Bleach is an incredibly versatile household chemical. In addition to its being a powerful household cleaner, bleach is also a potent biocide -- a chemical that can kill organic matter on contact. This property makes bleach indispensable for cleaning household mold, disinfecting bacterial infections or sanitizing household items. Bleach is so potent, in fact, that it always needs to be diluted into a water solution before being used as a sanitation agent.
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Sanitizing with Bleach
There are almost as many things that can or should be sanitized in your home as there are items in your home. Since young children do not possess good cleanliness skills on their own, sanitizing surfaces in your home on which you prepare food or change the child's diaper can be an excellent preventative measure, as can sanitizing children's toys. Sanitizing surfaces that are stained with blood or any other bodily fluids is essential to preventing the potential spread of diseases. If part of your home comes into contact with floodwater, sewer water or any other potentially contaminated materials, you can quickly sanitize the area with a bleach solution and contain contamination.
The proper solution to use for each sanitation project depends heavily on the nature of the project. To sanitize food contact surfaces like countertops and dining tables or the eating surface of a child's high chair, use approximately 1/4 tsp. bleach to 1 qt. water. To sanitize any surface that may have been contaminated with blood, feces or bodily fluids, bump up the bleach content to 1 tbsp. per quart of water. The latter is also a good solution for soaking toys that children have had in their mouths. Larger projects like sanitizing food cans for re-use, sanitizing large surfaces like walls and stove tops or removing mold colonies require a more potent solution of 1 cup bleach to 1 qt. of water.
For most smaller sanitation projects, washing with soapy, hot water first and then applying the bleach solution with a spray bottle will suffice. Make sure to scrub the area to work in the bleach and dry completely. Alternatively, small objects like children's toys can be soaked in a container filled with the bleach solution. For sanitizing cans, remove the labels and the glue used to affix the labels, wash the cans in hot, soapy water, dip the cans briefly in the bleach solution and allow to air dry. Areas in which mold colonies have been removed should also be allowed to air dry.
Always ventilate the room in which you are using the bleach solution. Doing so will not only remove toxic bleach fumes from the air but will also introduce new, fresh air. Never mix bleach or any bleach solution with any products containing ammonia, as the resulting fumes are toxic to humans. If larger amounts of bleach are needed or repeated sanitizing is necessary, use a surgical mask and gloves.