Can you mix vinegar and bleach? You shouldn’t do that as the combination releases chlorine gas, which has long been identified as a significant inhalation hazard.
Did You Know?
Baking soda and vinegar, when used separately, act as excellent cleaning agents, but when combined, are least effective for household cleaning routine.
Some things are formulated to be mixed, such as water and lemon juice, while some compounds do not go well together, and the best example would be vinegar and bleach. Both products are a popular choice for household cleaning, thanks to their disinfectant properties. From providing protection against microbial contamination to lending freshness in the room, these disinfectants can be extremely helpful to keep your house clean. However, they are not meant to be mixed. The following write-up explains what happens when you mix these products:
Mixing Vinegar and Bleach – Never Do That!
Due to their effective cleansing and disinfectant properties, many people assume that combining vinegar and bleach will give them a more effective disinfectant. However, if that is going to happen at the cost of your health, you shouldn’t try mixing them. To put it simply, it is dangerous to mix these chemicals from a health standpoint. As vinegar is acidic, when bleach is combined with an acid, the mixture releases chlorine gas, which is extremely harmful to our health. Chlorine gas is toxic to the human body and can cause a wide range of health problems. It is little surprising then that bleach bottles have a label that warns against combining bleach with any acidic cleaning agent like vinegar.
Dangers of Exposure to Chlorine Gas
Inhaling chlorine gas is likely to cause repeated episodes of coughing, as it a strong respiratory tract irritant. Apart from coughing violently, one may experience breathing trouble. It may also severely irritate the eyes and the skin. Too much exposure is considered to be corrosive to the eyes and can cause chemical burns. Prolonged exposure to chlorine gas can be fatal and will require immediate hospitalization.
As we know, household bleach is nothing but an aqueous solution of sodium hypochlorite. When chlorine gas combines with a basic hydroxide solution, it produces hypochlorite ion.
Cl2(g) + 2OH–(aq) ⇌ OCl–(aq) + Cl–(aq) + H2O(l)
This is a reversible or two-way reaction, which means chlorine atoms that are generated in the reaction are constantly switching their state from Cl2 to OCl– and vice-versa.
So when an acidic solution is combined with bleach, the hydroxide ions (OH–) of bleach combine with the acidic H+ ions to generate water (H2O). As a result, less number of hydroxide ions take part in the reaction between OH– and Cl2. This makes the reaction slower, but the reaction rate of the reverse reaction (that generates chlorine gas) does not slow down. This causes production of chlorine gas to abnormally high levels.
The reaction between bleach and vinegar that produces chlorine gas, is given below:
NaOCl + CH3COOH → Cl2 + CH3COONa + H2O
A Safer Alternative
Instead of mixing these disinfectants, a better option is to choose either of the two. A safer alternative is to use vinegar for household cleaning. On a comparison between vinegar and bleach, it is clear that bleach is more effective at killing pathogens. However, bleach also releases fumes that can also irritate your lungs and cause breathing problems. Considering the health concerns associated with usage of bleach, it is better to prefer vinegar for cleaning purposes.