One comes in contact with various kinds of cleaning solutions and some of the most commonly used ones are bleach and ammonia based cleaners. Mixing together of certain chemicals can be hazardous and the case under consideration here, is mixing bleach with ammonia, which can be dangerous due to the chemical reactions it leads to.
Both these chemicals are used as cleaning agents and some people would think that mixing them together might create a super cleaning agent. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mixing them together, in large quantities, can in fact create some potentially dangerous compounds, that can cause health problems.
Bleach is a chemical agent that whitens fabrics and removes colors, through the effect of oxidation. Its household version is a solution of 3% to 6% sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl). This is a water solution, that has a bleaching effect. There are many other types of chemicals but the most common, is the one that has sodium hypochlorite.
Ammonia is a compound made from the bonding of three hydrogen atoms, with one nitrogen atom. Its household version, used as a cleaning agent, is a solution of ammonia (NH3) in water and is known as ammonium hydroxide. It is commonly used in the cleaning of stainless steel, glass, and porcelain.
What Does Mixing Bleach and Ammonia Do?
The reactions that occur from the mixing together of bleach with ammonia are basically the reactions that can occur from the chemical reaction between sodium hypochlorite and ammonia. So, let us see what are the products created from the reaction between these two chemicals.
The products formed, can vary, according to the temperature at which the reaction occurs, the concentration of both chemicals, and the manner of mixing. Following are the three reactions that can occur:
Firstly, ammonia reacts with sodium hypochlorite to create sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and chloramine.
NH3 (Ammonia) + NaOCl (sodium hypochlorite) → NaOH (Sodium hydroxide) + NH2Cl (Chloramine)
Chloramine can further react with sodium hypochlorite, to create sodium hydroxide and dichloramine.
NH2Cl (Chloramine) + NaOCl (sodium hypochlorite) → NaOH (Sodium hydroxide) + NHCl2 (Dichloramine)
Dichloramine further reacts with sodium hypochlorite, to create nitrogen trichloride (NCl3). So, three chemicals are formed. There is a popular misconception that 'Chlorine Gas' is produced from their combination, which is wrong. No chemical reaction between the two can do that.
Effects of Mixing
So three products are formed, including NH2Cl (Chloramine), NHCl2 (Dichloramine), and nitrogen trichloride (NCl3), which can be extremely harmful and irritating for lungs, after inhalation. They can also be irritating for the eyes. In high concentrations, all these three chemicals can be toxic to the human body.
Chloramine is a liquid at room temperature, that can be very toxic, if consumed in high concentrations. Dichloramine is a very reactive compound with toxic properties. Nitrogen trichloride is a pungent liquid with explosive properties, due to its sensitivity to light and heat. So, the danger of mixing bleach with ammonia is that all the products formed, have a potential to be extremely harmful in large concentrations.