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Chlor als Desinfektionsmittel: Das sollten Sie beachten

Sodium hypochlorite and chlorine: Use, storage, disposal

| von Julia

Both sodium hypochlorite and chlorine are used for various disinfection and bleaching processes, which is why they are found, for example, in household cleaners, in disinfectants and also in swimming pools. We have summarized here the properties and areas of application of these two substances, how they are used correctly and what dangers they pose.

What is chlorine? Use, properties and occurrence

When talking about chlorine, we are talking about a chemical element with the symbol “Cl”, which can be counted among the halogens due to its properties. It was first discovered in 1774, with Carl Wilhelm Scheele originally assuming that chlorine was an oxide and not an element. In nature, it does not exist in its elemental form, but predominantly as Cl- (chloride, an anion), as it is particularly reactive.

Chlorine has the order number 17 and shows a yellowish-green color. It dissolves very well in water and in dissolved form is known as chlorinated water, producing small amounts of hydrochloric acid. It is classified as toxic in the hazardous substances list, which is important when using chlorine. In addition, there is an explosive reaction with hydrogen. Physiologically, the use of chlorine has an elementary role – for example, chlorine is needed in ionic form as a mineral (chloride) in the human body. In contrast, many disinfectants with chlorine are found in pure form.

What is sodium hypochlorite? Use & Properties

This is contrasted with sodium hypochlorite, which is also sometimes read in its old (and no longer common spelling) sodium hypocloride or sodium hypoclorite. This substance is abbreviated with the symbol NaOCl and represents the sodium salt of hypochlorous acid (HClO). Usually it is present as a white powder. It is formed by the introduction of chlorine gas into sodium hydroxide solution or by an electrolysis of sodium chloride solutions.

Sodium hypochlorite and chlorine are often mentioned in the same sentence, primarily due to their similar applications and the fact that sodium hypochlorite is formed from chlorine gas (for example, in swimming pools and during drinking water treatment). Due to its bleaching and irritating properties, sodium hypochlorite should be avoided on the skin, which incidentally also applies to chlorine use.

Chlorine use

Chlorine is characterized both in the household and in commercial and industrial environments by the fact that there is a wide range of possible applications. Some disinfectants are made with chlorine, but this element is also found in swimming pools and as a surface cleaner.

Chlorine: Household use

Chlorine disinfects and at the same time has bleaching and germicidal properties, which is why this element can be applied in various places in the household. At the top of the list are disinfectants with chlorine – these are used for cleaning surfaces, for example. Chloric acid can also be used to bleach textiles.

In addition, there are some chlorine cleaners that allow the use of chlorine in the home. However, corresponding products should only be used on non-porous and durable surfaces. These include metals, tiles and sanitary ceramics. Wood and plastic floors and dyed textiles, on the other hand, are excluded.

Also, when using chlorine as a household cleaner and disinfectant, be aware that toxic and carcinogenic substancescan be produced (think trihalomethanes, for example). Not least because of this, chlorine is increasingly being replaced by chlorine oxide or ozone.

In combination with warm water and oxygen, chlorine reacts with toxic vapors. These can severely irritate the eyes as well as the skin and respiratory tract. Therefore, it is important to wear gloves and a respirator when using chlorine in the home. Also store the substance far away from fire sources and not directly next to food. Use chlorine sparingly and always follow the safety and application instructions on the packaging.

Chlorine: Use in swimming pool

In most swimming pools, a small amount of chlorine is found in the bathing water to have a disinfecting effect on the water quality there. As the element reacts with other organic substances in the water, the familiar swimming pool smell is created – as a result, the typical chlorine smell is probably familiar to everyone.

However, this use of chlorine has been steadily phased out in recent years and chlorine has been replaced by other disinfecting substances. The reason for this is the hazardous properties of chlorine as a disinfectant in direct contact with the skin and mucous membranes. This also applies to sodium hypochlorite on the skin.

Chlorine: Use as a disinfectant

As a disinfectant, chlorine is therefore not used directly on the skin, but instead as a disinfectantfor surfaces and objects. Chlorine in disinfectant has strong bactericidal and virucidal properties, which is why it is often found in public facilities and sanitary areas, for example.

But not only chlorine disinfects, but also sodium hypochlorite. Unlike chlorine, this is also used as a pharmaceutical agent in dentistry, as the active ingredient destroys both proteins and fats and renders many bacterial pathogens harmless.

Other applications of chlorine

In addition, there are several other areas of application for chlorine, some of which are based on chlorine compounds and synthesis materials. Examples include use as a bleaching agent in the form of chloric acidor as a propellant gas in fire extinguishers, sprays and refrigerants.

In addition, chlorine is ideal for mold control and as a weed killer. Chlorine acts as an intermediate in the production of organic and inorganic compounds, which include sodium chloride (NaCl), chloroform (CHCl3) and hydrochloric acid (HCl).

Use chlorine cleaner and chlorine disinfectant correctly

Those who choose chlorine as a disinfectant or as a cleaning agent should pay attention to someimportant safety precautions and application instructions – after all, this is a toxic element that can also have a negative effect on some surfaces. Harmful vapors are released when chlorine is used, so you should aim for low dosages. Gloves, respiratory protection and safety goggles are mandatory.

Also, be sure to treatonly suitable surfaces with chlorine. These include, for example, sanitary ceramics, some plastic parts, metals and tiles. On the other hand, you should avoid using chlorine on wooden and other plastic floors. As long as you stick to these basics, a disinfectant with chlorine can be an effective cleaning agent for optimal hygiene.

Sodium hypochlorite and chlorine: Hazards

It is well established in research and literature that both sodium hypochlorite and chlorine can have many negative effects on the human body and on the environment. These hazards ensure, for example, that chlorine falls into three different hazardous material classes during transport (hazardous material class 2, hazardous material class 5 and hazardous material class 8).

Chlorine use can produce chlorine gas, which in turn istoxic when inhaled and is a strong irritant to the eyes, respiratory tract and skin. Sodium hypochlorite on the skin should also be avoided for these reasons. Recent studies also show that chlorinated water may be conducive to bladder cancer. Chlorine in the environment can also alter the pH of aqueous ecological systems and have a negative impact on flora and fauna.

Storage and disposal of chlorine and sodium hypochlorite

Chlorine poses many dangers to the human organism and the environment, which must also be taken into account when storing and disposing of this element. For example, chlorine may only be stored in tightly closed pressurized gas containersor storage containers and stored in a well-ventilated area.

In the case of mobile and stationary compressed gas containers, many requirements for fire-retardant separation and maximum number of containers apply, which is specified in TRGS 510. This also applies to the storage of sodium hypochlorite.

Both substances may still be disposed of in small quantities (up to a limit value of 0.05 mg/l in water) as garden irrigation; once this limit value is exceeded, the sewer is permitted. In the case of more severe contamination, disposal must be carried out as hazardous waste via hazardous waste mobiles or recycling centers.

Sodium hypochlorite and chlorine: Use is possible, but

Although sodium hypochlorite and chlorine can be used as disinfectants, cleaners and bleaches, caution must be exercised in their use. Both substances are corrosive and irritating to the skin, eyes and respiratory tract – therefore you should use a reduced dose and suitable protective clothing. However, those who take all the necessary safety measures can benefit from the deep cleaning and disinfecting properties.


In everyday life, chlorine is mainly used to disinfect drinking water and bathing waterin swimming pools. In addition, this element is used as a bleaching agent, as a synthetic substance and in various household cleaners and disinfectants.

Cleaning agents with chlorine not only ensure pore-deep cleanliness, but also have germicidal properties. Therefore, chlorine cleaners are mainly found in sanitary facilities. However, chlorine is only suitable for non-porous surfaces (such as metal, ceramics and many tiles). This element is not suitable for wood, most plastics and dyed textiles, for example.

Whether chlorine can be used as a floor cleaning agent depends on the material of the floor covering. However, generally rely on an all-purpose cleaner and use chlorine only when additional disinfection is necessary. Chlorine should not be used for wood and plastic floors.

To rid drinking water, pool water or aquariums of chlorine, vitamin C can be used as a balancer. This is offered in tablet form. For smaller amounts of water, boiling may also be sufficient. There are also special neutralizers for the garden and for swimming pools.

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