Pat asked: Could cleaning with bleach cause throat irritation? I use bleach as a regular component of my house cleaning routine. I use it in the bathrooms, toilets, floors, etc. I am concerned that I may be irritating my throat. After a heavy duty winter cleaning episode last weekend, I awoke with a sore throat and strained voice. This seems to happen after a seasonal cleaning. I’m trying to figure out if it may be the result of a chemical allergy or irritant.
Although widely used as a household cleaner, chlorine bleach is hazardous in many ways. Some of the first effects of breathing the fumes are throat and lung irritation, problems that are much more dangerous in persons with heart conditions, respiratory issues, or who are predisposed to breathing problems. Physical contact can cause damage to skin, eyes, and membranes. Long term exposure may lead to chronic conditions, while mixing chlorine bleach with any other cleaning product could have devastating or lethal results. If you find you have a consistent physical reaction to bleach, you should discontinue using it immediately and contact a physician.
If you must use chlorine bleach in your laundry or in any other part of your home, ventilate the area well. If there isn’t a window or door with outside access in your laundry room that can be opened, turn on the nearest fan and open the nearest window. If you regularly have laundry that needs to be disinfected, see the guide How to Disinfect Laundry Without Bleach for some helpful tips.
In the bathroom, bleach products or other strong disinfectants are usually only recommended after there has been a virus or other serious infectious illness in the home. For regular cleanings, use less dangerous products. In many cases, vinegar or bakimg soda will suffice. We have many guides for cleaning various parts of the bathroom that you can use:
- How to Clean a Toilet Bowl Without Chemicals
- How to Remove Toilet Tank Stains
- How to Clean Soap Scum
However, regardless of what cleaner you use, be sure to turn on the bathroom exhaust fan to protect yourself from the fumes.
Preventing skin contact is also important. Invest in some chemical cleaning gloves if you ever need to clean with chemicals. These are not the same gloves worn for washing dishes; chemical gloves are much stronger – strong enough to stand up to many cleaning chemicals, though you should still use caution when wearing them to avoid splashing the chemicals or if working with strong acids. If you have already cleaned with bleach without using gloves, see the guide How to Remove Bleach Smell from Hands.