Mixing bleach with many common household cleaners may put people and pets at risk of inhaling potentially harmful airborne particles, a new study has found. The issue arises when the fumes from bleach mix with the fumes from a citrus-based ingredient called limonene, which is used at high strengths as a degreaser and low strengths as an ingredient in many household cleaning products.
Limonene is what gives many cleaning products their signature orange or lemon scents; it’s also used at low concentrations in some beauty products, among other things. Bleach, meanwhile, is a commonly used cleaning agent found in many homes and offices where it is utilized as an inexpensive and highly effective way to clean likes countertops and toilets.
It’s not unusual for someone to clean using both bleach and citrus-based cleaners, but doing so may result in secondary organic aerosols (SOAs), according to research recently published by the American Chemical Society. Secondary organic aerosols are a type of air pollutant that may cause breathing problems and other ‘adverse health effects’ in people and pets who come in contact with them.
This air pollutant was found to form when bleach fumes build up in a poorly ventilated room and mix with certain other compounds that may be in the air, including the limonene from citrus-based cleaning products. When sunshine or artificial lighting from indoor lights interact with the fumes, a reaction may occur that produces the SOAs.
The study cautions that additional research on the air pollutants is necessary to determine the exact effects they may have on health. However, the findings indicate that rooms should be well-ventilated when cleaning and that it may be ideal to make sure a room has been cleared of bleach fumes before using limonene-containing products.