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  #1  
Old 03-23-2007, 03:26 AM
Lizard Lizard is offline
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Is putting bleach in my dishwater harmful? Was my mother wrong?

I picked this habit up from my mother, who always put a very small amount of Clorox (like, maybe three thimblefuls) in the dishwater. She said it helped kill bacteria.
I'm sure it DOES kill bacteria, but now I'm wondering if it might kill brain cells too. I still put it in my dishwater, only now I just give it a few shpritzes from a bottle of general cleaner than contains bleach, instead of the stuff straight from the bottle.
Could I be endangering my health? It's pretty dilute, and I try and rinse all dishes thoroughly. Is bleach hazardous in any amount? And here's a good question: If it is hazardous, does the antibacterial benefit outweight the possible harm?
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  #2  
Old 03-23-2007, 03:39 AM
CynicalGabe CynicalGabe is offline
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Are you washing your dishes with raw sewage? Do you have some reason to suspect that your dishwater harbors some unholy bacterial colonies? If not, then you have no need for the bleach. You don't need antibacterial soap either. Regular soap does the same thing. Both do more harm than good.
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  #3  
Old 03-23-2007, 03:46 AM
Pushkin Pushkin is offline
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I've caught my girlfriend spraying the innards of a dishwasher pre-wash with surface disinfectant spray, on the basis that this will kill even more germs
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  #4  
Old 03-23-2007, 04:16 AM
Lizard Lizard is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CynicalGabe
Both do more harm than good.
But what harm are they doing? And how is antibacterial soap different from plain old soap, anyway?
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  #5  
Old 03-23-2007, 05:45 AM
essell essell is offline
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IIRC The dangers of anti-bacterial soap is you only wipe out the bacteria who aren't resistant to antibiotics. Leaving behind the ones who don't care about our modern chemicals and now have all this space to themselves to spread out in.

Repeat with other antibiotics and you end up with superbugs who are immune to most of our weapons.

Since you're never going to be bacteria free anyway, nor would you want to be, just use regular old soap to keep the number in check, and stop training the bugs to destory us!
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  #6  
Old 03-23-2007, 06:01 AM
Blake Blake is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by essell
IIRC The dangers of anti-bacterial soap is you only wipe out the bacteria who aren't resistant to antibiotics. Leaving behind the ones who don't care about our modern chemicals and now have all this space to themselves to spread out in.
1) Antibacterial soaps are not antibiotics or closely related to antibiotics.

2) The active ingredients in most antibacterial soaps iodine and alcohols. Hardly modern chemicals.

In short antibacterial sopas aren't training bugs to destroy us. There is growing evidence that raising children in overly sterilised environements significantly increases the risk of immune problems such as asthma and allergies, but that is about the worst effect.
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  #7  
Old 03-23-2007, 06:42 AM
groman groman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake
1) Antibacterial soaps are not antibiotics or closely related to antibiotics.

2) The active ingredients in most antibacterial soaps iodine and alcohols. Hardly modern chemicals.

In short antibacterial sopas aren't training bugs to destroy us. There is growing evidence that raising children in overly sterilised environements significantly increases the risk of immune problems such as asthma and allergies, but that is about the worst effect.
You do not state your location but to be honest I have never seen antibacterial soaps with iodine or alcohol in them. Triclosan and triclocarban are fairly common around here. Although as far as I know neither one of those causes any kind of resistant germs to breed either, triclosan has been suspected in being somewhat carcinogenic if I remember correctly.
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  #8  
Old 03-23-2007, 07:11 AM
Cheesesteak Cheesesteak is offline
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I don't believe such a small amount would be hazardous to your health. Diluted bleach is used all the time for disinfecting restaurant surfaces and can actually be used to sanitize drinking water. I'd be more worried about the other chemicals in your general cleanser than the bleach.

If your dishes are washed clean and rinsed with clean water, there should be no reason to further sanitize them, I'd consider the bleach treatment overkill.

FromClorox
Quote:
For non-porous food contact surface sanitizing (refrigerators, freezers, plastic cutting boards, stainless cutlery, dishes, glassware, countertops, pots and pans, stainless utensils):

Use 1 tablespoon of Clorox® Regular-Bleach per gallon of water. Wash, wipe or rinse items with detergent and water then apply sanitizing solution. Let stand 2 minutes. Air dry.
If you're putting it in with dirty dishwater, I think you will burn out whatever sanitizing power the bleach has on the crud in the water, and not actually give yourself cleaner dishes.
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  #9  
Old 03-23-2007, 07:24 AM
WhyNot WhyNot is online now
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Are there any ammonia compounds in dishwasher detergent? That's the worry that stops me from adding bleach to other cleaners - cleaners are seldom labeled well, and IANAChemist. I had an employee gas us once as work mixing two cleaners, and am loathe to repeat the experience.
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  #10  
Old 03-23-2007, 07:29 AM
Bridget Burke Bridget Burke is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhyNot
Are there any ammonia compounds in dishwasher detergent? That's the worry that stops me from adding bleach to other cleaners - cleaners are seldom labeled well, and IANAChemist. I had an employee gas us once as work mixing two cleaners, and am loathe to repeat the experience.
Chlorine bleach is pretty powerful by itself.

There are dozens of different cleaning products out there. I generally use just one at a time.

And don't forget the hot water!
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  #11  
Old 03-23-2007, 07:29 AM
kanicbird kanicbird is offline
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Dishwashers heat water high enough to kill bacteria so it isn't needed.

Chlorinated water is already available in many places, no need to add more by adding bleach. But if your water is not chlorinated a small amount of bleach will make it so. In emergencies where the water is unsafe you can add a small amount of (pure) bleach for drinking.

Bleach is a oxidizer and it will wear out your dishwasher sooner then it would on it's own.
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  #12  
Old 03-23-2007, 07:36 AM
romansperson romansperson is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhyNot
Are there any ammonia compounds in dishwasher detergent? That's the worry that stops me from adding bleach to other cleaners - cleaners are seldom labeled well, and IANAChemist. I had an employee gas us once as work mixing two cleaners, and am loathe to repeat the experience.
I've never had problems with adding a very small amount of bleach to Electrasol dishwasher detergent, so that one at least would be OK. I will add bleach occasionally because sometimes our dishwasher starts to smell a little rank and the bleach helps take care of it.

I can tell you UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES should one apply bleach to a urine stain. I found that out the hard way one day when our dog got a urinary tract infection and had an accident on a throw rug. I put it in the washer and instead of using the bleach dispenser I (like an idjit) poured the bleach directly on the spot on the rug. Almost burned out a lung.
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  #13  
Old 03-23-2007, 07:53 AM
Solfy Solfy is offline
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Many dishwashing detergents already contain bleach, which explains why some brands make my kitchen smell like a swimming pool. Sodium hypochlorite (common bleach) breaks down fairly rapidly in the presence of heat and/or light into salts and water. Most likely any bleach you add before starting the dishwasher is gone by the first rinse cycle.

IOW, what you're doing is harmless, but pointless.
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  #14  
Old 03-23-2007, 08:03 AM
bordelond bordelond is offline
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Semi-related: can a little vinegar added to the dishwasher soap dispenser help with some kinds of "deposit" stains (like spots)? I'm thinking of the way coffeepots can be made virtually new again with a vinegar solution.
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  #15  
Old 03-23-2007, 08:21 AM
Solfy Solfy is offline
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It can help, as the acetic acid is good for disolving minerals, such as those that come from hard water.
I've read the suggestion to put vinegar in the rinse aid dispenser, though I've never tried it myself.
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  #16  
Old 03-23-2007, 08:30 AM
Philster Philster is offline
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And that 'bleach' smell isn't the bleach. It's the dead stuff it leaves behind.
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  #17  
Old 03-23-2007, 09:08 AM
Montgomery0 Montgomery0 is offline
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The hot water from the dishwasher and proper drying do more to get rid of bacteria than any antibacterial solution (that you'd sanely use.) If you make sure you get rid of anything crusted onto your plates you should be completely safe without having to use any special additives.
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  #18  
Old 03-23-2007, 09:29 AM
Rick Rick is online now
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When I was in the Boy Scouts at summer camp our written instructions for dish washing had us use three containers
1. Dish water with soap
2. Rinse water
3. Sanitize which was another rinse with some bleach added.

I don't think they trusted teenaged boys to get everything clean and rinsed with just two containers.
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  #19  
Old 03-23-2007, 10:01 AM
daffyduck daffyduck is offline
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I love bacteria. I grow huge colonies of them and eat them! Bacteria are wonderful things. Down with bacteria haters!
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  #20  
Old 03-23-2007, 10:05 AM
StuffLikeThatThere StuffLikeThatThere is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bordelond
Semi-related: can a little vinegar added to the dishwasher soap dispenser help with some kinds of "deposit" stains (like spots)? I'm thinking of the way coffeepots can be made virtually new again with a vinegar solution.
This is anecdotal, but I use it as a rinse agent by itself, and it works for me.

I also run an empty cycle every few months with white vinegar in the soap and rinse dispensers. Someone may be along to tell me that I'm not actually doing anything, and that may be true. But I'm certainly not hurting anything, and it smells cleaner afterward.
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  #21  
Old 03-23-2007, 10:31 AM
WhyNot WhyNot is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philster
And that 'bleach' smell isn't the bleach. It's the dead stuff it leaves behind.
Then why does the bleach in my bleach bottle smell like bleach?
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  #22  
Old 03-23-2007, 10:44 AM
Maastricht Maastricht is offline
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My biggest worry with bleach and so-called " disinfectants" is that they destroy the normal balance of bacteria on my kitchen surfaces. As bacteria are everywhere, I suppose the different kinds of bacteria have reached some sort of equilibrium, where the numbers of the different kinds keep each other in check and the harmless bacteria will be by far the biggest majority.

Now, when I've desinfected my kitchen surfaces, and the bleach has dried, I have wiped out all the competition and in effect I offer the newly incoming bacteria a few square feet of empty petri-dish. What, then, is to stop a stray single salmonellagerm that lands in that petridish from multiplying itself into stomach-flu inducing numbers?

IMHO, cleaning is supposed to remove any traces of germfood, not the germs themselves. Removing all traces of food will keep the bacteria within healthy levels. Soap and elbow grease is enough for that.

I may be wrong, but that is my cleaning philosophy.
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  #23  
Old 03-23-2007, 10:59 AM
Dag Otto Dag Otto is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WhyNot
Then why does the bleach in my bleach bottle smell like bleach?
Obviously, you don't have a bottle of bleach, you have a bottle of dead stuff. Check the label.
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  #24  
Old 03-23-2007, 11:01 AM
essell essell is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Blake
In short antibacterial sopas aren't training bugs to destroy us. There is growing evidence that raising children in overly sterilised environements significantly increases the risk of immune problems such as asthma and allergies, but that is about the worst effect.
With apologies for the Hijack, Cite

Clearly the jury is still out, but there's a possibility.
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  #25  
Old 03-23-2007, 12:04 PM
AskNott AskNott is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maastricht
My biggest worry with bleach and so-called " disinfectants" is that they destroy the normal balance of bacteria on my kitchen surfaces. As bacteria are everywhere, I suppose the different kinds of bacteria have reached some sort of equilibrium, where the numbers of the different kinds keep each other in check and the harmless bacteria will be by far the biggest majority.

Now, when I've desinfected my kitchen surfaces, and the bleach has dried, I have wiped out all the competition and in effect I offer the newly incoming bacteria a few square feet of empty petri-dish. What, then, is to stop a stray single salmonellagerm that lands in that petridish from multiplying itself into stomach-flu inducing numbers?

IMHO, cleaning is supposed to remove any traces of germfood, not the germs themselves. Removing all traces of food will keep the bacteria within healthy levels. Soap and elbow grease is enough for that.

I may be wrong, but that is my cleaning philosophy.
I agree with most of that, but a few details don't seem to ring true.

-"So-called" disinfectants, in the US at least, really are disinfectants. The EPA standard is killing 99.9% percent of germs in the sample (despite the wiggle room, they all test out at 100%.) You'll find an EPA number on the bottle, along with the max dilution that will still meet the spec.

-I understand your concern for a "natural balance" of microcritters on your kitchen surfaces, but how do we know that we started with a natural balance?

-When you use a "kill-em-all-and-let-God-sort-'em-out" disinfectant on your counter, the critters in the air, on your food, and on your hands do start repopulating right away, but probably in roughly the same balance you had before. Food-borne nasties come mostly from contact, not from the air, so the airborne critters get a head start.

-Soap and water is indeed very hard on germs. Not just because you removed the germ-food, but because the alkaline soap is a hostile environment for them.

-Somebody else was talking about anti-bacterial hand soaps. In handwashing tests, the a-b soaps are no more effective than ordinary soaps. Regular soap handwashing is anti-bacterial.
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  #26  
Old 03-23-2007, 05:37 PM
Improvisor Improvisor is offline
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One thing to consider is wearing out your dishwasher. A friend of mine used to put bleach in her garbage disposal to sanitize things. It eventually started leaking everywhere and the repair guy said that the gaskets had been eaten through by the bleach. Now, to be fair, she's a bit over the top with her 'need for clean', and it sounds like a few thimbles of bleach is alot less than she used, but if it is not gaining you anything on the sanitation side of the equation, it probably is (very) slowly doing unnecessary damage to your dishwasher.... so why bother.
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  #27  
Old 03-23-2007, 06:43 PM
gotpasswords gotpasswords is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rick
When I was in the Boy Scouts at summer camp our written instructions for dish washing had us use three containers
1. Dish water with soap
2. Rinse water
3. Sanitize which was another rinse with some bleach added.

I don't think they trusted teenaged boys to get everything clean and rinsed with just two containers.
They don't trust restaurants with two containers either. The standard manual dishwashing setup is a three-well sink - wash, rinse, sanitize just like you were doing with the scouts. Note that there's no final rinse after the bleach.

The rule of thumb I've learned from health inspectors is to dunk your arm in the sanitize sink and pull it out. If you want to be fussy about it, there are test strips available. There should be a faint smell of bleach on the skin. The official requirement is usually 50-100 ppm of bleach, or one teaspoon per gallon.

So, "three thimbles" of bleach to a sink is close enough to commercial health code specs for home use, and certainly not going to harm anyone.
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  #28  
Old 03-24-2007, 09:55 AM
Canadjun Canadjun is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by groman
You do not state your location but to be honest I have never seen antibacterial soaps with iodine or alcohol in them. Triclosan and triclocarban are fairly common around here. Although as far as I know neither one of those causes any kind of resistant germs to breed either, triclosan has been suspected in being somewhat carcinogenic if I remember correctly.
I also have never seen antibacterial soaps with iodine or alcohol. essel mentioned one cite about triclosan resistance, here's another from the CDC just in case you want to check out more than one source.
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  #29  
Old 03-24-2007, 07:51 PM
Cardinal Cardinal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheesesteak
I don't believe such a small amount would be hazardous to your health. Diluted bleach is used all the time for disinfecting restaurant surfaces and can actually be used to sanitize drinking water.
When I worked at Little Caesar's, the standard practice was a capful of bleach in the big sink of rinse water as a disinfectant. AIUI, this is a DOH-approved method. Of course, the fact that our pans were going through an oven for 10 minutes or so was another reason we didn't hear of people getting sick from our food...
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  #30  
Old 03-25-2007, 01:15 AM
eenerms eenerms is offline
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My husband the Heath Inspector said: Putting the bleach in a dishwasher at the beginning of the cycle is useless, the bleach will get washed out. In most commercial dishwashers the bleach dispenses at the end of the cycle. Not enough to hurt anyone.

gotpasswords my husband has never heard of the arm in the water thing. He always used test strips(been a HI for 30 years).
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  #31  
Old 03-25-2007, 02:47 PM
benny73 benny73 is offline
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Some years ago, while at work, I came upon a bottle of bleach or Clorox, can't remember which, and it said on the bottle that it was "oderless." So, being curious about the claim, I carefully removed the cap and stuck the bottle up to my nose inhaled.

I didn't smell a thing.

Soooo I then inhaled again, but with less caution, and it felt like a BLOWTORCH!

There was a guy there with me as I did this little experiment. He laughed and, I, for a moment, wanted to harm him.
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