Difference Between Chlorine and Bleach

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: September 02, 2023


Difference Between Chlorine and Bleach

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Those elongated names and complex formulas of chemicals are not something that stick in one’s head for a good amount of time until we look at their significant roles in our daily lives. Terms like Chlorine and Bleach may have gone through our ears a number of times, but it is still hard to actually discuss what they do or what exactly they are.

Chlorine vs. Bleach

Chlorine is a chemical substance, more specifically identified as a greenish-yellow gas with a versatile role of being used in the manufacturing sector to being used as a disinfecting element. Whereas, the chemical product formed with some amount of chlorine compound used in households and industries is called Bleach.

Difference Between Chlorine and Bleach in Tabular Form

Basis of comparisonChlorineBleach
DefinitionChlorine is denoted by ‘Cl’. It is considered a member of the halogen elements.The bleaching powder has a chemical name of Calcium Hypochlorite denoted by ‘Ca(ClO)₂’.
FormCan be found in 3 forms:
(Cl₂) Liquid
(NaOCl) Solid
(Ca(ClO)₂) Solid
Has 2 forms:
Chlorine bleach
Oxygen bleach
Range of useChlorine has wide uses as a disinfecting and sanitation chemical used in industries, swimming pools, etc.Bleach has a comparatively narrow scope of use, mostly used in households.
EffectContact with chlorine gas or intake can instigate irritation in the eyes, throat, and skin.Household bleach doesn’t have an extremely harmful effect. Swallowing or intake can cause tissue damage.
Mostly found inSeawater, table salt (with sodium)Cleaning products
CharacteristicsGreenish-yellow gas with an overpowering and unpleasant odor. Highly reactive element.It is usually yellowish-white in color; sodium hypochlorite does not have a particular odor. Its main characteristic is its disinfecting properties.

What is Chlorine?

Chlorine is a well-heard name when it comes to chemicals, which is exactly what it is – a chemical element denoted by ‘Cl’. It is a part of the halogen groups (non-metallic elements that give salt in reaction). It must be taken care of with extreme precautions.

This chemical element was first brought into light in 1744; however, its name and significance were ultimately provided in 1810.

Chloride compounds are abundantly found in seawater, along with being majorly found in gaseous form, which is overpowering and reactive. In solid form, it is identified as Sodium chloride, generally known as salt. It is widely known to be a big part of water purification and disinfecting processes.


  • It plays a pivotal role as a disinfectant and for sanitation purposes. Disinfectants contain chlorine as they kill massive amounts of bacteria and viruses due to their properties that help break chemical bonds.
  • Major chlorine disinfectants are called Hypochlorites, available in liquid, solid, and household bleach forms.
  • Makes swimming pools healthy for individuals by adding a decent quantity of up to 3.0 ppm to avoid side effects. Chlorine tablets in water help kill germs.
  • Chlorine acts as an oxidizing agent, keeping the water clear and free of any sort of human residual or pollutant. However, the sunlight rather than the ultraviolet rays reduces the effect of chlorine, keeping the swimmers healthy in this algorithm.
  • It has a crucial role in the pharmaceutical industry when it comes to manufacturing drugs such as those for diabetes, depression, asthma, etc. It has always been an efficient component of food preservatives.
  •  It acts as an integral part of the cooking process in the form of Sodium Chloride. It is commonly said to be the table salt.
  •  Chlorofluorocarbons also consist of some part of chlorine, which in turn are used as refrigerants, solvents, and fire extinguishers.

Side Effects

  • Chlorine can also act as a hazardous part of the swimming experience. Being in chlorinated water for a long duration can cause itching and rashes on one’s body. Leaves the skin dry, which may lead to acne as well as irritation.
  • Not only is the skin affected, but coughing can also be witnessed along with a bad throat. Burning and teary eyes are a few other effects that have been observed.
  • The amount of chlorine compound found in drinking water is regulated and is unlikely to cause major harm or damage to one’s health.
  •  Chlorine can also affect the brain if exposed to high concentration. The symptoms of this can be memory loss, vision problems, trouble hearing or reflexes, reactions can get slowed down.
  •  Being exposed to this greenish-yellow gas can be very toxic to one’s health. Burning of the cornea, chest pain, and lung diseases like Bronchiolitis obliterans. Apart from these, tissue damage can be perceived from this poisonous gas.

Environmental Effects

  • The effects of chlorine on vegetation can be severe, especially around the manufacturing units or plants where they are being used as a product.
  •  The chlorine compounds can form chemicals to pollute the water as they dissolve quickly. In turn, it affects aquatic life.

Types of Chlorine

  • Sodium hypochlorite – commonly referred to as bleach, NaOCl. Usually seen in the form of a yellow liquid.
  •  Calcium hypochlorite – has major use in disinfecting pools, is a white solid with a strong smell, Ca(ClO)â‚‚
  •  Lithium hypochlorite – in a salt or granular form, LiClO. It is also considered for disinfecting pools.
  •  Trichlor – in a tablet/solid form, Câ‚‚HCl₃. A solvent with a comparatively sweeter smell can be used for disinfecting water, too.
  •  Dichlor – or dichlorine is again in a granular or solid form like a tablet.

What is Bleach?

Bleach is something that has rapidly become a household name. It is also a chemical product used domestically as well as in industries. It can be found in solid and liquid form with the major role of that of whitening or discarding the natural colors from fabric, textiles, papers, etc. Bleach’s other crucial role is that of disinfecting surfaces or a part of water treatment.

Berthollet from France brought sodium hypochlorite, which is a key component of household bleach, in 1787. It was put to its use of whitening in a quick snap. Egypt, Scotland, and Ireland started with their use of dip fabric. However, the bleaching powder came up in 1799 by Charles Tennant.

The core element of bleach is that of sodium hypochlorite, thus including chlorine components. Generally, this chlorine-induced bleach is identified as household bleach, which is quite effective.


  • Sodium hypochlorite, or liquid bleach, is a powerful disinfectant used for the sanitation process. In hospitals, too, these are part of the cleaning supplies. Water can also be treated with the help of this due to its power to kill fungi and bacteria like Escherichia Coli, etc.
  •  Who knew that household bleach would also have a major role to play in the oil and gas industry? These industries deal with a lot of underwater pipelines, oil wells, etc., causing biofouling. The development of algae, bacteria, and microorganisms can be seen in these pipelines and wells. Sodium hypochlorite, due to chlorine components, helps prevent these algae and bacteria issues. It helps to avoid any sort of oil well logging and disinfect the produced water from the oil production process.
  •  ‘Oil bleaching’ is a refining process of edible and non-edible oil. The process makes use of bleaching earth for purification. This tries to make the quality of the oil that is deemed to be unfit. The bleaching earth’s properties and absorption capacity keep the impurities in check.
  •  Food processing industries are dependent as well on bleaching agents, especially to keep the food preparation environment infection-free. Utensils, countertops, etc., are disinfected with this. Even the water to be used in cleaning is treated with these agents. Food color is made lighter by making use of hydrogen peroxide, like instant tea.
  •  The use of bleach isn’t just limited to industries. Hair bleach is available to make the hair color lighter with its chemical properties. It now has come up as a common thing before dyeing hair.

Side Effects

  • For the cleaning supplies that contain bleach, it is not particularly harmful to the skin but may irritate the eyes and skin. The smell of household bleach for laundry for a considerable duration may make one uncomfortable.
  •  When it comes to disinfecting utensils or food equipment, bleach is used. However, if the bleach is not washed/ cleaned off properly, swallowing it can result in gastrointestinal issues. Especially if an individual is sensitive to the smell or compound, it can result in a bad reaction
  • Hair bleach may have become a common thing now, but it still can ruin hair texture. One may observe dry and rough hair due to the expansion of cuticles. The hair bleach should be repeated in a good amount of intervals and not very frequently.

Environmental Impact

  • If the fumes of bleach are emitted from industries into the air, it can become hazardous to the ozone layer. This happens in the case of a significant amount of fumes, not from the ones emitted from households.
  • The bleach can get incorporated quickly when put in water. Even though it’s used for water treatment, if it’s just released into the water bodies, it ends up being toxic. It can cause harm to the wildlife and vegetation around. Growth of algae can be observed due to bleach contamination, making it tougher for aquatic beings to survive.
  •  If the bleach-contaminated water enters the soil, it leads to the destruction of microorganisms, even if they are useful for agricultural purposes. Thus affecting soil fertility.

Types of Bleach

  • Chlorine bleach – has an active component, sodium hypochlorite, NaOCl. Used for water treatment, as a disinfectant, typically identified as a household bleach.
  •  Oxygen bleach – This is a non-chlorine bleach found in liquid and powder form. Generally used for fabrics for lightening color or stain removal.

Main Differences Between Chlorine and Bleach in Points

  • Chlorine is found in its actual form, mainly a greenish-yellow gas. Bleach consists of chlorine components turning out to be a chemical solution.
  •  Chlorine is used in a wide variety of places, a major part of industries as well. Bleach is mainly seen being used in households and has comparatively narrower uses.
  •  Chlorine reacts heavily with other elements, making it important to store properly. Bleach is reactive as well, but not in a very overpowering manner. It reacts to act as a disinfectant.
  •  The side effects of chlorine can be pretty harmful to individuals. It can cause long-term health problems. Bleach, however, is not that harmful; it may cause some amount of irritation but not anything severe.


Chlorine and bleach both belong to the chemical family. They both play significant roles in sanitation and disinfection. Chlorine is found to be in its original form, and bleach has an active chlorine component. These chemicals are hard to live without. We may not realize it in our daily routines, but their usage is what comes in handy. Chlorine and bleach are necessary to be used, but at the same time, their cons and precautions should be kept in mind.


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"Difference Between Chlorine and Bleach." Diffzy.com, 2024. Tue. 09 Apr. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-chlorine-and-bleach>.

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