Chlorine in Household Cleaners

Should I worry about chlorine in household cleaners? In a word: Yes. Whether found alone or in a mixture of other chemicals, household products that contain chlorine pose a number of serious health risks. Products of special concern include: automatic dishwashing detergents, chlorine bleach, chlorinated disinfectant cleaners, mildew removers, and toilet bowl cleaners.

Many household cleaners contain chlorine, though it often masquerades behind aliases such as “sodium hypochlorite” or “hypochlorite.”

Breathing in the fumes of cleaners containing a high concentration of chlorine can irritate the lungs. This is particularly dangerous for people suffering from heart conditions or chronic respiratory problems such as asthma or emphysema. And the risks are compounded when the cleaners are used in small, poorly ventilated rooms, such as the bathroom. Chlorine is also a highly corrosive substance, capable of damaging skin, eyes, and other membranes. Chlorine was listed as a hazardous air pollutant in the 1990 Clean Air Act, and exposure to chlorine in the workplace is regulated by federal standards. What is Chlorine?

What Can I Do to Protect My Family from the Hazards of Chlorine? You can do plenty.

  • One of the most important things you can do is buy paper products that aren’t bleached with chlorine. That’s because chlorine bleached paper can contain dioxin and organochlorine residues that can transfer to any food or person they come in contact with. Choose instead unbleached paper towels, napkins, facial tissue, and bathroom tissue… . How Does Paper Bleaching Affect Me?
  • The EPA says that using bleached coffee filters alone can result in a lifetime exposure to dioxin that “exceeds acceptable levels”. Choose instead unbleached coffee filters.
  • Using detergents that contain chlorine in the dishwasher or clothes washer can pollute the air in your home. The water in the machines, which contains chlorine from the detergents, transfers the chlorine to the air through a process called “volatilization.” We then breathe the contaminated air. Choose instead cleaning products made without chlorine. Once These Chemicals Are Inside My Body, What Can Happen?
  • Dishwashers are the worst culprits, releasing chemicals in a steamy mist when the door is opened after washing. In a clothes washer, chlorine mixes with the dirt in clothes to generate airborne, toxic chlorinated organic chemicals. Chlorine-free dishwashing detergents are readily available.
    Click hereto read the rest of Seventh Generation’s Information Bulletin, “Facts about Chlorine.

Excerpted from Seventh Generation's Information Bulletin, "Facts about Chlorine." Copyright (c) Seventh Generation. Reprinted by permission of Seventh Generation.
Excerpted from Seventh Generation's Information Bulletin, "Facts about Chlorine."


Robert O.
Robert O8 years ago

Very worrisome.

Beki T.
Past Member 8 years ago

Am I the only person reading this who has noticed that this is an excerpt of a publication by a company that is SELLING something? And that not of the assertions are backed up by any notes or links? For example, I just searched the EPA web site and could find nothing on dioxin and coffee filters. Please don't believe everything you read, especially on the internet.

Eli Is Here
.9 years ago

I had no idea bleach could be such a health hazard!!

gail d.
gail dair9 years ago

Thanks for post

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Jacob Herrmann9 years ago

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Andrew C.
Andrew C.9 years ago

Is it just me or does the author not seem to know the difference between sodium hypochlorite and elemental chlorine?

I checked out the MSDS sheets for sodium hypochlorite, acetic acid (vinegar), and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) specifically the toxicity of both. Doing the math for mean lethal dose for a 75kg person, toxic doses of household cleaners are:

- 2.5L of vinegar (10% w/w)
- 320g of backing soda (less than a one pound box)
- 9L of bleach (4% w/w)

That means that bleach is less toxic than vinegar or baking soda.

Learn more here and draw your own conclusions.

Glennis Kutchey
Glennis Kutchey10 years ago

This is so true! I wish I could convey the importance of non-toxic cleaners and household necessity products to my friends and family. I'm thankful for websites like this to help get the message out there. I use Melaleuca and am very happy with there products. If you are interested in using them I can help you. I have a website to contact me.

Gae Johnson
Gae Johnson10 years ago

I loathe chlorinated bleach, but my husband thinks its not toxic and the only thing that can get things clean. I have been trying to ween him of his love for Clorox. I regret that I don't like the smell (or taste) of vinegar, so can't use it for cleaning; instead, I use a highly condensed citrus product I dilute to varying degrees for cleaning everything except my wood floors and furniture. I also use a mesh basket for coffee (& recycle the grounds!).

Jamie L.
Jamie L10 years ago

I had no idea bleach could be such a health hazard in so many different ways. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I have forwarded this on as well.

Olivia Rosa
Olivia Rosa10 years ago

I agree with Andrea and most of the people that have alternative solutions for the bleach, but I also use toothpaste for several things and it works, just like in our teeth. If it’s good for my teeth, it’s good for my everyday cleaning.