We’ve seen a lot of questionable advice circulating online that recommends bleaching your dishes to sanitize them. In reality, bleaching dishes is more dangerous than you might think.
Let’s find out why.
1. Bleaching dishes can harm your eyes.
Bleaching dishes puts your eyes at risk.
Even a small splash of bleach that lands in your eye can cause a chemical burn—creating blurry vision, pain, redness, and swelling, perhaps even causing permanent damage.
If you do get chemical splashes from bleach in your eyes, the Mayo Clinic suggests you immediately flush your open eyes with the cleanest water available for at least 15 minutes, and remove contact lenses.
You should then visit an eye doctor immediately. Without treatment, a splash of bleach can harm the cornea (the external part of your eye that you see through) or develop into an ulcer, a.k.a. an open sore.
Eye injuries from bleach are usually followed by weeks of doctor’s visits and medication.
Because bleach can splash so easily, the University of Michigan urges that you should only ever use it while wearing protective lab goggles.
If you’d rather not risk your ocular health and don’t want to wear goggles while washing dishes, then it’s best to avoid bleach as a method for sanitizing your dishes. (We’ll explain a better alternative below).
But that’s not the only reason why you shouldn’t bleach your dishes.
2. Bleaching dishes harms your lungs.
How often do you wash dishes? Three times a day? Once a day? Probably at least more than once a week, right?
Then you should pay attention to a recent Harvard study that discovered the detrimental effects of using bleach regularly.
It turns out that bleach is a harmful indoor air pollutant.
The Harvard study warns that using bleach even once a week increases the chance of developing lung disease by a whopping 32%.
In the UK (which has a population of approximately 68 million), over 1.2 million people are affected by lung disease, which causes 25,000 deaths annually.
Just imagine how dangerous it is to bleach dishes after every meal.
There’s no reason why you should expose your lungs to that kind of damage—especially when safer alternatives exist!
Unfortunately, that’s not all that bleach does…
3. Bleaching dishes can harm your skin.
The skin is the most important protective layer of the human body.
While it does a great job keeping out unwanted microbes, it quickly reaches its limits when exposed to harsh chemicals.
That’s why you should avoid allowing bleach to come in contact with your skin.
Due to its high alkalinity (pH of 12.5), bleach rapidly dissolves the oils and dead cells on your skin. That is how bleach cause significant burns so quickly.
Since the typical online instructions for bleaching dishes instruct you to dilute the bleach in a lot of water, it might be tempting to believe that the diluted version is safe.
You might feel even more confident if you take the additional step of wearing rubber gloves while using the bleach-and-water solution.
But even that carries a certain level of risk.
Think about it: it takes just a tiny tear in your glove for bleach-laden water to seep inside. It takes only a drop to fly around the edge of your glove, or to slide down your arm under the glove’s cuff.
When even a tiny bit of water-and-bleach solution gets inside a rubber glove, the glove traps it next to your skin – giving you prolonged chemical exposure.
According to a Swedish study, the longer your skin is exposed to bleach, the more bleach it absorbs.
This can lead to mild irritation, but since washing up is a household task you do on a regular basis, the danger of exposing your skin to bleach while bleaching the dishes is too high.
4. Bleaching dishes means you'll eat some of that.
Think about it: you lather up your dishes. You rinse.
Then you dip them into your bleach-and-water solution and re-rinse.
But how can you be certain that you’ve cleaned off all the bleach?
What if, after a long day and a pile of dirty dishes, you missed a few spots because you were tired or got distracted?
That bleach residue will remain on the dishes and mix with your next meal or beverage, and enter your body.
That’s no good!
5. Accidental chemical reactions from bleach
When you’re preparing to wash your dishes, how much thought are you giving to the ingredients in your dish soap?
Unless you’re a devoted label-reader with a background in chemistry, you might be putting yourself in danger.
Conventional dish soap contains many harsh chemicals. When you’re bleaching dishes, there’s a danger that you might trigger an unwanted reaction.
If you find ammonia on an ingredient label you should be particularly careful.
This is why the most widely used dish soap in the US even comes with a warning on the back of the bottle to never mix it with bleach.
6. Environmental danger of bleaching dishes
Whenever you use bleach inside your home, it releases chlorine gas into the air.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), chlorine gas can cause severe irritation to the eyes, the upper respiratory tract, and lungs.
Chlorine gas is so toxic, it was used as a chemical weapon in World War I.
Such indoor air pollution is particularly harmful to human health if a home isn’t aired out sufficiently.
That’s not the only environmental danger. When you bleach your dishes, bleach-tainted water runs down the drain.
Bleach works precisely because it is toxic; it kills life-forms, including aquatic life.
And if your home has a septic system, bleach adds an extra dimension of bad news.
The term “septic” means “infected with bacteria” and a septic system only works by allowing bacteria to break down whatever you flush down the drain.
When you send your dishwater containing bleach down the drain and into your septic tank, you’re inhibiting that process.
And the result will be smelly.
When you kill the bacteria in your septic tank in large numbers, the tank will quickly overflow. (You do NOT want that!)
But it gets even worse.
7. Bleaching dishes can create superbugs
Here’s the issue with using disinfectants like bleach in your home.
Bleach doesn’t kill all dangerous bacteria. Some of the really tough ones get away – and over time they become antibiotic-resistant.
Those are the ones you hear about being referred to as “superbugs”. Chlorhexidine, an active ingredient in bleach, is partly to blame.
A Scottish study revealed that the more certain bacteria get exposed to bleach, the more resistant they become to it.
And the scary part is that new medicine isn't being developed fast enough to prepare for the rise of these superbugs.
In short, unnecessarily over-using disinfectants like bleach – including by regularly bleaching your dishes – can actually help to supercharge the kind of harmful microbes you were trying to eliminate.
Now you know the danger of bleaching dishes.
If everyone in your household has a relatively normal, healthy immune system (i.e., not immunocompromised), and if no one in your home has a highly-infectious disease, bleaching dishes simply isn’t necessary.
For the vast majority of households, using bleach is far more likely to harm your family’s health than to help it.
Most people are best-served by washing the dishes with dish soap (which removes most microbes just fine), and then rinsing thoroughly.
With that being said, in the case of bleach, we have just seen that germs are not the only things that can harm our health. The wrong kind of chemicals can, too.
That's why you should look for natural dish soap made from ingredients that are 100% safe, like this one.
Comes in different scents:
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