10 Things You Should Never Clean With Bleach (and What To Use Instead)

Things not to clean with bleach

Cheapism / DALL-E 3

Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
Things not to clean with bleach
Cheapism / DALL-E 3

Beware of Bleach

You might be able to buy bleach by the gallon at virtually any store around town, but that doesn't mean it's A-OK to use it on any and everything. Looking to keep your socks nice and white? A capful of bleach in the wash is just fine. However, since bleach is a powerful chemical, it can also cause more harm than good to different surfaces. Here are 10 things you should avoid using bleach to clean.

Shot of a young woman scrubbing down her kitchen counter at home

1. Stone Countertops

Stone countertops might hold up well against heat, chips, and scratches, but bleach is an absolute no-no. Because of its highly acidic nature, bleach can etch the surface of granite or marble countertops, damage the stone, and cause dulling or discoloration. These counters are also sealed, and the bleach can weaken their sealant.

What to use instead: It's perfectly acceptable to wash your stone counters with a mild soap and water solution, or to use a cleaner that's specifically designed for natural stone surfaces. You should also periodically use a sealant on your counters to maintain the integrity of the material.

Hand of maid washing tomato fresh vegetables preparation healthy food in kitchen

2. Anything You're Going To Eat

We know the temptation to rid your produce of pesticides is strong, but for the love of all things good and right, don't let it be bleach-strong. We've even seen folks pour a little bit of bleach in a sink full of water to wash chicken ... which is entirely horrifying. Bleach is not meant to be consumed, guys. Don't do this.

What to use instead: It's not recommended to wash meat before cooking it, since doing so can cause cross-contamination in your kitchen. And if you want to wash your produce (you should), there are a number of produce washes you can buy. Or you can explore different methods using things like vinegar, baking soda, and water.

Young Japanese woman cleaning

3. Stainless Steel

Next time you want to eliminate pesky fingerprints from your fridge, don't reach for bleach. The strong oxidizing nature of bleach can cause corrosion and rusting on stainless steel, leading to pitting and discoloration. You should avoid cleaning any metal surface with bleach due to its corrosive properties.

What to use instead: A mild soap and water mixture is always a safe bet for stainless steel. You can also make a paste with baking soda and water or use a stainless steel cleaner. Vinegar is also safe to use on stainless steel. 

For more savvy cleaning tips, please sign up for our free newsletters.

Woman waist down cleaning wooden floor in the living room
Ziga Plahutar/istockphoto

4. Wood Floors and Surfaces

If you have wood floors or other wood surfaces, we're going to let you in on a little secret: Baby them. There are about 101 ways to ruin wood floors, and bleach is near the top of the list. Wood is a porous material, and bleach can seep into the wood, causing damage like discoloration, warping, and weakening of the wood fibers. 

What to use instead: We've said it before and we'll say it again: Mild soap and water won't steer you wrong here. You can also use specially formulated wood cleaners and polishes. 

Related: Spring Cleaning: 50+ Things to Toss Right Now

Happy Staffordshire Bull Terrier dog lying on carpet with a toy reindeer in front of him. He is looking up at the camera smiling.

5. Pet Products

Remember when we said that it's harmful to consume bleach as humans? Same concept for Fido, folks. You should avoid cleaning pet products with bleach because it's a strong chemical that can irritate their skin, eyes, and respiratory system. Bleach can also leave behind residue that pets may ingest, leading to upset stomachs or poisoning. 

What to use instead: Stick to pet-friendly cleaners or — you guessed it — a mild soap and water mixture.

Related: 25 Cheap and Easy Hacks to Reclaim Your House From Messy Pets

Young woman wiping white wall from dust

6. Painted Surfaces

Using bleach to clean a painted surface is a great way to ruin that surface. Even if you're dealing with white paint, bleach can cause discoloration. 

What to use instead: Some multi-purpose cleaners might be okay to use on your painted walls, but the biggest recommendation is to use warm water on a washcloth. Simple as that.

Related: 12 Home Upgrades That Are a Waste of Money

I do my laundry once a week

7. Colored Clothing

Unless you're looking to achieve some sort of edgy acid wash finish to your favorite T-shirt, make sure you leave the bleach out of the washing machine when colored clothes are involved. Most people know this, but in case you didn't, bleach will stain colored garments.

What to use instead: Use stain removers formulated for colored clothes and color-friendly laundry detergent.

Numerous Stuffed Animals for Sale in a Toy Store, Snakes Are Hanging from the Ceiling and Many Other Animals Displayed in Unique Ways

8. Children's Toys and Stuffed Animals

Kids are germ-infested creatures. We know the struggle of wanting to eliminate as many germs as possible in between illnesses to try and prevent the next bout, but don't use bleach to do so. Especially since kids often put their toys in their mouths, and we've covered how that's not the right move.

What to use instead: Good old-fashioned soap and water are all you'll need.

Washing hands

9. Your Hands

If you're doing this, you shouldn't be. Washing your hands with bleach is not recommended, since bleach is a strong chemical that can be harsh on the skin. Bleach can cause skin irritation, dryness, and even chemical burns if used undiluted or in high concentrations. Plus, bleach is not designed for use on the skin and can disrupt the natural balance of oils and bacteria that help protect your skin.

What to use instead: Once again, soap and water are the go-to for hand-washing, and you can use hand sanitizer in between. 

Man Spray Bottle And Sponge Cleaning Red Wine On Rug

10. Red Wine Stains

Using bleach to clean red wine stains is not recommended because the bleach can react with the wine, making the stain even worse. Since it's a harsh chemical, bleach can also damage fabrics, especially delicate ones like those used in many tablecloths or clothing items. 

What to use instead: When it comes to red wine spills, it's better to use a stain remover or a mixture of vinegar and baking soda.