As important as it is to have an effective cleaning agent, it can be even more important to many family’s to have a SAFE cleaning product. Today we’re comparing bleach and vinegar to see which is more safe for the family. First we must know what the active ingredient in each product is. the active ingredient in vinegar is acetic acid, written as CH3CO2H. The active ingredient of bleach is sodium hypochlorite, which is written as NaClO. Vinegar is around 4.0% to 12% acetic acid, and bleach is around 3% to 6% sodium hypochlorite.
Today, many people assume that vinegar is a perfectly safe cleaner, however many of us forget what vinegar really is: an acid. Even though it is relatively safe, especially compared to many of today’s cleaners, you should still be cautious around vinegar to a certain extent. Avoid getting vinegar in open wounds. Eating large amounts of vinegar can harm your digestive tract, and can also give you heart burn. Do not assume that vinegar on your counter top is just vinegar. Vinegar is very reactive, and will most likely react to form some unpredictable compound that could be more harmful to the body. Vinegar’s toxicity is also harmful to plants, so keep the two away from each other.
Household bleach, contrary to popular belief, is almost neutral, with a pH very close to 7. However this does not make bleach safe. Indigestion of bleach will irritate the mucus membranes of your nose, your mouth, and your throat. Eating any more than just a little will cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, which all lead to dehydration. Be very careful with bleach around children.
Vinegar is relatively safe for the environment. As stated above, it will react with other chemicals it finds to possibly become more dangerous, and it is also very harmful to plants, but so long as you aren’t dumping containers of vinegar out the window, vinegar is relatively harmless and safe alternative to other cleaning agents.
Bleach, even though its a little less safe for the environment than vinegar, is still relatively harmless. Contrary to popular belief, bleach will actually react with other chemicals in the environment to become more stable, and thus less harmful. Some chlorine in the bleach will remain unchanged however, and this will be harmful to the environment. Bleach will also kill plants with ease. Bleach is not as safe as vinegar, however it is relatively safe compared to many other cleaning agents.
Vinegar is actually the opposite of a household pollutant, it freshens up the air. If you can get past the initial powerful stench of vinegar, it will actually freshen the air with the help of very few chemicals. It works great with family’s since the fumes are safe to inhale and no harm will be done.
Concentrated bleach can have very harmful fumes, however household bleach is diluted in water with a 1:10 ratio, and this ratio gives off much less harmful fumes. People should still be weary of bleach fumes, however they aren’t as harmful as some may think, as cases where illnesses are caused by bleach fumes are rather rare.
Vinegar, as we all know from our childhood, reacts readily with baking powder. The fumes from this reaction are not harmful unless found in very high concentrations. As stated above, vinegar will try to react with many other substances, which can either form a more safe or less safe compound. Keep in mind that vinegar is reactive, but don’t worry about it too much.
Bleach, as stated above, will react with other chemicals in nature to become stable. However, be extremely careful with bleach at home and be sure to keep it away from other cleaners. NEVER combine bleach with other cleaners such as ammonia, since the fumes can be extremely harmful to the body. There are many different cleaning agents in the common home, and combining bleach with any of them can be disastrous.
The material data safety sheet for vinegar can be found here, and the data sheet for bleach can be found here.