The Dangers of Mixing Bleach and Ammonia

In case you didn't learn while growing up, mixing bleach and ammonia can kill you. When combined, these two common cleaning agents produce a chemical reaction that releases toxic fumes capable of anything from a sore throat to unconsciousness and death.

This article details the gasses that are created when bleach and ammonia are mixed, the symptoms of exposure to the toxic gas, and how it is treated. It also explains what to look out for in cleaning products and what to do if you've been exposed.

Cleaning products
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Toxic Reaction

Mixing chlorine bleach with ammonia creates a chemical reaction that can be deadly. Sodium hypochlorite is the active ingredient in chlorine bleach. When it mixes with ammonia, chloramine gas is released into the air. 

Inhaling chloramine gas can be toxic and lead to death by chemical pneumonitis. Chemical pneumonitis occurs when a person inhales material that is toxic to the lungs.

Reports of chloramine gas exposure due to mixing cleaning products that contained bleach and ammonia increased in 2020 during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Symptoms

Exposure to chloramine gas fumes—caused by mixing bleach with ammonia—can irritate the throat, nose, and eyes. Symptoms can come on after just a few moments and last about 24 hours in mild cases.

Symptoms of exposure to toxic gasses like chloramine include:

  • Chest pain
  • Coughing
  • Nausea
  • Pneumonia and fluid in the lungs
  • Shortness of breath
  • Watery eyes
  • Wheezing

Exposure to high concentrations of chloramine fumes can cause loss of consciousness, coma, and possibly even death.

Call Poison Control

If you have been exposed to a mixture of ammonia and bleach, call poison control at 1-800-222-1222 or 911. Poison control will talk you through the steps you should take in case of chloramine gas exposure.

Treatment

If you have accidentally mixed ammonia and bleach, it is important to take action. If you smell strong odors, you should leave the area immediately and get fresh air. It only takes a few moments for toxic fumes to overwhelm you.

Get help immediately. If someone is passed out or displaying symptoms of exposure, call 911. The 911 operator will likely connect you with poison control. If a person is unconscious, try to move them outside or to a well-ventilated area away from the fumes. If you are unable to move the person, ventilate the room as much as possible.

Toxic exposure to gas formed by mixing bleach and ammonia is treated with oxygen therapy and steroid breathing treatments. In extreme cases, chemical pneumonitis can occur. This may require temporary assistance from a breathing machine and suction of the trachea. 

How to Avoid This Dangerous Chemical Reaction

You can avoid a dangerous chemical reaction by not mixing cleaning supplies that contain ammonia with cleaning supplies that contain bleach. Before mixing cleaning supplies always check the label.

Chlorine bleach can be listed as bleach, chlorine bleach, or sodium hypochlorite. Ammonia may be listed as ammonia or ammonium hydroxide.

May Contain Bleach
  • Bleach 

  • Bleaching powder

  • Disinfectants

  • Mildew remover

  • Multi-purpose cleaners

  • Toilet bowl cleaners

May Contain Ammonia
  • Bathroom cleaners

  • Drain cleaners

  • Floor and furniture polish

  • Glass, mirror, and window cleaners

  • Multi-surface cleaners

  • Oven cleaners

  • Stainless-steel cleaners

  • Toilet cleaners


Urine also contains ammonia and should not be mixed with bleach. Do not use bleach to clean litter boxes and always flush toilet bowl cleaner before using it.

Other Products You Shouldn't Mix With Bleach

In addition to not mixing bleach with ammonia, you should avoid mixing bleach with acids. Acid-based cleaning ingredients include:

  • Acetic acid
  • Citric acid
  • Dilute hydrochloric acid
  • Dilute sulfuric acid
  • Glycolic acid
  • Levulinic acid 
  • Oxalic acid
  • Sodium bisulfate
  • Vinegar

When bleach is mixed with an acid it can form chlorine gas. Similar to chloramine gas, chlorine gas is even more toxic and can be deadly. In addition, pool water contains chlorine and should not be mixed with cleaning supplies.

Bleach should also not be mixed with hydrogen peroxide. When combined, bleach and hydrogen peroxide emit a highly flammable gas.

A Word From Verywell

Mixing cleaning supplies can lead to a dangerous chemical reaction that can be deadly. Even natural cleaners, such as vinegar or hydrogen peroxide, can react with bleach and cause toxic fumes. You can avoid a toxic reaction by not combining cleaning agents or reading the labels carefully before mixing.

If you mix cleaning supplies or are using a strong-smelling cleaner, always work in a ventilated area to avoid being overcome by fumes. If you accidentally mix bleach with ammonia or acids or notice a strong odor, vacate the area and call Poison Control or 911.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I mix bleach and ammonia?

    No, you should never mix bleach and ammonia. The combination creates chloramine gas, which can be poisonous if inhaled. Cleaning supplies that contain ammonia may have ammonium hydroxide or ammonia on the label. Bleach may be listed as bleach, chlorine bleach, or sodium hypochlorite.

  • Can you neutralize bleach and ammonia?

    No. If you accidentally mix bleach with ammonia or acid-based cleaning supplies you should not try to neutralize it. You should open windows to ventilate the area and call 911.

  • Does mixing bleach and ammonia make mustard gas?

    No. Mixing bleach and ammonia makes chloramide gas. Mustard gas, also known as sulfur mustard or H, HD, or HT (in the military), is a chemical warfare agent introduced in World War I. Both mustard gas and chloramine gas can irritate the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. 

  • Will mixing bleach with ammonia make you pass out?

    Yes, mixing bleach with ammonia produces chloramine gas, which can cause you to pass out if inhaled in high concentrations. Mixing bleach with cleaning acids or getting even a few drops of water on a chlorine pool tablet makes chloride gas, which can overtake you very quickly and cause you to pass out.
    If you accidentally mix bleach with ammonia or cleaning acids, you should cover your face with a clean cloth or mask, quickly open a window (if possible), then leave the room immediately.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Merck Manual (Consumer version). Aspiration pneumonia and chemical pneumonitis.

  3. Yasseen Iii A, Weiss D, Remer S, et al. At-a-glance - Increases in exposure calls related to selected cleaners and disinfectants at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic: data from Canadian poison centres. Health Promot Chronic Dis Prev Can. 2020;41(1). English, French. doi:10.24095/hpcdp.41.1.03

  4. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Household cleaners.

  5. New Mexico State University. Selection and use of home cleaning products.

  6. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facts about sulfur mustard.