Why Bleach Does Not Work

Why Bleach Does Not Work as Well as Disinfectant

Following is the common answer that is given to the consumers over the internet regarding bleach as a disinfectant:

  1. How can an area be disinfected if it is contaminated by a dog with Parvovirus?



Ans. Though a number of Parvovirus is available in the market but regular bleach is still said to be 100% effective. The dilution requirement is one part bleach to 30 parts water. For coloured or dyed fabrics and objects, caution is advised. Don’t use bleach solution on the animal!


The answer stated above however, is incorrect because the information is dependent on unrecorded kill claims along with a misconception regarding the nature of bleach.  Sodium Hypochlorite or bleach, has been used as an inexpensive disinfectant universally for many years.  In the last few years, Environment Protection Agency (EPA) of UK has pressurized the bleach manufacturers which also involve huge national brands to quit promoting bleach as an antimicrobial unless the product has been thoroughly registered and tested for efficiency.

Listed below describes briefly the usage and distribution of bleach.

As a Cleaner:

Virtually there is no surfactant base in bleach therefore there is a need for second solution for pre-cleaning of the surface.

As a Disinfectant:

According to the new requirement of Environment Protection Agency (EPA), all cleaning products including bleach that seem to make particular kill claims be registered. They should be properly labelled and tested in detail for efficacy. Unlike sanitizers and quaternary disinfectants, bleach does not have a presence of residual surface.

Conflicting Chemistries:

Bleach is incompatible with a number of cleaning chemicals rendering it a dangerous aspect.  Mixing bleach with cleaning solutions that contain pine oils, acids could result in toxic gas release or even an explosive chemical reaction.


This is the major myth that circles around bleach. As bleach can sell at quite low price, consumers are of the belief that it is good economic value. In order to have full effect of the active ingredients of bleach, it should be used 1-1 or full force.

Whereas, EPA registered sanitizer is effective ¼ ounce per gallon and is more economical value when it is diluted as directed.

Surface Damage:

Bleach has aggressive tendencies that can damage surface materials including vinyl, most carpet fibres, upholstered surfaces and certain metals.

Hazard to Animals:

Many animal care facilities and hospitals still use bleach. Bleach has a negative impact on the animal’s ability to smell. Cats do not eat which they are unable to smell and this particularly holds true for large cats of the zoo.  The problem is more predominant in police dogs as loss of smell affects their proficiency of tracking suspects, drugs and explosives.

Hazard to Humans:

Sodium hypochlorite is a known carcinogen and this is documented as well. It can cause permanent eye damage and irritate skin also.

Bleach and Food:

Bleach expands in its container naturally. Therefore to prevent the container from exploding particularly the gallon ones a vented cap needs to be used by the manufacturer so that gas can easily escape to air.

In an enclosed space like a storage closet or a delivery truck, the gas can infuse in the surrounding surfaces like paper bags, cardboard which thus creating risk of contamination of food products.


The active ingredient sodium hypochlorite tends to be quite unstable in commercial bleach and will be dissipating over short time period. 10% solution of sodium hypochlorite to water might be used by the manufacturer but by the time it reaches the consumer, actual active ingredient may reduce to 5% permeating.

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