What excellent idea to mix bleach (like Clorox) and ammonia (like Windex)! Let's just look into your future before you mix your first batch:

At first you will smile to yourself thinking "I wonder why no one has done this before! I must be the smartest person who ever cleaned anything!"

Then you will marvel at how well your solution is working. It is so wonderful you are seeing white spots in your peripheral vision!

After a bit of scrubbing you might think to yourself "I think I'll take a little break until this light-headed feeling wears off."

You will immediately wake up on a rolling bed on the way into an ambulance with a (hopefully) handsome EMT saying "It's a good thing you taught your children how to dial 911 - we arrived just in time." You will lose consciousness again.

At the Emergency Room (ER) they will stick a tube down your throat and tell you how dumb you are. When your husband gets there he will tell you how everyone knows you're not supposed to mix bleach and ammonia and you are dumb.

Who could have known (without a basic chemistry class) that bleach and ammonia combined give off toxic deadly fumes? but next time you will know to wear a gas mask.

Back in the day when I managed a little grocery/deli combination I was stupid enough to put a little note on the shelf that held all the cleaning supplies that said, "ammonia and bleach: give it a whirl." After a very frightening call from the paramedics on my day off about an employee who had done just that, the note came down forever.

I came away with a new respect for the responsibility that comes with subtle sarcasm. I still can't believe that actually happened and it was all my fault.

Exactly why should you not mix ammonia and bleach?

In a nutshell, the combination produces corrosive substances in your airways that cause your lungs to fill with fluid. You drown.

Household bleach is usually about 5% sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl).When mixed with ammonia (NH3), mono- and di-chloramines are formed: NH2Cl and NH2Cl2. These cause respiratory tract irritation, tearing, and nausea.

Worse, these compounds decompose in water to form ammonia gas (nasty in itself) and hypochlorous acid. This last in the presence of water forms hydrochloric acid and nascent (monoatomic) oxygen, which are highly reactive and can lead to pulmonary edema and pneumonia.

Don't mix bleach with phospate-based cleaners, either: that releases chlorine gas (quite nasty), which in water also produces hydrochloric and hypochlorous acids.

Since I'm a tree-hugger I'll add that citrus-based solvents or good old cider vinegar do an excellent cleaning job without the side effects above, plus they cost less and don't fsck with the downstream water supply.

Sure it does, but not for your walls, floors, or tile... A friend of mine did it, and lived to tell the tale.

Doug was in the Army, cleaning up after KP duty or some such janitorial nonsense. He was washing up different items and added ammonia to a substance that already contained substantial bleach. After feeling fine for a good half hour, not realizing what he had done, he started to feel woozy, and eventually fainted with a loud thud. Thankfully, people in the other room came in to see what had happened to him.

He wakes up in the hospital later that night. The doctor comes in and greets him, and asks him how's he's feeling. Short of a small headache Doug says he's doing fairly well. The next question took him off quite off-guard:

"You're quite lucky. You smoke, don't you?"

Doug looked at him a little funny. "Lucky? Yeah, I smoke a few a day..."

"It saved your life." The doctor responded. "The years of smoking covered your lungs with a normally life-threatening tar substance, which you probably already knew. However, you have been given a second chance... your lungs are as pink as the day you were born. No permanent damage."

Doug and the Army doctor were astounded. The gases formed from the cleaners had burned off the tar and crap in Doug's lungs, leaving them unscathed and actually healthier than before. The one ironically healthy use of smoking, maybe. So bleach and ammonia do make a Super Cleaner, but only for your lungs... and please for all that is good and holy in this world, do NOT try this at home.

Even though he got his second chance, Doug still smokes Marbs to this day.

There are several ways household ammonia and bleach can react. All of them are dangerous.

Reaction type 1: Ammonia directly reacts with bleach to form hydrazine (N2H4), which, in addition to being extremely poisonous, can burn even in the absence of air! It explodes on contact with rust!

2NH3 + NaOCl -----> N2H4 + NaCl + H2O

Reaction type 2: Bleach hydrolyzes into sodium hydroxide and hypochlorous acid, which in turn decompose into chlorine gas and nascent oxygen (both poisonous). The chlorine gas in turn reacts with the ammonia to form chloramines, also very poisonous.

NaOCl -----> NaOH + HOCl
HOCl ---> HCl + O (monatomic oxygen)
NaOCl + 2HCl -----> Cl2 + NaCl + H2O
2NH3 + Cl2 -------> 2NH2Cl (chloramine)
4NH3 + 2Cl2 ------> 2NHCl2 (dichloramine)
6NH3 + 3Cl2 ------> NCl3 (trichloramine or nitrogen trichloride)

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