Bleach is a world-known disinfectant and one of the most popular cleaning products. Bleach is widely used for killing bacteria, water purification, and cleaning various surfaces. That is why many people choose to stock bleach, just in case. Most likely, you too have a bottle of bleach solution or two.
But here are some questions:
- If you have a lot of bleach, how do you know it is still up-to-date and safe to use?
- Does bleach expire at all?
- What is the shelf life of a bleach bottle?
- How do you know that bleach is unfit for use?
- How to store bleach properly?
In this guide, we will answer all of these questions to let you learn how to manage your bleach for long-term storage?
What is Bleach?
Bleach (chlorine bleach) is a sodium hypochlorite solution that is used for household purposes like cleaning and disinfection. The active ingredient of bleach is sodium hypochlorite or sodium chloride, as you may also see on packaging by different manufacturers. Traditionally, people store a few bottles of liquid bleach disinfecting solution in their kitchens, bathrooms, garages, etc.
But how do they know when chlorine bleach is unfit for use? What is the shelf life of regular bleach, and does it even have one? The answer is yes.
Does bleach really expire?
As a simple answer to this question: yes, bleach expires.
Sodium hypochlorite active – a key ingredient of bleach – has a shelf life of twelve months after manufacture date. But there is a significant nuance: you have to countdown the expiration date from the date a bottle of bleach was manufactured. However, most bleach manufacturers don’t print the expiration date information in the form we all saw. They use production code instead. So to find out the expiration date for a particular bottle of bleach, you will need to figure out its manufacture code. In the section below, we will show you how to crack the code to find out the manufacture date of bleach.
There’s another important thing you should know about bleach. Although its shelf-life equals one year from the manufacturing date, in reality, bleach starts to degrade about six months after it was produced. After six months, bleach degrades, and over time, the solution will break down into salt and water.
How to figure out the code?
Proper survival tools are vital^ but your knowledge is a must! Traditionally, chlorine bleach manufacturers, like Clorox and such, don’t print the best before date on their products. Instead, they place a manufacturer code that you will need to decipher to find out when the bottle was produced and whether or not it is still fit for use. Such code looks like a line of numbers and letters.
Let’s take a bottle of Clorox bleach, for example.
The code has thirteen digits and letters telling you when the bottle was produced. But how do we read the code? Well, in fact, it is quite easily done. First of all, we need only five symbols. The other parts are really not important. For instance, the first two symbols show the plant number, which gives us no information on when our bottle of bleach expires.
What we really need is the next five digits. In this case, they are 19308. 19 here is the year of production, with the “19” being the last two numbers of the year. So this bottle was manufactured in 2019. The next three digits are the exact manufacturing date. But you can’t read it as an actual calendar date. What these numbers mean is the day of the year when the bottle was produced. So here, the is 308, which means that the bottle was manufactured on the 308th day of the year. This means that we have a bottle that was manufactured by Clorox on the 4th of November, 2019.
Now, you can use this example to calculate the expiration date of your bleach bottles. Done? How many bottles have already expired?
What Happens When Bleach Degrades?
We know now that bleach will fully degrade in the time span of twelve months. What happens then? Does bleach become hazardous when it expires? How do you know that bleach is expired if you don’t have an original bottle with a manufacturing code?
Is bleach that went bad dangerous?
First of all, bleach is unfit for human consumption in any form and in any condition.
This product is used for killing germs which means it contains hazardous chemicals that can harm the human digestive system. So don’t drink bleach and make sure it is unreachable for your kids.
On the other hand, bleach is considered environmentally friendly since when it degrades, it will break down into salt and water, which is safe for the environment.
This means that if you have an unused and expired bleach solution, you can just pour it down the drain or simply flush it down the toilet with no negative consequences.
The bottom line is if you have an outdated chlorine bleach – dispose of it – it is no longer of any use.
What does expired bleach look and smell like?
So what if you don’t have original packaging and you don’t know if the bleach you have has passed its expiration date? Does an outdated bleach has some kind of specific smell or look?
Bleach, like most cleaning products, has its own distinctive odor. And that is exactly what you should pay attention to in the first place. If the bleach you have does not have any smell, most likely it is unfit for use, and you should dispose of it.
When stored properly, bleach will be fine until its expiration date. As a reminder, it takes one year for bleach to degrade. The process starts six months from the day of manufacture. But what does “stored properly” mean?
In fact, storage conditions for bleach are quite simple:
- Avoid exposure to direct sunlight – sunlight is hazardous for sodium hypochlorite;
- Your best choice is to store bleach at room temperature with as little light as possible.
And that is basically it – no further instructions are needed.
However, these simple rules only apply when you store pure bleach. But what you’ve made a mixture of bleach and water for cleaning? How long will that bleach-water solution last? If you dilute sodium hypochlorite bleach with water, you will need to use up all the mixture. Otherwise, it will become useless quite fast. So mix a new batch each time.
Tips on using bleach
- Try not to dilute bleach with ammonia-based products. Such a mix will produce chlorine gas which is toxic;
- When contacting organic materials, bleach loses its cleaning properties. So before using it to clean your tabletop (or other surfaces), make sure you wipe them first to get rid of organic matter;
- If you need to purify water, use eight drops of liquid bleach to one gallon of water.
Used by regular homeowners and the Disease Control Center employees alike, bleach is among the most effective cleaning products stored in many households around the world. It takes just a couple of simple conditions such as room temperature and absence of light to keep bleach intact for the whole duration of the storage period.
To know whether you still can use bleach that you found under your kitchen sink, you only need to look at the manufacturing code printed on the bottle and calculate the best-before date. And if the bottle was manufactured more than a year ago, without a shadow of a doubt, get rid of it.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How can you tell if bleach is bad?
If the cleaning solution has no smell, it is most likely outdated and is no longer of any use. Such product must be disposed of.
What does expired bleach look like?
Outdated bleach has no specific look, so there is no way to tell that a solution went bad. The only way to tell if it is past its best-by date is to look at the production code on the bottle. Or, if you don’t have the bottle, you can smell the liquid. If it’s outdated, it will not have any odor.
How to know when your bleach was manufactured?
You need to find a manufacturing code on the bottle of the product – it is a row of digits and letters that contain the plant number and the year, and the exact day of production. The year information will use a two-digit form showing the last two numbers of the year like “19”, “20”, or “21”. The day information will use a three-digit form describing the exact day of the year when the product was manufactured. For instance, 308 – the 308th day from the beginning of a year. With this information, you can calculate when the product expires.