Yes, Bleach Expires. Here’s What You Need to Know
Cleaning products have expiration dates, too.
Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
The expiration dates of household products
When you need to do a load of laundry or take a few minutes out of your day to quickly clean the bathroom, you probably have a cupboard fully stocked with cleaning products. Food items, however, aren’t the only things that have expiration dates.
What is bleach?
Bleach is a classic home cleaning product. There are two different types: chlorine bleach and oxygen bleach. According to the American Chemistry Council, chlorine bleach, chemically speaking, “is a water solution of sodium hypochlorite. Common household laundry bleach [or non-chlorine bleach], used to whiten and disinfect laundry, is typically either 5.25 percent (“regular strength”) or six per cent sodium hypochlorite (“ultra strength”).” Sodium hypochlorite is the active ingredient in bleach you would use in your home. Household bleach can be used to disinfect places that house germs like light switches and doorknobs and remove mould and mildew from countertops.
When does bleach expire?
To figure out when a product expires, it’s good to know out when the product was made. According to the Clorox website, the production code on the neck of the bottle allows you to figure out how old the bottle of bleach actually is. But how would you be able to decipher this code? Clorox breaks it down by using the example code A81421321CA3. Moving from left to right, the plant number is “A8,” the last two numbers of the year it was made is “14,” and the day of the year the bottle was made is “213.” That translates to a bleach bottle being made on the 213th day of the year, or August 1st, 2014.
According to The Scripps Research Institute, bleach can last about six months. After that, “bleach starts to degrade. Even in its original bottle, bleach becomes 20 percent less effective as each year goes by.” It’s important to know how to correctly store your bottle of bleach. According to the Clorox website, a bottle of Clorox Regular Bleach “should be stored between 10 C and 21 C, and away from direct sunlight,” and that pertains to bottles that are both sealed and opened. Clorox states that a bottle of beach that has been correctly stored has a shelf life for about one year. They recommend replacing after one year since sodium hypochlorite begins to break down.
How can you tell if a bottle of bleach has expired?
Not sure whether your bottle of bleach is still good at six months or even a year? Thankfully, Clorox has broken that down as well. If you can detect any bleach smell at all, then that means there’s still some active bleach left in the bottle. However, you want to use a bit more than you normally would during laundry and cleaning because it would be weaker.
How to dispose of expired bleach
If you’re looking to get rid of bleach, Clorox recommends to simply flush it down the toilet because “any small amount of sodium hypochlorite active that may remain will finish breaking down as it travels through your home’s pipes and out to the sewer.”