What happens when you mix bleach and ammonia?


Quick Answer

Bleach and ammonia are both common household cleaning products that generate toxic, potentially lethal, vapors when combined. MedlinePlus warns that breathing or swallowing this mixture can easily lead to poisoning and urges people not to mix bleach or bleach-containing products with ammonia.

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What happens when you mix bleach and ammonia?
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Full Answer

About.com describes some of the likely reactions that occur when ammonia is combined with the sodium hypochlorite found in bleach. First, the bleach decomposes into hydrochloric acid. When this powerful acid is formed, the byproduct of chlorine gas is free to combine with the ammonia. Chlorine gas was used as a weapon during World War I, and in the presence of ammonia, it forms a volatile compound called chloramine.

According to About.com, chloramine vapor is also toxic. In the event of a surplus of ammonia, this mixture has the potential to form an even more volatile compound called liquid hydrazine. This reaction is strongly exothermic, which raises the possibility that the liquid hydrazine will boil and spray creating its own hazards to people nearby. Sometimes, the liquid hydrazine is produced at such a high level of purity that it explodes. It follows that creating a mixture of ammonia and bleach is hazardous in the extreme and should be avoided, especially by non-chemists.

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