Yes, Bleach Expires. Here’s What You Need to Know.

Cleaning products have expiration dates, too.

The expiration dates of household products

When you need to do a load of laundry or take a few minutes out of your day to quickly clean the bathroom, you probably have a cupboard fully stocked with cleaning products. However, how often do you actually use those cleaning products like bleach and disinfectant wipes? Food items aren’t the only things that have expiration dates. It turns out cleaning products like bleach and a variety of things like car seats, sunscreen, tea bags, and many more items you never knew have an expiration date.

What is bleach?

Bleach is a classic home cleaning product. There are two different types: chlorine bleach and oxygen bleach. According to the American Chemistry Council, chlorine bleach, chemically speaking, “is a water solution of sodium hypochlorite. Common household laundry bleach [or non-chlorine bleach], used to whiten and disinfect laundry, is typically either 5.25 percent (“regular strength”) or 6 percent sodium hypochlorite (“ultra strength”).” Sodium hypochlorite is the active ingredient in bleach you would use in your home. Household bleach can be used to disinfect places that house germs like light switches and doorknobs and remove mold and mildew from countertops. These are the 6 cleaning products you absolutely should never mix—and two you should.

When does bleach expire?

To figure out when a product expires, it’s good to know out when the product was made. According to the Clorox website, the production code on the neck of the bottle allows you to figure out how old the bottle of bleach actually is. But how would you be able to decipher this code? Clorox breaks it down by using the example code A81421321CA3. Moving from left to right, the plant number is “A8,” the last two numbers of the year it was made is “14,” and the day of the year the bottle was made is “213.” That translates to a bleach bottle being made on the 213th day of the year, or August 1st, 2014.

According to The Scripps Research Institute, bleach can last about six months. After that, “bleach starts to degrade. Even in its original bottle, bleach becomes 20 percent less effective as each year goes by.” It’s important to know how to correctly store your bottle of bleach. According to the Clorox website, a bottle of Clorox Regular Bleach “should be stored between 50°F and 70F°, and away from direct sunlight” and that pertains to bottles that are both sealed and opened. Clorox states that a bottle of beach that has been correctly stored has a shelf life for about one year. They recommend replacing after one year since sodium hypochlorite begins to break down. These are the 10 cleaning myths you need to stop believing—and what to do instead.

How can you tell if a bottle of bleach has expired?

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Not sure whether your bottle of bleach is still good at six months or even a year? Thankfully, Clorox has broken that down as well. If you can detect any bleach smell at all, then that means there’s still some active bleach left in the bottle. However, you want to use a bit more than you normally would during laundry and cleaning because it would be weaker. Not sure how to start using up the rest of your bleach? Here are 12 smart ways to use bleach as a cleaner.

How to dispose of expired bleach

If you’re looking to get rid of bleach, Clorox recommends to simply flush it down the toilet because “any small amount of sodium hypochlorite active that may remain will finish breaking down as it travels through your home’s pipes and out to the sewer.” You can flush bleach, but these are the 13 things you should never flush down the toilet.

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Madeline Wahl
Madeline Wahl is a Digital Associate Editor/Writer at RD.com. Previously, she worked for HuffPost and Golf Channel. Her writing has appeared on HuffPost, Red Magazine, McSweeney's, Pink Pangea, The Mighty, and Yahoo Lifestyle, among others. More of her work can be found on her website: www.madelinehwahl.com