Bleach is among the most common household cleaners, yet you always use it to clean items that won’t go near your face just to be safe. I’ll tell you in this post whether bleach is an appropriate cleaning agent for kitchen utensils.
Can you use bleach on kitchen utensils? While you can clean plastic and silicone utensils using bleach, you should not use bleach on metal kitchen utensils, especially stainless steel, as the bleach can corrode and oxidize the metal. Bleach also doesn’t efficiently disinfect wood utensils.
Ahead, I’ll talk more about when you should use bleach to clean kitchen utensils and when you shouldn’t. For the utensils that can handle a bleach cleaning, I’ll even provide a how-to full of detailed information so you can clean your utensils inside and out!
Can You Use Bleach on Kitchen Utensils?
Going back to what I said in the intro, bleach is not an ideal cleaner for all kitchen utensil materials. Let’s evaluate four utensil materials–metal, plastic, wood, and silicone–and individually assess which you can clean with bleach and which you cannot.
It takes a lot to damage metal, right? Not necessarily. Bleach can easily damage your metal cooking & baking utensils.
Remember how in the last section I mentioned that the sodium hypochlorite in bleach can oxidize the cells of microbes? That’s not all it oxidizes. Sodium hypochlorite can oxidize metal utensils as well.
Okay, but what does that really mean? Oxidation causes molecules to deplete. When metal oxidizes, electrons that were on the metal are now transferred to the nearby oxygen molecules.
This reaction produces negative oxygen ions which seep into the metal and generate an oxide-ridden surface.
There’s more, too. Bleach can also corrode metal, even very tough metals such as stainless steel. Corrosion can’t occur without oxidation, so the two processes go hand in hand.
You’ve likely seen corroded metal a time or two before. It’s a coppery brown with a very rough texture.
Once a metal food utensil is showing any signs of corrosion, it’s no longer safe to use that utensil with food.
Plastic is one utensil material that’s safe to clean with bleach, which is great.
After all, plastic cookware can usually last several years, but time can cause the plastic to sustain discoloration. All that staining makes your utensils look gross.
Well, until you soak them in a bleach bath, that is. I’ll talk about how to do that in the next section, so make sure you check that out.
Do you like the naturalness and sustainability of wood utensils, especially materials like bamboo? To preserve the condition of your cookware, you should not use bleach.
It’s not that bleach will damage the wood. Rather, the porousness of wood is hard for bleach to work with. The cleaner can’t get deep into the wood pores like you want it to, nor can it exit easily.
Besides utensils, any wooden products in your kitchen are off-limits for bleach cleaning, from cutting boards to dining tables, butcher blocks, and even wooden wallboards.
You’re much better off using a tablespoon of dishwashing detergent, a half-cup of white vinegar, and two cups of water, putting everything in a spray bottle. Then mist the wooden surface to disinfect it.
Perhaps most of your kitchen utensils are silicone, a polymer that–as kitchen cookware–is usually quite flexible, easily storable, odor-free, and capable of withstanding high temperatures.
Unfortunately, silicone is quite prone to staining, especially if yours is lighter-colored. You can scrub with dish detergent and a sponge until your arm falls off and the stains won’t come off.
Bleach can do the trick, causing no damage to the silicone.
Why Use Bleach as a Kitchen Cleaner?
If you’re using bleach to disinfect an object or a kitchen surface, it likely wasn’t the first cleaner you tried. You might have scrubbed your cookware in the kitchen sink using your best sponges, but those persistent messes wouldn’t come off.
So then maybe you tossed your cookware in the dishwasher. That worked to an extent, but there’s still stubborn caked-on grime and staining that won’t disappear.
That’s when it’s time to bring in the big guns, and bleach is about the biggest gun there is.
Bleach is mostly sodium hypochlorite with some calcium hypochlorite, hydrogen peroxide, and sodium hydroxide. Although it’s harsher than most other household chemicals, it’s considered safe for use in the kitchen.
Bleach can remove stains thanks to the sodium hypochlorite it contains. That ingredient also causes fungi, mold, bacteria, and viruses to die immediately upon contact since sodium hypochlorite oxidizes germ cell molecules.
You do have to take precautions, and I’ll delve into those later, but there’s no reason not to use bleach on kitchen surfaces.
How to Clean Kitchen Utensils with Bleach
Your kitchen utensils happen to mostly be plastic or silicone. Great! You can clean your cookware with bleach. Here’s how you do it.
First, you need to shop for the right kind of bleach. It must contain chlorine.
Chlorine bleach is often used for cleaning since it’s stronger than non-chlorine bleach. It’s an excellent disinfect due to the main ingredient, which is the above-mentioned sodium hypochlorite.
Even still, you must dilute the chlorine bleach with water. You’ll need a cup of water for every tablespoon of bleach you use.
Pour the mixture into a non-colored container or an old container you don’t care about. Bleach will cause color loss, FYI.
Put your plastic or silicone kitchen utensils into the bleach bath and let them sit for at least 60 minutes. At that point, lift the utensils and inspect them. If the stains and discoloration are still there, give the utensils another hour to soak.
Then turn on your sink, slowly tipping the bleach-water mixture into the drain. Don’t splash adjacent kitchen surfaces with the bleach.
If it’s more convenient for you, you can always dump the bleach-water mixture into the toilet. Again, go slow to avoid unintended spills that will stain your bathroom.
Then wash your plastic or silicone utensils in your kitchen sink using soap and water. Be extra thorough to ensure there’s no remaining bleach residue. Let the utensils air-dry in your sink caddy.
Tips for Safely Cleaning with Bleach
Chlorine bleach might be safe to use for many cleaning applications in the kitchen, but taking the following precautions will make it even safer.
Protect Your Hands and Face
You don’t want bleach anywhere near your face as well as on any exposed skin. Even if you’re only inserting a few forks into a bleach bath, you still need to protect your skin.
Put on goggles and nonporous gloves. If bleach ever splashes near you, you’ll be glad you took the time to suit up!
Open Windows When Cleaning with Bleach
Bleach doesn’t only burn your skin. It can lead to lung irritation that will make you cough and feel unable to catch your breath.
Since you need to soak kitchen utensils for a few hours to disinfect them, the bleach fumes could easily spread throughout your whole home in that time.
I have one tip for preventing that. Ventilate, ventilate, ventilate. Open windows, turn on ceiling fans, and maybe set up an oscillating fan or two. That will keep the fresh air moving.
Don’t Combine Bleach with Other Cleaners
If bleach is so powerful on its own, then surely with a product like ammonia, it would clean even better, right?
No! What happens instead is a potentially deadly chemical reaction. The combination of ammonia and bleach creates chloramines.
Chloramines are toxic gases that can cause initial symptoms such as nausea, coughing, facial irritation, chest pain, watery eyes, and an inability to breathe. Should prolonged exposure occur, you could develop fluid in the lungs or pneumonia.
You also don’t want to combine bleach with any acidic product, as the byproduct is chlorine gas.
You’ll immediately notice nose, throat, and eye irritation after breathing in chlorine gas, even if the exposure is very short-term. Symptoms such as a runny nose, burning eyes, breathing issues, and coughing will soon follow.
If the levels of chlorine gas are high enough, your symptoms will be more severe. You might experience a fluid buildup in the lungs, pneumonia, and vomiting. Death can also occur.
Only Dilute Bleach with Water
Bleach is still an effective cleaner after diluting it. Since bleach can cause so many chemical reactions, please use water as the only ingredient for dilution. This is for your own safety!