego Reader," "Santa Barbara Independent" and "East Bay Monthly." Brennan holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.