The cleaning staple can ruin several common materials if you're not careful.

By Lauren Wellbank
October 06, 2020
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If you're curious about how natural cleaning products work or why baking soda is such a powerful ingredient, you've come to the right place. We'll explain the science behind some of the most popular cleaning methods and tools, so you can you clean smarter—not harder. Follow along with Clean Science to see which technique we break down next.

woman cleaning marble counter
Credit: Getty / wera Rodsawang

Bleach is a powerhouse solution that can clean and sanitize a variety of surfaces. Clothes, toilets, and even your windows' shutters can all benefit from being wiped down with a mix of bleach and water. However, on some surfaces, the cleaning staple can do more harm than good. We spoke with Elena Ledoux, the owner of Superb Maids in Las Vegas, Nevada, to find out which surfaces to avoid when you're using the germ fighting liquid.

How Bleach Works

Bleach releases molecules of oxygen on surfaces it comes into contact with during a process known as oxidation. These molecules then break down chemical bonds, leaving changed molecules in their wake that have either no color or a color that isn't easily visible to the naked eye. "Bleach is a strong oxidizer and can oxidize stains and germs, but also other substances, so it can cause some damage," explains Ledoux. This is why the substance can wreak so much havoc on surfaces where those changed molecules are more noticeable.

Avoid These Surfaces

If you've ever seen the telltale signs of bleach splash-back on your clothes, you know the damage it can do. It can alter the color of fabrics, sometimes turning them a burnt orange hue, or even remove the color all together, leaving your garments speckled with white spots. The same phenomenon can happen on other surfaces. "What most people don't know is a strong bleach can create spots on toilet seats and covers that are off-white color," Ledoux says. Even something that looks white before you apply bleach may turn out to be a little darker, allowing the brighter spots to show up, potentially ruining whatever surface you're cleaning. "It's also not safe to use bleach on marble, granite, or stainless steel," she adds, for this very same reason.

How to Fix Bleach Spills

So, what should you do if you do get a little bleach on these surfaces? "Wipe it immediately and use water if necessary to dilute its effect," Ledoux explains. "If it dwells on a surface, the damage may require substantial repairs by an expert—or a replacement." These costly mistakes can be avoided by always testing bleach on an inconspicuous spot and avoiding using bleach entirely on surfaces where a spill would be noticeable.

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