Bleach Is Not The Best Choice

Feb 12, 2015
Bleach is not the best choice

Controlling nosocomial infection is a challenge that every animal hospital, boarding or grooming facility faces.

Nosocomial infections are infections that patients acquire while being treated, boarded or admitted as a patient.  Because of this, cleaning and disinfecting yards, kennels, and any surfaces that animals come in contact with is critically important. 

Sanitizing and disinfecting reduces the risk of illness by decreasing bacteria, viruses, fungi and mold.  There is a big difference between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting.   When a surface is cleaned, it is not necessarily disinfected, and a surface that is disinfected, is not necessarily clean.   

Unfortunately, household bleach, or sodium hypochlorite has been used in animal hospitals and kennels because it is erroneously viewed as an inexpensive, universal cleaner and disinfectant.   Household bleach is not an optimal product to use for a number of reasons:

NEWER GUIDELINES - CDC’s 2003 Guidelines state that over the counter products are not EPA registered and cannot be used as disinfectants in a medical setting.  Household bleach is not EPA registered for the purpose of disinfecting clinical contact surfaces. 

HEALTH HAZARD – It is well documented that bleach can cause health problems.  According to the CDC’s Guideline for Disinfection and Sterilization of  Health Care Facilities, 2008,  the use of bleach must be done with caution because, “Sodium hypochlorite at the concentration used in household bleach (5.25-6.15%) can produce ocular irritation or oropharyngeal, esophageal, and gastric burns 318, 518-522.  “Because occupational diseases among cleaning personnel have been associated with use of several disinfectants (e.g., formaldehyde, glutaraldehyde, and chlorine), precautions (e.g., gloves and proper ventilation) should be used to minimize exposure 318, 480, 481.  Asthma and reactive airway disease can occur in sensitized persons exposed to any airborne chemical, including germicides.”

HEALTH HAZARD TO PETS:  Bleach affects animals in the same way it does humans.

CREATES DIFFICULTY IN CARING FOR PATIENTS:   In addition to the hazards listed for humans, when in use, bleach has a dramatic impact on an animal’s sense of smell.  This can cause feeding and appetite problems with hospitalized patients, or pets that are boarding.  Many animals, especially cats, will not eat if they are not able to smell their food.

DAMAGES SURFACES AND EQUIPMENT:  Bleach is corrosive and causes damage to many surface materials, including plastics and metals.  The CDC lists a number of disadvantages to using bleach, “Other disadvantages of hypochlorites include corrosiveness to metals in high concentrations (>500 ppm), inactivation by organic matter, discoloring or "bleaching" of fabrics, release of toxic chlorine gas.”

BLEACH IS NOT A CLEANER:  Bleach has no ability to clean and the CDC lists that it can be inactivated by organic matter.  Therefore, additional products are needed to thoroughly clean an area prior to the actual step of disinfecting. 

BLEACH IS UNSTABLE:  The active ingredient in bleach dissipates over a very short period of time.  Therefore often by the time bleach reaches a consumer its active ingredients can reduce by 50%. 

BLEACH IS NOT COMPATIBLE:  One of the most dangerous aspects of bleach is the fact that it is incompatible with a wide variety of cleaning agents.  Mixing bleach with certain cleaning solutions can result in the release of toxic gasses or other dangerous reactions. 

BLEACH IS NOT AS ECONOMICAL AS IT APPEARS:  Yes, bleach can be purchased inexpensively, however the purchase value is deceptive.  There are a number of factors that increase the overall cost of the use of bleach; the dilution ratio required, efficacy time, it is damaging to surfaces, it is an irritant to animals and humans, it is not a cleaner therefore other cleaning agents must be used prior to the use of bleach and it cannot be mixed safely with many other products. 

 All of the factors listed above contribute to reasons why the use of bleach in an animal hospital, kennel or grooming facility should be limited.  There are many other products available that are EPA certified that can both clean and disinfect.  These products can save time and money, are not as corrosive and dangerous and help to create a much more pleasant environment for patients, staff members and clients.