6 Things You Should Never Clean With Bleach

And how to clean them instead, according to professionals.

stock photo of cleaning with bleach

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Using bleach, a powerful disinfectant, may be part of your cleaning routine. But there are some surfaces and places in the home where using this strong chemical may cause more harm than good. Getting rid of grime and making sure everything is germ-free is important but you'll also want to make sure it's the appropriate cleaner for the job. 

“People should be cautious about using bleach on some surfaces or areas of the home because it can be corrosive, cause discoloration, damage surfaces, release toxic fumes or harm materials,” says Armeka Townsend, Zep Cleaning Expert & Senior Consumer Relations Representative. 

According to Marla Mock, President of Molly Maid, “Most times, there are alternatives to bleach that are more natural and gentler to use around the house."

  • Armeka Townsend is a cleaning expert and senior consumer relations representative at Zep Cleaning, a trusted brand of cleaning supplies sold at grocery stores and mass retailers.
  • Marla Mock is the president of Molly Maid, a franchise of independent cleaners nationwide.
  • Tonya Harris is an award-winning toxin expert and author of The Slightly Greener Method.
  • Carol Mehas is the founder of arbOUR Products, a line of natural cleaning products.

Stone Countertops and Surfaces

Thinking about using bleach on your beautiful stone countertops? Think again. Otherwise, you risk ruining them. Stone surfaces, including granite, marble, and quartz, are porous and bleach can wreak havoc of these beautiful materials. “Bleach can damage the sealant of [stone] surfaces, as well as dulling the surface or even change the color of the stone,” says Tonya Harris, award-winning toxin expert and author of The Slightly Greener Method. And not only can it cause harm to your stone countertops or surfaces, bleach usually soaks in and stays, Mock explains that with a protective sealant gone, it  “exposes your countertops to deterioration and stains.”

How to Clean

“Use a couple of small squirts of mild liquid dish soap mixed into warm water and rub gently, then rinse,” recommends Harris. But don’t use too much dish soap thinking it’s better! “Too much soap can dull the surface," she explains.

Also, choose a dish soap without a fragrance to ensure unexpected staining doesn’t occur.  According to Carol Mehas, Founder of arbOUR Products, natural cleaning products, “Scent free is preferred because most scents are made up of oils and that will create a ring around the area you are cleaning!”

Stainless Steel and Metals

Want to get your stainless steel pots and pans or even forks and spoons disinfected and cleaned? Don’t reach for bleach. This strong chemical will leave you with ruined cooking vessels and an unexpected trip to the store to buy new ones.

“Bleach can oxidize and corrode metals, causing surfaces to rust,” explains Harris. The rust causes discoloration. “Bleach can corrode and damage stainless steel, leaving it discolored and potentially impacting its structural integrity,” adds Townsend.

How to Clean

“Never use steel wool or a scouring pad on stainless steel to avoid scratching the surface,” says Mock.  She suggests using microfiber cloths and dish soap. “Mix warm water and a few drops of dish soap or mild cleaner in a small spray bottle,” she says. “Mist the stainless-steel surface with a light coating of the spray and using a soft microfiber cloth, wipe off the dish soap mixture in the direction of the grain.” 

The way you clean is important to avoid damaging stainless steel. “To prevent scratching and improve shine, always clean in the direction of the grain, she says. “Stainless steel has faint lines that are called the grain.”


Bleach and wood don’t go together so make sure to avoid this harsh chemical on any wood surface, whether it’s cutting boards or wood floors. Once you use bleach on any type of wood, it’s near impossible to remove. “The porous nature of wood will only absorb the bleach, and you can’t safely remove it or rinse it," says Mehas. "Not only will it continue to erode over time, it’s also dangerous for hands, feet, or the furry paws of your lovable pet!”

“Do not use bleach on wooden surfaces,” says Townsend. “Bleach can cause discoloration, weaken the wood fibers, and damage the finish of the wood.” 

How to Clean

“Use a gentle cleaner specifically designed for wood,” says Townsend. “Be sure to wring out the cleaning cloth well to avoid water damage.”

And if you’re cleaning a wooden floor, how you clean will depend on if the wood floor is sealed or unsealed. “To clean sealed wood floors, mop with a mix of ¼ cup of mild or pH-neutral soap with water in a bucket,” says Mock. “With unsealed wood floors, you should only sweep, dust mop or vacuum regularly, being careful not to use water.”


Noticing moldy grout lines lining the shower or bathtub? Sure, you think, I’ll just pour some bleach on the grout lines and problem solved. Stop right there. Bleach may make the grout lines look better but it won’t get to the bottom of the problem. “While bleach can brighten the area and kill the mold at the surface, it doesn’t get to the roots of the mold,” says Harris.

Wondering what an alternative to bleach is? Reach for a bottle of white vinegar to remove the mold. “White vinegar can kill about 82% of mold and can penetrate porous surfaces to kill the 'roots' of the mold,” says Harris. “If you have some mold in tiles or on shower walls, this is an easy way to get rid of it.”

How to Clean

“Pour white vinegar into a spray bottle and thoroughly spray the surface and let it sit for an hour,” says Harris. “Follow by rinsing the area with a damp cloth with warm water (do not soak the area with water).” Sometimes scrubbing may be necessary. She suggests combining baking soda and water in bowl to make a paste and then scrub the area with a sponge. 

However, if there is a lot of mold, contact a mold professional, she says. 

Colored Fabrics or Paint

If you’ve ever accidentally used bleach on a printed tee or an entire load of colored clothing, you know that bleach permanently stains. Have a tough stain? Bleach is not the solution. “Do not use bleach near or on colored fabrics, painted surfaces, or any surface susceptible to discoloration and damage,” says Townsend.

Areas Where Children and Pets Play

Bleach is a powerful chemical so it’s important to use it in areas where kids and furry friends won’t be exposed to it or touch it. Think about where your children or pets spend time or play and make sure not to use bleach in these areas of the home. “Children and pets are more likely to accidentally ingest bleach from surfaces from touching toys or other areas where bleach has been used, or from pets licking paws on a bleached floor or area,” explains Harris.  

Having a clean home is important but it’s equally important that it’s healthy and safe. If you need another reason to think about how and where you use bleach in the home, Townsend explains, “Bleach can release toxic fumes and cause respiratory issues, skin irritation, or even poisoning, if ingested.”

Tips for Cleaning With Bleach

When it’s the right disinfectant for the job and it’s safe to use bleach, it’s important to dilute this strong chemical for everyone’s safety. “Bleach should only be used with caution and should always be watered down,” says Mehas. “A safe ratio is 1 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water.” 

You don’t ever want to handle bleach without protection. “Wear gloves and even a mask to avoid any interaction with your skin or risk inhaling the caustic gas in the nose or mouth, which may cause burning of the mucous membranes along your respiratory tracts,” says Mehas. 

And equally important is airflow. “Ensure proper ventilation in the area being cleaned,” adds Townsend.

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