Sodium Hypochlorite 9.6% 1lt
Sodium Hypochlorite (commonly known in a dilute solution as bleach) is a chemical compound with the formula NaOCl or NaClO, comprising a sodium cation (Na+) and a hypochlorite anion (OCl−or ClO−). It may also be viewed as the sodium salt of hypochlorous acid. The anhydrous compound is unstable and may decompose explosively. It can be crystallized as a pentahydrate NaOCl·5H2O, a pale greenish-yellow solid which is not explosive and is stable if kept refrigerated.
Sodium hypochlorite is most often encountered as a pale greenish-yellow dilute solution referred to as liquid bleach, which is a household chemical widely used (since the 18th century) as a disinfectant or a bleaching agent. In solution, the compound is unstable and easily decomposes, liberating chlorine, which is the active principle of such products. Sodium hypochlorite is the oldest and still most important chlorine-based bleach.
Its corrosive properties, common availability, and reaction products make it a significant safety risk. In particular, mixing liquid bleach with other cleaning products, such as acids found in limescale-removing products, will produce chlorine gas, which was used as a poison gas in World War I. A common urban legend states that mixing bleach with ammonia also releases chlorine, but in reality the two chemicals react differently, producing chloramines and/or nitrogen trichloride. With excess ammonia and sodium hydroxide, hydrazine may be generated.
Household bleach is, in general, a solution containing 3–8% sodium hypochlorite, by weight, and 0.01–0.05% sodium hydroxide; the sodium hydroxide is used to slow the decomposition of sodium hypochlorite into sodium chloride and sodium chlorate.
Sodium hypochlorite has destaining properties. Among other applications, it can be used to remove mold stains, dental stains caused by fluorosis, and stains on crockery, especially those caused by the tannins in tea. It has also been used in laundry detergents and as a surface cleaner. It is also used in sodium hypochlorite washes.
Its bleaching, cleaning, deodorizing and caustic effects are due to oxidation and hydrolysis (saponification). Organic dirt exposed to hypochlorite becomes water-soluble and non-volatile, which reduces its odor and facilitates its removal.
Sodium hypochlorite in solution exhibits broad spectrum anti-microbial activity and is widely used in healthcare facilities in a variety of settings. It is usually diluted in water depending on its intended use. “Strong chlorine solution” is a 0.5% solution of hypochlorite (containing approximately 5000 ppm free chlorine) used for disinfecting areas contaminated with body fluids, including large blood spills (the area is first cleaned with detergent before being disinfected). It may be made by diluting household bleach as appropriate (normally 1 part bleach to 9 parts water). Such solutions have been demonstrated to inactivate both C. difficile and HPV. “Weak chlorine solution” is a 0.05% solution of hypochlorite used for washing hands, but is normally prepared with calcium hypochlorite granules.
“Dakin’s Solution” is a disinfectant solution containing low concentration of sodium hypochlorite and some boric acid or sodium bicarbonate to stabilize the pH. It has been found to be effective with NaOCl concentrations as low as 0.025%.
US government regulations allow food processing equipment and food contact surfaces to be sanitized with solutions containing bleach, provided that the solution is allowed to drain adequately before contact with food, and that the solutions do not exceed 200 parts per million (ppm) available chlorine (for example, one tablespoon of typical household bleach containing 5.25% sodium hypochlorite, per gallon of water). If higher concentrations are used, the surface must be rinsed with potable water after sanitizing.
A similar concentration of bleach in warm water is used to sanitize surfaces prior to brewing of beer or wine. Surfaces must be rinsed with sterilized (boiled) water to avoid imparting flavors to the brew; the chlorinated byproducts of sanitizing surfaces are also harmful. The mode of disinfectant action of sodium hypochlorite is similar to that of hypochlorous acid.
Solutions containing more than 500 ppm available chlorine are corrosive to some metals, alloys and many thermoplastics (such as acetal resin) and need to be thoroughly removed afterwards, so the bleach disinfection is sometimes followed by an ethanol disinfection. Liquids containing sodium hypochlorite as the main active component are also used for household cleaning and disinfection, for example toilet cleaners. Some cleaners are formulated to be viscous so as not to drain quickly from vertical surfaces, such as the inside of a toilet bowl.
The undissociated (nonionized) hypochlorous acid is believed to react with and inactivate bacterial and viral enzymes.
Neutrophils of the human immune system produce small amounts of hypochlorite inside phagosomes, which digest bacteria and viruses.
Sodium hypochlorite has deodorizing properties, which go hand in hand with its cleaning properties.
Waste water treatment
Sodium hypochlorite solutions have been used to treat dilute cyanide waste water, such as electroplating wastes. In batch treatment operations, sodium hypochlorite has been used to treat more concentrated cyanide wastes, such as silver cyanide plating solutions. Toxic cyanide is oxidized to cyanate (OCN−) that is not toxic, idealized as follows:
- CN− + OCl− → OCN− + Cl−
Sodium hypochlorite is commonly used as a biocide in industrial applications to control slime and bacteria formation in water systems used at power plants, pulp and paper mills, etc., in solutions typically of 10–15% by weight.
Sodium hypochlorite is the medicament of choice due to its efficacy against pathogenic organisms and pulp digestion in endodontic therapy. Its concentration for use varies from 0.5% to 5.25%. At low concentrations it dissolves mainly necrotic tissue; at higher concentrations it also dissolves vital tissue and additional bacterial species. One study has shown that Enterococcus faecalis was still present in the dentin after 40 minutes of exposure of 1.3% and 2.5% sodium hypochlorite, whereas 40 minutes at a concentration of 5.25% was effective in E. faecalis removal. In addition to higher concentrations of sodium hypochlorite, longer time exposure and warming the solution (60 °C) also increases its effectiveness in removing soft tissue and bacteria within the root canal chamber. 2% is a common concentration as there is less risk of an iatrogenic hypochlorite incident. A hypochlorite incident is an immediate reaction of severe pain, followed by edema, haematoma, and ecchymosis as a consequence of the solution escaping the confines of the tooth and entering the periapical space. This may be caused by binding or excessive pressure on the irrigant syringe, or it may occur if the tooth has an unusually large apical foramen.
Nerve agent neutralization
At the various nerve agent (chemical warfare nerve gas) destruction facilities throughout the United States, 50% sodium hypochlorite is used to remove all traces of nerve agent or blister agent from Personal Protection Equipment after an entry is made by personnel into toxic areas. 50% sodium hypochlorite is also used to neutralize any accidental releases of nerve agent in the toxic areas. Lesser concentrations of sodium hypochlorite are used in similar fashion in the Pollution Abatement System to ensure that no nerve agent is released in furnace flue gas.
Reduction of skin damage
Dilute bleach baths have been used for decades to treat moderate to severe eczema in humans, but it has not been clear why they work. According to work published by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine in November 2013, a very dilute (0.005%) solution of sodium hypochlorite in water was successful in treating skin damage with an inflammatory component caused by radiation therapy, excess sun exposure or aging in laboratory mice. Mice with radiation dermatitis given daily 30-minute baths in bleach solution experienced less severe skin damage and better healing and hair regrowth than animals bathed in water. A molecule called nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB) is known to play a critical role in inflammation, aging, and response to radiation. The researchers found that if NF-κB activity was blocked in elderly mice by bathing them in bleach solution, the animals’ skin began to look younger, going from old and fragile to thicker, with increased cell proliferation. The effect diminished after the baths were stopped, indicating that regular exposure was necessary to maintain skin thickness.
It is estimated that there are about 3,300 accidents needing hospital treatment caused by sodium hypochlorite solutions each year in British homes (RoSPA, 2002).
Oxidation and corrosion
Sodium hypochlorite is a strong oxidizer. Oxidation reactions are corrosive. Solutions burn the skin and cause eye damage, especially when used in concentrated forms. As recognized by the NFPA, however, only solutions containing more than 40% sodium hypochlorite by weight are considered hazardous oxidizers. Solutions less than 40% are classified as a moderate oxidizing hazard (NFPA 430, 2000).
Household bleach and pool chlorinator solutions are typically stabilized by a significant concentration of lye (caustic soda, NaOH) as part of the manufacturing reaction. This additive will by itself cause caustic irritation or burns due to defatting and saponification of skin oils and destruction of tissue. The slippery feel of bleach on skin is due to this process.
Contact of sodium hypochlorite solutions with metals may evolve flammable hydrogen gas. Containers may explode when heated due to release of chlorine gas.
Hypochlorite solutions are corrosive to common container materials such as stainless steel and aluminium. The few compatible metals include titanium (which however is not compatible with dry chlorine) and tantalum. Glass containers are safe. Some plastics and rubbers are affected too; safe choices include polyethylene (PE), high density polyethylene (HDPE, PE-HD), polypropylene (PP), some chlorinated and fluorinated polymers such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), and polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF); as well as ethylene propylene rubber, and Viton.
Containers must allow venting of oxygen produced by decomposition over time, otherwise they may burst.
Reactions with other common products
Mixing bleach with some household cleaners can be hazardous.
Sodium hypochlorite solutions, such as liquid bleach, will release toxic chlorine gas when mixed with an acid, such as hydrochloric acid or vinegar.
A 2008 study indicated that sodium hypochlorite and organic chemicals (e.g., surfactants, fragrances) contained in several household cleaning products can react to generate chlorinated volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These chlorinated compounds are emitted during cleaning applications, some of which are toxic and probable human carcinogens. The study showed that indoor air concentrations significantly increase (8–52 times for chloroform and 1–1170 times for carbon tetrachloride, respectively, above baseline quantities in the household) during the use of bleach containing products. The increase in chlorinated volatile organic compound concentrations was the lowest for plain bleach and the highest for the products in the form of “thick liquid and gel.” The significant increases observed in indoor air concentrations of several chlorinated VOCs (especially carbon tetrachloride and chloroform) indicate that the bleach use may be a source that could be important in terms of inhalation exposure to these compounds. The authors suggested that using these cleaning products may significantly increase the cancer risk.
In particular, mixing hypochlorite bleaches with amines (for example, cleaning products that contain or release ammonia, ammonium salts, urea, or related compounds and biological materials such as urine) produces chloramines. These gaseous products can cause acute lung injury. Chronic exposure, for example, from the air at swimming pools where chlorine is used as the disinfectant, can lead to the development of atopic asthma.
Bleach can react violently with hydrogen peroxide and produce oxygen gas:
- H2O2 (aq) + NaOCl (aq) → NaCl (aq) + H2O (aq) + O2 (g)
Explosive reactions or byproducts can also occur in industrial and laboratory settings when sodium hypochlorite is mixed with diverse organic compounds.
Limitations in health care
The UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in October 2008 recommended that Dakin’s solution should not be used in routine wound care.
In spite of its strong biocidal action, sodium hypochlorite per se has limited environmental impact, since the hypochlorite ion rapidly degrades before it can be absorbed by living beings.
However, one major concern arising from sodium hypochlorite use is that it tends to form persistent chlorinated organic compounds, including known carcinogens, that can be absorbed by organisms and enter the food chain. These compounds may be formed during household storage and use as well during industrial use. For example, when household bleach and wastewater were mixed, 1–2% of the available chlorine was observed to form organic compounds. As of 1994, not all the byproducts had been identified, but identified compounds include chloroform and carbon tetrachloride. The exposure to these chemicals from use is estimated to be within occupational exposure limits.