Is Bleach Biodegradable? (And How Long it Takes?)

Bleach has no doubt saved many clothes from total ruin. It has also helped users keep their homes germ-free and hygienic. The use cases go on and on.

So, it is unsurprising that the bleach market is worth millions of dollars. Many households rely on bleach for cleanliness which makes it essential to ask the question of the effect of its consumption on our environment. If you have decided to live an environmentally friendly existence, you want to know what happens when you use bleach.

When it goes down the drain, how does the environment receive it? Is bleach biodegradable? If yes, how long does the process take, and if no, is there eco-friendly bleach? Keep reading to find concise answers to these questions!

Is Bleach Biodegradable or Not?

Bleach is biodegradable. You would be surprised at what the right chemistry can achieve, even with the simplest elements like oxygen, salt, caustic soda, chlorine, and water, the materials used to create bleach. The addition of water to bleach accelerates the biodegradation process because of what is called oxidization.

Bleach is a household cleaning agent that kills germs and harmful bacteria. So, it is a biocide. It has an active agent, sodium hypochlorite, that allows it to eliminate pathogens through and break chemical color bonds,

Do you also detest the thought of living with bacteria, especially in the restroom and kitchen? If you do, chances are you also rely on bleach and are worried about its effects after serving its purpose.

Well, bleach biodegrades without harming the environment, but it depends on how it is used. For instance, if you pour a concentrated amount on the spot in your yard, you can expect significant damage, possibly the death of grass in the area or discoloration.

As explained earlier, this is because bleach works with oxidization, which is the loss of one or more electrons in a chemical reaction. The overconcentration won’t bode well for the recipient, which also happens when it contacts the environment.

In the same vein, you must use the right amount when cleaning your home or risk toxicity poisoning, possibly from the air.

But in smaller quantities, bleach is harmless to you and the environment. When it enters the ecosystem in a diluted amount, it will break down because of what it is made from.

How Harmful is Bleach to the Environment?

How harmful is bleach to the environment? The answer – is not so much! It depends on your use; a concentrated amount can damage the environment, while bleach may be harmless in its diluted form. If you know how bleach works, you will see that it harmlessly eliminates electrons to return the item to its initial color and form.

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When salt breaks down, it becomes salt and water. The regular household bleach comprises 5.5 percent sodium hypochlorite. In a concentrated form, you don’t want this liquid to contact your eyes or other body parts because it will sting.

You must also adopt safety practices when using a string item like bleach. Most importantly, children and pets should not be allowed access because they don’t understand the potency.

If you can protect yourself while using bleach, you should. Wear gloves and eye protection, and constantly prepare for emergencies with substances that have the potency of bleach.

Furthermore, safe storage and appropriate usage are two fail proof ways to protect yourself and the environment from the effects of bleach. Although it is a biocide, rest assured that the manufacturers have considered the implications of such a potent substance and have therefore packaged it properly.

If you play your part by diluting and using it accordingly, the waste substance will mix thoroughly with wastewater to reduce potency even further. By the time it arrives in the sewer system, there will be less tendency for negative impacts on the environment. It cannot withstand the treatment that occurs in the sewage, thereby minimizing the effects of the results on the environment.

However, if you consider the effects of the manufacturing process of bleach on the environment, they are not so favorable. But again, many of humanity’s industrial activities negatively impact the environment even though conscious efforts are being taken to ensure otherwise.

So, chemical poisoning happens from the companies that manufacture bleach, and the amount of energy consumed is not also the most enviable. That being said, you can say that bleach is not a sustainable option for the environment unless you opt for the natural kind.

How Long Does it Take Bleach to Biodegrade?

The answer depends on the concentration of bleach that you used. If you have used it a lot for your cleaning duties, rest assured that you will notice the potent smell for a while. But when using the appropriate quantity, bleach biodegrades fast. Technically, after six months to a year, bleach will start losing its potency.

We use bleach to kill bacteria and germs on surfaces in the home. It is also an excellent whitening product that is indispensable in the laundry room, but the active ingredient, sodium hypochlorite, expires.

It loses potency after a while, and you will know when the strong bleach smell reduces. However, if you still catch a whiff, it has not biodegraded.

If it is still in the container, then the collective atoms can resist biodegradation for a longer timeframe but poured out, it begins to biodegrade instantly.

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Think about this – biodegradation happens when microbes contact organic waste and break it down. But on the other hand, a biocide kills these microbes.

However, bleach will become ineffective against its targets the longer it is unused. It takes about six months to a year after the manufacture date to use it, or the active agent begins to lose potency.

You can check the expiry date; it is on the neck of the container, written in a code that helps you determine how long your product has.

Furthermore, the temperature you expose the container to determines the potency period. It is best to store bleach at temperatures ranging from 50°F to 70°F. But if the heat reaches 77°F, the bottle contents start weakening.

Is There Eco-Friendly Bleach?

Yes, there is eco-friendly bleach. Natural bleach is biodiversity-friendly, from its packaging down to its composition. It relies on oxygen to act on stains and break them down, earning it the moniker of oxygen bleach. It comprises percarbonate of soda, a substance that dissolves into oxygen when it is introduced to water.

Oxygen bleach is an eco-friendly choice if you are looking to go green. It is made from limestone and soda ash, creating a substance known as sodium percarbonate.

Sodium percarbonate is a sustainable material that helps clean your home surfaces and laundry by using oxygen. It releases energy when it comes in contact with water, eliminating unwanted molecules of food or color.

This is undoubtedly a more eco-friendly option because of the apparent lack of chemicals.

Furthermore, the manufacturing method also requires less energy consumption, which is better for the ozone layer and the environment. Fewer fossil fuels will be burnt, and the chances of releasing dangerous chemical waste into our water bodies or the atmosphere will become non-existent.

Oxygen bleach is harmless for the environment, from manufacturing to the consumption and disposal process.

Even the package the bleach comes in is eco-friendly, but often, this depends on the brand. Popular choices opt for recyclable materials like cardboard and recycled plastic.

In a nutshell, oxygen bleach lacks toxic substances, which makes it safer for the environment. However, the downside is that it may not be as effective as chlorine bleach.

yellow-bleach-bottle

Does Bleach Break Down in the Soil?

Yes, bleach breaks down in the soil. The presence of water and direct sunlight determines how fast it happens, but in an exposed field, you can expect biodegradation to occur more rapidly. In five to six months, the active agents won’t be as potent, but before then, the chlorine will ruin every living organism it comes in contact with.

There are many reasons to use bleach on the soil. If microbes like fungi and bacteria do more harm than good, you may consider applying some bleach since it is a biocide.

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It kills every living thing within the affected area, including the helpful organisms. Furthermore, plants will be unable to grow there, or in other words, the part of the soil loses the ability to sustain life.

Chlorine is biodegradable, but before it decomposes, it destroys the organisms in the soil.

Is Clorox Bleach Biodegradable?

Clorox bleach is made from sodium hypochlorite, so it is biodegradable. It will break down into oxygen and salt water once it has performed its function. But typically, decomposition occurs faster when you dilute the liquid accordingly.

Like every other bleach, Clorox bleach will break down when it has served its purpose. It will also biodegrade when it is well past its expiry date. Exposure to extreme temperatures may also speed up decomposition.

Does Bleach Affect Plant Growth?

Yes, bleach will affect plant growth, but that’s not all it will do. The amount of chlorine in bleach is so much that it becomes a biocide, killing every living organism it contacts, including the plants. The microorganisms in the soil that sustain growth will also die, rendering the area incapable of supporting life.

Bleach also introduces dioxin to the soil, weakening its ability to support growth.

If the bleach directly contacts the leaves of the plants, they turn white and die off within a few days. This is due to oxidation; oxygen dilutes the cell proteins of the leaves and kills them.

In cases where bleach accidentally spills around the plants, you can remedy the situation by transplanting immediately. Bring the least amount of soil from the affected area and trim the parts of the plant that the bleach has touched.

What is the Best Way to Dispose of Bleach?

The best way to dispose of bleach is to use it. Yes, that is precisely what it has been designed for, so don’t be throwing out whole kegs of bleach! It will be in a concentrated form that pretty much poisons the environment you leave it in, often the landfills.

If you aren’t using this batch of bleach, consider keeping it for later since it doesn’t expire immediately, or give it to someone who would use it.

Bleach needs to be diluted in water to lose its potency. If that doesn’t happen, it threatens biodiversity because of its biocide properties.

The treatment it will go through in the sewage system will be strong enough to render it completely impotent and safe for biodiversity.

Conclusion

Bleach is a biodegradable substance that breaks down even faster when it is diluted. When used appropriately, bleach has fewer negative impacts on the environment. However, you can choose oxygen bleach to avoid leaving caution to the wind. It is undoubtedly more eco-friendly!

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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.