Sodium hypochlorite

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Sodium hypochlorite
Sodium hypochlorite
The sodium cation
Space-filling model of the hypochlorite anion
IUPAC name
Sodium hypochlorite
Other names
  • Antiformin
  • Bleach
  • Chloride of soda
In dilution:
  • Carrel-Dakin solution
  • Modified Dakin's solution
  • Surgical chlorinated soda solution
7681-52-9 YesY
ATC code D08AX07
ChemSpider 22756 YesY
EC Number 231-668-3
Jmol interactive 3D Image
KEGG D01711 YesY
PubChem 23665760
RTECS number NH3486300
UN number 1791
Molar mass 74.442 g/mol
Appearance greenish-yellow solid (pentahydrate)
Odor chlorine-like and sweetish
Density 1.11 g/cm3
Melting point 18 °C (64 °F; 291 K) pentahydrate
Boiling point 101 °C (214 °F; 374 K) (decomposes)
29.3 g/100mL (0 °C)
Acidity (pKa) >7
-347.1 kJ/mol
Safety data sheet ICSC 1119 (solution, >10% active chlorine)
ICSC 0482 (solution, <10% active chlorine)
Corrosive (C)
Dangerous for the environment (N)
R-phrases R31, R34, R50
S-phrases (S1/2), S28, S45, S50, S61
NFPA 704
Flammability code 0: Will not burn. E.g., water Health code 2: Intense or continued but not chronic exposure could cause temporary incapacitation or possible residual injury. E.g., chloroform Reactivity code 1: Normally stable, but can become unstable at elevated temperatures and pressures. E.g., calcium Special hazard OX: Oxidizer. E.g., potassium perchlorateNFPA 704 four-colored diamond
Related compounds
Other anions
Sodium chloride
Sodium chlorite
Sodium chlorate
Sodium perchlorate
Other cations
Lithium hypochlorite
Calcium hypochlorite
Related compounds
Hypochlorous acid
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
N verify (what is YesYN ?)
Infobox references

Sodium hypochlorite is a chemical compound with the formula NaClO. It is composed of a sodium cation (Na+
) and a hypochlorite anion (ClO
); it may also be viewed as the sodium salt of hypochlorous acid. When dissolved in water it is commonly known as bleach, or liquid bleach.[1] Sodium hypochlorite is practically and chemically distinct from chlorine.[2] Sodium hypochlorite is frequently used as a disinfectant or a bleaching agent.



Household bleach is, in general, a solution containing 3–8% sodium hypochlorite 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.[3]

Stain removal[edit]

Sodium hypochlorite has destaining properties.[4] Among other applications, it can be used to remove mold stains, dental stains caused by fluorosis,[5] and stains on crockery, especially those caused by the tannins in tea. It has also been used in some laundry detergents.


A weak solution of 2% household bleach in warm water is used to sanitize smooth surfaces prior to brewing of beer or wine. Surfaces must be rinsed 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.

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).[6] If higher concentrations are used, the surface must be rinsed with potable water after sanitizing.

A 1-in-5 dilution of household bleach with water (1 part bleach to 4 parts water) is effective against many bacteria and some viruses, and is often the disinfectant of choice in cleaning surfaces in hospitals (primarily in the United States). The solution is corrosive and needs 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.[7] Some cleaners are formulated to be thick so as not to drain quickly from vertical surfaces, such as the inside of a toilet bowl.

Phagocytes form sodium hypochlorite (with myeloperoxidase) and use it as a respiratory burst weapon to kill bacteria.


Sodium hypochlorite has deodorizing properties.[4]

Water treatment[edit]

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. [8] In addition to higher concentrations of sodium hypochlorite, longer time exposure and warming the solution also increases its effectiveness in removing soft tissue and bacteria within the root canal chamber.[9] 2% is a common concentration as there is less risk of an iatrogenic hypochorite incident.[10] 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.[11]

Nerve agent neutralization[edit]

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[edit]

Dilute bleach baths have been used for decades to treat moderate to severe eczema in humans,[12][13] 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-kB) is known to play a critical role in inflammation, ageing and response to radiation. The researchers found that if NF-kB 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.[12][14]


Sodium hypochlorite is a strong oxidizer. Oxidation reactions are corrosive; solutions burn the skin and cause eye damage, especially when used in concentrated forms. However, as recognized by the NFPA, 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).

Mixing bleach with some household cleaners can be hazardous. For example, mixing an acid cleaner with sodium hypochlorite bleach generates toxic chlorine gas. Mixing with amines, for example, cleaning products containing ammonia or related compounds and biological materials such as urine produces trichloramine. This gaseous product can cause acute lung injury, and 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.[15]

Bleach can react violently with hydrogen peroxide and produce oxygen gas:

H2O2(aq) + NaClO(aq) → NaCl(aq) + H2O(l) + O2(g)

It is estimated that there are about 3300 accidents needing hospital treatment caused by sodium hypochlorite solutions each year in British homes (RoSPA, 2002).

Household bleach and pool chlorinator solutions are typically stabilized by a significant concentration of lye (caustic soda, NaOH) as part of the manufacturing reaction. Skin contact will produce 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. A European study, published in 2008, 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).[16] 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.[16]

Chlorination of drinking water can oxidize organic contaminants, producing chloroform and other trihalomethanes, which are carcinogenic, and many hundreds of possible disinfection by-products, the vast majority of which are not monitored.[citation needed]

One major concern arising from sodium hypochlorite use is that it tends to form chlorinated organic compounds; this can occur during household storage and use as well during industrial use.[3] For example, when household bleach and wastewater were mixed, 1–2% of the available chlorine was observed to form organic compounds.[3] As of 1994, not all the byproducts had been identified, but identified compounds include chloroform and carbon tetrachloride.[3] The estimated exposure to these chemicals from use is estimated to be within occupational exposure limits.[3]


Potassium hypochlorite was first produced in 1789 by Claude Louis Berthollet in his laboratory on the quay Javel in Paris, France, by passing chlorine gas through a solution of potash lye. The resulting liquid, known as "Eau de Javel" ("Javel water"), was a weak solution of potassium hypochlorite. Antoine Labarraque replaced potash lye by the cheaper soda lye, thus obtaining sodium hypochlorite (Eau de Labarraque).[17] However, this process was not very efficient, and alternative production methods were sought. One such method involved the extraction of chlorinated lime (known as bleaching powder) with sodium carbonate to yield low levels of available chlorine. This method was commonly used to produce hypochlorite solutions for use as a hospital antiseptic that was sold after World War I under the names "Eusol", an abbreviation for Edinburgh University solution – a reference to the university's pathology department, where it was developed[18] – and "Dakin's Solution". The UK's National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in October 2008 recommended the preparation should not be used in routine wound care. [19]

Near the end of the nineteenth century, E. S. Smith patented the chloralkali process: a method of producing sodium hypochlorite involving the electrolysis of brine to produce sodium hydroxide and chlorine gas, which then mixed to form sodium hypochlorite.[20][unreliable source?] Both electric power and brine solution were in cheap supply at the time, and various enterprising marketers took advantage of the situation to satisfy the market's demand for sodium hypochlorite. Bottled solutions of sodium hypochlorite were sold under numerous trade names.

Today, an improved version of this method, known as the Hooker process (named after Hooker Chemicals, acquired by Occidental Petroleum), is the only large scale industrial method of sodium hypochlorite production. In the process, sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) and sodium chloride (NaCl) are formed when chlorine is passed into cold and dilute sodium hydroxide solution. It is prepared industrially by electrolysis with minimal separation between the anode and the cathode. The solution must be kept below 40 °C (by cooling coils) to prevent the undesired formation of sodium chlorate.

Cl2 + 2 NaOH → NaCl + NaClO + H2O

Hence, chlorine is simultaneously reduced and oxidized; this process is known as disproportionation.

Commercial solutions always contain significant amounts of sodium chloride (common salt) as the main by-product, as seen in the equation above.

Packaging and sale[edit]

Like many hypochlorites,[citation needed] anhydrous NaClO obtained by desiccation of the pentahydrate will decompose violently on heating or friction,[21] however, it is more stable in cold dilute solutions.

Household bleach sold for use in laundering clothes is a 3–8% solution of sodium hypochlorite at the time of manufacture. Strength varies from one formulation to another and gradually decreases with long storage.

A 10–25% solution of sodium hypochlorite is, according to Univar's safety sheet, supplied with synonyms or trade names bleach, Hypo, Everchlor, Chloros, Hispec, Bridos, Bleacol, or Vo-redox 9110.[22]

A 12% solution is widely used in waterworks for the chlorination of water, and a 15% solution is more commonly[23] used for disinfection of waste water in treatment plants. Sodium hypochlorite can also be used for point-of-use disinfection of drinking water.[24]

Dilute solutions (50 ppm to 1.5%) are found in disinfecting sprays and wipes used on hard surfaces.[25][26]


Sodium hypochlorite reacts with hydrochloric acid to release chlorine gas:

NaClO + 2 HCl → Cl2 + H2O + NaCl

It reacts with other acids, such as acetic acid, to release hypochlorous acid:


It decomposes when heated to form sodium chlorate and sodium chloride:

3 NaClO → NaClO3 + 2 NaCl

In reaction with hydrogen peroxide it gives off molecular oxygen:

NaClO + H2O2 → H2O + NaCl + O2

When dissolved in water it slowly decomposes, releasing sodium and chloride ions, and hydroxyl radicals:

NaClO + H2O → Na+ + Cl + 2 HO•
Those hydroxyl radicals can oxidize organic compounds or self-react to form water and oxygen
R-CH2-OH + 4 HO• → R-COOH + 3 H2O
4 HO• → 2 H2O + O2(dissolved or gas)

In commercial NaClO solutions, the following species are in equilibrium:[27]

HOCl ↔ H+ + OCl
HOCl + Cl + H+ ↔ Cl2 + H2O

The ratio of Cl2 : HOCl : OCl is pH dependent.[28] The above equations show that the "byproduct" Cl ions (from the NaCl) play a rarely mentioned role, without them there would be no available chlorine in the solution.

Sodium hypochlorite reacts with most nitrogen compounds to form volatile chloramines, dichloramines, and nitrogen trichloride:

NH3 + NaClO → NH2Cl + NaOH
NH2Cl+ NaClO → NHCl2 + NaOH
NHCl2 + NaClO → NCl3 + NaOH

In the presence of a phase-transfer catalyst, alcohols are oxidized to the corresponding carbonyl compound.[29]

Heterogeneous reactions of sodium hypochlorite and metals such as zinc proceed slowly to give the metal oxide or hydroxide:

NaClO + Zn → ZnO + NaCl

Homogeneous reactions with metal coordination complexes proceed somewhat faster. This has been exploited in the Jacobsen epoxidation.

As an oxidant, sodium hypochlorite decomposes to sodium chloride and oxygen: NaOCl → NaCl + [O]


Sodium thiosulfate is an effective chlorine neutralizer. Rinsing with a 5 mg/L solution, followed by washing with soap and water, quickly removes chlorine odor from the hands.[citation needed]


  1. ^ "OxyChem Sodium Hypochlorite Handbook" (PDF). OxyChem. 
  2. ^ "Pamphlet 96, The Sodium Hypochorite Manual". The Chlorine Institute. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Smith WT. (1994). Human and Environmental Safety of Hypochlorite. In: Proceedings of the 3rd World Conference on Detergents: Global Perspectives, pp. 183–5.
  4. ^ a b "Benefits and Safety Aspects of Hypochlorite Formulated in Domestic Products" (PDF). AISE – International Association for Soaps, Detergents and Maintenance Products. March 1997. This Support Dossier deals with information on the environmental and human safety evaluation of hypochlorite, and on its benefits as a disinfecting, deodorising and stain removing agent. 
  5. ^ Cárdenas Flores, A; Flores Reyes, H; Gordillo Moscoso, A; Castanedo Cázares, JP; Pozos Guillén Ade, J (2009). "Clinical efficacy of 5% sodium hypochlorite for removal of stains caused by dental fluorosis". The Journal of clinical pediatric dentistry 33 (3): 187–91. PMID 19476089. 
  6. ^ 21 CFR Part 178
  7. ^ "Toilet Cleaners | Learn About Chemicals Around Your House | Pesticides | US EPA:". United States Environmental Protection Agency. 9 May 2012. 
  8. ^ Root Canal Irrigants and Disinfectants. Endodontics. Colleagues for Excellence Published for the Dental Professional Community by the American Association of Endodontists. Winter 2011.
  9. ^ Root Canal Irrigants and Disinfectants. Endodontics. Colleagues for Excellence Published for the Dental Professional Community by the American Association of Endodontists. Winter 2011.
  10. ^ Torabinejad, Mahmoud, Richard Walton. Endodontics, 4th Edition.Page 265. W.B. Saunders Company, 2008. VitalBook file
  11. ^ Complications during root canal irrigation – literature review and case reports M. Hülsmann & W. Hahn. International Endodontic Journal, 33, 186 –193, 2000,
  12. ^ a b Conger, Krista (15 November 2013). "Inflammatory skin damage in mice blocked by bleach solution, study finds". Stanford School of Medicine. 
  13. ^ Bleach baths using Milton Sterilising Fluid for recurrent infected atopic eczema, K Pett, K Batta, C Vlachou, and G Nicholls
  14. ^ Leung TH, Zhang LF, Wang J, Ning S, Knox SJ, Kim SK (2013). "Topical hypochlorite ameliorates NF-κB–mediated skin diseases in mice". Journal of Clinical Investigation 123 (12): 5361–5370. doi:10.1172/JCI70895. PMID 24231355. 
  15. ^ Nickmilder, Marc; Carbonnelle, Sylviane; Bernard, Alfred (2007). "House cleaning with chlorine bleach and the risks of allergic and respiratory diseases in children". Pediatric Allergy and Immunology 18: 27–35. doi:10.1111/j.1399-3038.2006.00487.x. 
  16. ^ a b Odabasi, Mustafa (1 March 2008). "Halogenated Volatile Organic Compounds from the Use of Chlorine-Bleach- Containing Household Products". Environmental Science & Technology 42 (5): 1445–1451. doi:10.1021/es702355u. Lay summary. 
  17. ^ Helmut Vogt, Jan Balej, John E. Bennett, Peter Wintzer, Saeed Akhbar Sheikh, Patrizio Gallone (2007), "Chlorine Oxides and Chlorine Oxygen Acids", Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry (7th ed.), Wiley, p. 2 
  18. ^ eusol, Oxford English Dictionary.Accessed 3 July 2014.
  19. ^ Do not use Eusol and gauze to manage surgical wounds that are healing by secondary intention, October 2008, NICE, London.Accessed 3 July 2014.
  20. ^ "How Products Are Made Volume 2". May 2011. 
  21. ^ Bretherick’s Handbook of Reactive Chemical Hazards, 7th Edition; vol. 1, pg 1433
  22. ^ "SAFETY DATA SHEET Sodium Hypochlorite" (PDF). Univar. 9 August 2007. 
  23. ^ Wastewater Engineering: Treatment, Disposal, & Reuse (3rd ed.). Metcalf & Eddy, Inc. 1991. p. 497. 
  24. ^ Daniele S. Lantagne (2008). "Sodium hypochlorite dosage for household and emergency water treatment". E-Journal AWWA 100 (8). 
  25. ^ Vieira, Ernest R. (1999). Elementary Food Science. Springer. pp. 381–382. ISBN 0834216574. 
  26. ^ Marotz, Lynn R. (2011). Health, Safety, and Nutrition for the Young Child. Cengage Learning. pp. 126–127. ISBN 1111298378. 
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ G. A. Mirafzal and A. M. Lozeva (1998). "Phase transfer catalyzed oxidation of alcohols with sodium hypochlorite". Tetrahedron Letters 39 (40): 7263–7266. doi:10.1016/S0040-4039(98)01584-6. 


  • Jones, F.-L. (1972). "Chlorine poisoning from mixing household cleaners". J. Am. Med. Assoc. 222 (10): 1312. doi:10.1001/jama.222.10.1312. 
  • Institut National de Recherche et de Sécurité. (2004). "Eaux et extraits de Javel. Hypochlorite de sodium en solution". Fiche toxicologique n° 157, Paris.

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