What happens when you mix vinegar and bleach?

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “What happens when you mix vinegar and bleach?”. We will further elaborate on the uses of vinegar and bleach mixture and the symptoms of exposure to a bleach and vinegar mixture.

What happens when you mix vinegar and bleach?

When you mix vinegar and bleach, dangerous chlorine gas is produced which may pose serious health risks and can even be fatal in high volumes. 

Whenever we discuss cleaning agents, we always think of vinegar and bleach as strong cleaning agents. Bleach and vinegar are both powerful cleaning agents but it is strictly prohibited to use them as a mixture because these both are potent ingredients.

If any type of acid, like vinegar, is mixed with chlorine bleach, containing sodium hypochlorite, whether accidentally or deliberately, dangerous chlorine gas is produced that is poisonous in high doses.

A killer combination

Chlorine bleach possesses brightening and disinfecting features. while vinegar is used for removing stains, sanitizing, and deodorizing. 

The most activated ingredient in chlorine bleach is an alkaline component known as sodium hypochlorite.

When the liquid or powdered chlorine bleach containing sodium hypochlorite gets mixed with the acid, which may be vinegar or acetic acid, chlorine gas is released. 

Chlorine gas is considered highly toxic. You must be surprised to know that in history, during the first World war, it was chlorine gas that was used to knock out the Allied troops in trench warfare.

The color of chlorine gas is invisible in smaller quantities but it gives yellow color in large volumes with an unbearable pungent smell.

Is it safe to mix a small amount of vinegar and bleach?

The Washington State Department of Health stated that even the smallest amount of chlorine gas lower than 5 ppm (parts per million) will cause disturbance to your eyes, nose, and throat.

It is never a good idea to mix even a very small amount of vinegar and bleach. It is even said that if you have accidentally mixed these two toxic chemicals, then immediately leave that area. 

The signs and symptoms of breathing chlorine gas depend upon the concentration and how much time you have inhaled it.

What are the symptoms of exposure to the bleach and vinegar mixture?

Exposure to chlorine gas produced upon mixing bleach and vinegar could lead to the following signs and symptoms:

  • Blistering, burning and reddening of the skin
  • Feeling of tightness in the chest
  • Wheezing
  • It might cause difficulty in breathing
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Watery eyes
  • Pulmonary oedema can also be caused due to the long time exposure to chlorine gas

Furthermore, exposure to chlorine gas could also prove to be fatal due to its severe effects on the lungs

Generally, the severity of all these signs and symptoms is most eminent when a full-strength vinegar is mixed with bleach. However, we can not say that there will be no effects on mixing vinegar with water-diluted bleach.

What should you do instead?

It is safer and more efficacious to just buy fresh bleach than to risk poisoning by combining bleach with vinegar. Chlorine bleach has a shelf life, so its strength decreases gradually. This is especially accurate if the bottle of bleach has been stored for quite a few months. 

It is good to use bleach and vinegar individually for cleaning provided that the surface is flushed thoroughly with water between products.

Some of the precautionary measures that you should follow to prevent any accidents are described below:

  • Always use one of these ingredients either bleach or vinegar. Never use both in a single wash cycle.
  • Label all those containers which contain bleach or vinegar. So, it will reduce the accidental mixing of both these ingredients.
  • To clean a bathroom or to prepare disinfectant, always use a spray bottle that should be filled half with water and half with one of these potent ingredients i.e., vinegar or bleach.

Can you mix bleach and vinegar in the washing machine?

No, It is also a bad idea to mix vinegar and bleach even in the washing machine. Chlorine gas will form due to the chemical reaction between both these toxic chemicals which will cause harmful effects on taking your clothes out.

It is also possible that chlorine gas gets stuck in your clothes. If you are using bleach during laundry, the best option is to wait for several loads prior to adding vinegar.

Other FAQs about Vinegar that you may be interested in.

Can you cook with cleaning vinegar?

Can you cook with distilled white vinegar?

What happens if you drink vinegar?

What aisle is vinegar in?


In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “What happens when you mix vinegar and bleach?”. We have further elaborated on the uses of vinegar and bleach mixture and the symptoms of exposure to a bleach and vinegar mixture.