Can Bleach Be Used On Plastic? Safety Tips and Best Practices

Yes, bleach can be used on plastic surfaces, but it should be used with caution and following specific guidelines. Ensure proper ventilation, wear protective gloves, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for dilution and application. 

Avoid using bleach on colored plastics, as it may cause discoloration or damage. Rinse the plastic surface thoroughly with clean water after cleaning to remove any bleach residue. 

Additionally, it’s essential to dry the plastic completely. While bleach is effective for disinfection and cleaning, it’s crucial to use it safely and appropriately to prevent any potential damage to the plastic and ensure the desired cleaning results.

Which Plastic Types Can Safely Handle Bleach for Cleaning?

Which Plastic Types Can Safely Handle Bleach for Cleaning

Plastic is a versatile material, and its compatibility with bleach can vary based on the specific type of plastic used. They are: 

Polyethylene (PE)

Polyethylene is one of the most prevalent plastic types used in various applications, from plastic bags to containers and toys.

Polyethylene is generally bleach-resistant, which means it can tolerate mild bleach solutions without significant issues. 

However, extended exposure to concentrated bleach may result in some discoloration, but the structural integrity remains intact.

Polypropylene (PP)

Polypropylene is commonly found in food containers, bottle caps, and medical devices.

Polypropylene is known for its resistance to bleach. It can withstand the use of bleach without experiencing damage or discoloration, making it a suitable choice for bleach-based cleaning.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)

PVC is used in various applications, including pipes, vinyl flooring, and certain plastic bottles.

PVC can be sensitive to bleach. Prolonged exposure to bleach may lead to discoloration and degradation of PVC plastic. It’s advisable to use bleach cautiously with PVC materials.

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)

PET is commonly used for beverage bottles, food packaging, and synthetic fibers.

PET is relatively resistant to bleach. While it can handle bleach exposure without significant issues, using highly concentrated bleach solutions may cause some problems, so it’s best to use bleach prudently.

Polystyrene (PS)

Polystyrene is found in disposable cutlery, packaging materials, and foam products.

Polystyrene can be sensitive to bleach, and exposure to bleach solutions may lead to degradation, especially with concentrated bleach use. Users should be cautious when using bleach on polystyrene plastics.

Other Plastics

In addition to the above common plastic types, various other plastics exist, each with its unique properties and applications.

The compatibility of bleach with these lesser-known plastic types varies widely. To determine whether bleach can be safely used, it’s advisable to check product labels for cleaning instructions or conduct a spot test in an inconspicuous area to assess compatibility.

Is it safe to use bleach on plastic dishes?

Using bleach on plastic dishes can be a bit tricky due to the varying nature of plastics. Not all plastics can withstand strong chemicals like bleach. Some plastics may become brittle, crack, or even release harmful substances if exposed to bleach. 

To determine if your plastic dishes can handle bleach, check for a resin identification code, typically marked with numbers from 1 to 7. Plastics with codes 1 (PETE) and 5 (PP) are generally safe for bleach since they resist chemical reactions better.

However, it’s important to stress that regular cleaning should be a part of your routine, regardless of the plastic type. This helps ensure the safety and hygiene of your plastic dishes. Whether your dishes can tolerate bleach or not, maintaining cleanliness is key to enjoying safe and healthy meals.

What Are The Advantages of Using Bleach on Plastic?

While using bleach on plastic surfaces requires careful consideration, it offers several advantages when done correctly. 

Bleach is a potent disinfectant, effectively killing a wide range of harmful microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. When used appropriately, it can provide a high level of protection against illness-causing pathogens on plastic surfaces.

Moreover, disinfecting plastic items with bleach can help prevent cross-contamination, which is especially important for items used in food preparation and storage. This reduces the risk of foodborne illnesses.

Also, bleach is known for its stain-removing abilities. It can effectively tackle tough stains on plastic, such as coffee or tea marks, discoloration, and some food-related stains.

Odor Elimination:

Last but not least, bleach also helps eliminate unpleasant odors that can build up on plastic items over time. It leaves plastic surfaces smelling fresh and clean.

What Safety Precautions Should You Take When Using Bleach on Plastic?

Research from the University of California, Berkeley, has shown that bleach on plastic can release chemicals such as BPA and phthalates. These chemicals are known endocrine disruptors, affecting hormonal balance. So, when considering the use of bleach on plastic surfaces, it’s crucial to prioritize safety to prevent any unwanted incidents or health risks.

Protective Gear

When handling bleach, always wear appropriate protective gear, including gloves and goggles. These items shield your skin and eyes from potential contact with bleach, reducing the risk of irritation or injury.

Well-Ventilated Spaces

Ensure that you work in a well-ventilated area. Proper ventilation minimizes exposure to bleach fumes, which can be harmful if inhaled in large quantities. Open windows or use fans to promote fresh air circulation during the cleaning process.

Avoid Mixing with Other Cleaning Products

Never mix bleach with other cleaning agents, especially those containing ammonia or acids. The combination can produce toxic fumes that are dangerous to your health. Stick to using bleach on its own or follow product-specific instructions if you’re using a commercial bleach-based cleaner.

Proper Dilution

Always dilute bleach according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Using undiluted bleach can not only be unnecessary but also increase the risk of damage to plastics.

Children and Pets

Keep children and pets away from the area where you’re using bleach. Store bleach and cleaning products out of their reach to prevent accidental exposure, ingestion, or injury.

Rinsing and Drying

After cleaning plastic with bleach, rinse the surface thoroughly with clean water to remove any bleach residue. Allow the plastic to dry completely before use. This step ensures that no residual bleach remains on the surface, which could cause odor or taste issues.

Can Bleach Be Used on Food-Grade Plastic?

Yes, it’s safe to use bleach on food-grade plastic, but you need to do it right. The FDA  (The Food and Drug Administration) says it’s okay to use bleach to sanitize surfaces that touch food. But there are some important steps to follow for safety.

To make a safe bleach solution for cleaning food-grade plastic, mix 1 tablespoon of unscented bleach with a gallon of cool water. Put your plastic stuff in this mix for at least 30 minutes. After that, give it a good rinse with clean water. Make sure it dries completely before you use it again.

One thing to keep in mind is that using bleach too much or for too long can hurt the plastic. So, it’s best to use bleach on food-grade plastic when you need to sanitize it. For everyday cleaning, just use mild dish soap and warm water. It keeps your plastic clean without causing any harm.

How to Safely Use Bleach on Plastic? 

How to Safely Use Bleach on Plastic?

Using bleach on plastic can be effective, but it’s vital to do so safely to prevent damage and ensure optimal results. 

Step-by-Step Guide

  • Dilution: Begin by creating a bleach solution. The recommended bleach-to-water ratio is typically 1 tablespoon of unscented bleach per gallon of cool water. Ensure that the bleach is unscented and suitable for disinfection.
  • Submersion: Immerse the plastic item in the bleach solution. Make sure it’s fully submerged and let it soak for at least 30 minutes. This allows the bleach to disinfect the surface effectively.
  • Rinsing: After the soaking period, remove the plastic item and rinse it thoroughly with clean, fresh water. Ensure that all traces of bleach are washed away to prevent any taste or odor transfer to food or beverages in contact with the plastic.

Rinsing and Drying

  • Rinsing: Sufficient rinsing is a critical step to remove any residual bleach from the plastic. It ensures the safety of the plastic for subsequent use with food or drinks.
  • Complete Drying: Allow the plastic to air dry completely before using it again. This step helps eliminate any remaining moisture and ensures that the plastic is safe and ready for food contact.

By following this step-by-step guide, you can safely and effectively use bleach on plastic surfaces, making them clean and disinfected for various uses. 


Will bleach clean stained plastic?

Yes, bleach can effectively clean stained plastic surfaces. It’s a powerful cleaning agent that can help remove tough stains from plastic items.

Can you use bleach on a plastic cup?

Yes, bleach can be used to clean and disinfect a plastic cup, but it’s important to follow specific guidelines and rinse thoroughly.

Does chlorine damage plastic?

Chlorine, found in bleach, can potentially damage some types of plastic over time, especially with prolonged exposure.

How long should bleach sit on plastic?

To disinfect, allow bleach to sit on plastic surfaces for at least 30 minutes before rinsing and drying.

How do you clean plastic?

Regular cleaning of plastic can be done with mild dish soap and warm water, or by using a bleach solution for disinfection when needed.

Does bleach damage glass?

No, bleach is generally safe for cleaning glass surfaces and does not harm glass.

Is bleach still toxic when dry?

Bleach is toxic in concentrated form but becomes less toxic when dry. Properly rinsing and drying bleach-treated surfaces helps eliminate potential hazards.

Can smelling bleach harm you?

Inhaling bleach fumes in large amounts or over long periods can be harmful and irritating to the respiratory system. Adequate ventilation is essential when working with bleach.

What are the dangers of bleach?

The dangers of bleach include its potential to release harmful fumes, skin and eye irritation, damage to certain surfaces, and risks associated with improper use. It’s crucial to handle bleach with care and follow safety guidelines.

Final words

In conclusion, using bleach on plastic can be a useful cleaning and disinfection method, but it must be done with care and following essential guidelines. While bleach is effective in killing germs and removing stains, it’s vital to consider the type of plastic you’re working with and follow recommended dilutions. Always rinse and thoroughly dry the plastic to ensure it’s safe for use. Remember, bleach can harm plastic over time, so it’s best to use it on plastic only when necessary. For routine cleaning, opt for mild dish soap and warm water to keep your plastic items clean and safe. By using bleach responsibly, you can maintain the hygiene of your plastic surfaces without compromising their integrity.