We know them by commercial names like Windex and Clorox. But if we check the labels of our household cleaning supplies more closely, we might find that most are made with one of two ingredients — ammonia or bleach. Both household cleaners share a few qualities: They are inexpensive, yet work well. Both can be used at full strength or diluted by adding water. Both are also great for dealing with tough stains (via Hunker). But under no condition can ammonia and bleach be mixed, because as Insider warns, these household cleaners come together to create a chemical known as chloramine, a highly poisonous gas which can cause nausea, wheezing, and pneumonia, even in small amounts.
The question is: If both cleaners are good at many things, are they both good at killing germs?
What ammonia does
Ammonia is a chemical that is made up of three hydrogen atoms and one nitrogen atom. Reader’s Digest says ammonia dates back to ancient Egypt (the chemical is named after the god Ammon), where it was produced by burning camel dung. Ammonia is good for cleaning surfaces like bathroom tiles and kitchen counters without discoloring them, and it’s also great for cleaning glass and windows.
While Insider says ammonia is good at removing fats, oils, and stains, it doesn’t help deal with viruses. “Ammonia is almost ineffective or has little effect on viruses. It is a commonly used disinfectant for certain common bacteria like E. Coli, Jagdish Khubchandani, a health science expert at Ball State University said.
What bleach does
Bleach is a mix of water, caustic soda or lye (an ingredient in clearing drains or making soap, via Sydney Solvents), and chlorine. Difference Between considers bleach to be a strong oxidizing agent that we most commonly use to remove stains from clothing and household fabrics.
But bleach could be our best friend when it comes to keeping our homes germ-free, because it removes mold and mildew stains by killing off fungus, and it deals with unwanted moss and algae growth. The best part about household bleach is that a well-made homemade bleach solution (a cup of bleach added to five gallons of water) is strong enough to kill dangerous germs. However, to ensure the bleach doesn’t lose its potency, you need to mix a fresh batch of disinfectant solution every day (via Very Well Health).
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