GeCl2 is hydrolysed to give yellow germanium(II) hydroxide, which on warming gives brown germanium monoxide:
GeCl2 + 2H2O → Ge(OH)2 + 2HCl
Ge(OH)2 → GeO + H2O
Solutions of GeCl2 in HCl are strongly reducing. With chloride ion, ionic compounds containing the pyramidal GeCl3− ion have been characterised, for example  With rubidium and caesium chloride compounds, e.g.RbGeCl3 are produced; these have distorted perovskite structures. 
Molecular GeCl2 is often called dichlorogermylene, highlighting its resemblance to a carbene. The structure of gas-phase molecular GeCl2 shows that it is a bent molecule, as predicted by VSEPR theory. The dioxane complex, GeCl2.dioxane, has been used as a source of molecular GeCl2 for reaction syntheses, as has the in situ reaction of GeCl4 and Ge metal. GeCl2 is quite reactive and inserts into many different types of chemical bonds.