So, you have decided, on a Saturday morning, that you’re finally going to thoroughly clean your toilet bowl and remove those brown stains that have been bugging you every time you visit the toilet. You pour your toilet bowl cleaner and start scrubbing with all your energy. But nothing is coming out! You, therefore, decide to double your effort by pouring in some bleach to help get rid of all the dirt. All of a sudden, you can smell a horrible overpowering gas that is making you gasp for air. What do you think happened? What happens if you accidentally mixed bleach and toilet bowl cleaner? Let’s explore this topic!
What Happens if You Mix Toilet Cleaner With Bleach?
It’s advisable not to mix bleach with toilet cleaner, but accidents do happen. So, what happens if you accidentally mixed bleach and toilet bowl cleaner?
To understand what will happen in this scenario, let’s first look at the active ingredients in each component. The toilet bowl cleaner has hydrochloric acid as its active ingredient, while bleach has chlorine.
When the two ingredients mix (chlorine and hydrochloric acid), they immediately produce the lethal chlorine gas. This chemical reaction can be dangerous or even fatal if the concentrations are high.
Some of the things that will happen to you include:
- Difficulty in breathing/ shortness of breath
- Burning/ teary eyes/ blurred vision
- Nausea and vomiting
- Skin irritation
- Abdominal pain
- Chest tightness
What to Do if You Inhale Bleach and Toilet Cleaner
As we have gathered above, inhaling chlorine, which comes as a result of mixing bleach and toilet cleaner, is very dangerous and should be treated as a medical emergency.
Note that the severity of the symptoms will depend on how much you have inhaled and the duration of exposure.
Now, if you’re cleaning your toilet bowl and you accidentally mix bleach and toilet cleaner, here are the steps to take:
- Flush the toilet to let the chemicals down the drain
- Get to fresh air and leave the bathroom door open
- Remove your clothes if you feel they’re contaminated
- Wash your skin and eyes if you feel an irritation
- Seek medical attention if the symptoms are severe. Dangerous symptoms to look out for include chest pain and difficulty breathing.
If the only symptom you have is a mild cough or sore throat, you’re seemingly going to be okay. However, consider a medical exam, either way, to rule out any impending problem.
What Not to Do If You Accidentally Mixed Bleach and Toilet Cleaner
Now that we’ve tackled what you should do if you accidentally mix bleach and toilet cleaner, let’s look at what you shouldn’t do.
Do not panic: This might seem obvious, but when accidents happen, panic is most likely to set in. When you panic, you might make the problem worse, or you might not act quickly. So, remain calm, think clearly, and take the appropriate action.
Don’t neutralize the mixture: You might think that it’s a good idea to neutralize what you have created by adding more chemicals. But it’s not! The two ingredients (toilet cleaner and bleach) already created a third chemical that is already more adverse than them.
Adding more of any of the ingredients could lead to something more lethal that could worsen the situation.
Don’t use your bare hands to clean up: It’s always advisable to wear gloves when using cleaning detergents. This is to prevent you from transferring the chemicals to other parts of the body, like the eyes. It also helps protect your skin from possibly harmful chemicals.
Can You Smell Chlorine Gas?
Yes, you’ll definitely smell chlorine gas. This gas has a distinct, pungent, and irritating smell that will make you know for sure that you have been exposed. Another thing that will make you recognize chlorine gas is its yellow-green color.
The pungent odor is not the only thing that will make you know that you’ve been exposed to chlorine. As mentioned above, the gas irritates your eyes and makes breathing difficult.
How Long Does It Take for Chlorine Gas to Go Away?
When you mix bleach with toilet bowl cleaner, chlorine gas will be formed. This gas spreads rapidly, which is why you will immediately feel the symptoms of its exposure.
Chlorine gas disappears from the air within 60-90 minutes of being released. The duration might be longer or shorter depending on several factors, including:
1. The Size of the Space Where the Gas Has Been Released
If the accident happens in a confined space like the bathroom or the garage, it might take longer for the gas to disappear. The area will also need some ventilation to make it safe again.
However, if this happens outside in the open air, things like the spread of wind will make the gas disappear quickly.
2. The Concentration of the Gas
The amount of time chlorine gas will take to dissipate will also depend on how concentrated the mixture is. A highly concentrated mixture will definitely take a long time to disappear compared to a lowly concentrated one.
When it comes to recovery, most individuals with mild-moderate exposure will take between 3 and 5 days to recover fully. Some people, especially those with underlying conditions like asthma, may develop chronic problems, including reactive airway disease.
Should You Clean Your Toilet With Bleach?
After the above ‘horrifying’ discussion, it’s only logical to ask, “should you clean your toilet with bleach?” Bleach is indeed a very strong chemical, but you can still use it to clean your toilet if you follow the right procedure.
- Ensure you don’t leave bleach in the toilet bowl for too long. A quick 10-15 minutes soak will help give your bowl a good clean without damaging it. You could even do the soak overnight if you need to remove stubborn stains, but not longer than that.
- Dilute the bleach with water. Diluted bleach is still as effective as undiluted one, only that it is less harsh and unlikely to cause harmful fumes.
- Don’t pour bleach in a toilet that has urine. We already know that bleach contains chlorine. Urine, on the other hand, has ammonia. When these two ingredients mix, they create some nasty stuff called mustard gas, which is as dangerous as chlorine gas discussed in this text.
- Do not use bleach in the toilet tank. Bleach has corrosive properties that can wear out the internal parts of the toilet tank, causing leaks and other damages.
- Always remember to read the manufacturer’s instructions and follow them to the core when using bleach and any other cleaning product.
- Avoid mixing different cleaning products, especially bleach and toilet bowl cleaner
- Ensure you’re wearing eye protection and gloves, and that your work area is well ventilated
The above text has explained clearly what would happen if you accidentally mixed bleach and toilet bowl cleaner. To avoid all the danger that comes with using chemical-based cleaning products, consider using safer products that have no acid or bleach. If you choose to continue using acid-based cleaners or bleach, use one product at a time to avoid accidental mixing.
Also, always read and follow warnings on all household chemicals. If you happen to accidentally mix toilet bowl cleaner and bleach, open the windows and doors immediately and leave the affected area.