ASK THE EXPERT: BLEACH AS A VIROCIDE

PUBLISHED ARTICLE

Nov 28, 2016 | EcoSure Food Safety Monitor

By Miriam Eisenberg, MS, RD, CP-FS

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Question: I understand that chlorine bleach can be used as a disinfectant for norovirus. Is this OK to use? 

Answer: Bleach is never Ecolab’s recommendation as a chemical program component for a multitude of food safety, employee safety and restaurant equipment damage issues. It is caustic and corrosive to every surface to which it is applied and considered unstable as a viable chemical when mixed with anything but water.

While it is true that chlorine bleach can be diluted (properly) as a disinfectant, I don’t recommend its use in restaurants. Many of the national chains we work with ban bleach in their units due to its hazards.

First, if bleach is either inadvertently or intentionally mixed with quaternary ammonium products, a noxious, potentially lethal gas is created. When I say “intentionally” mixed, sometimes staff members who use bleach at home think of it as “great for everything” and they may not know the hazards of mixing it with other products. Since they use it regularly at home, they may also choose to use it for other inappropriate purposes in the kitchen as well. Bleach mixed with any acidic chemical is hazardous.

Secondly, in case of an incident of vomiting or diarrhea in your location, someone would have to carefully take the time to go mix the bleach to the appropriate concentration for DISINFECTING. This can be too time-consuming when a prompt cleaning is needed and if not done properly may not be effective. Of course, the disinfection strength should never be used as a sanitizer.

Thirdly, while some health departments may accept bleach, some do not so why choose a solution that is not universally accepted.

Ecolab recommends a pre-mixed Peroxide disinfectant cleaner that has Norovirus virucidal claims. This is effective, ready to use, and safe to use.

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