Difference Between Chlorine and Bleach (with Table)

Chemicals have become an everyday necessity for people nowadays and the manufacturing of these chemicals has increased exponentially in many countries.

Many such chemicals are being used in medicines and household utility objects especially for cleaning purposes because it is easier to pour some chemicals than brushing that substance for so much time and the most common chemicals used nowadays for this purpose are chlorine and bleach. These chemicals are very useful and are solutions for a diverse number of problems.

Chlorine vs Bleach

The difference between chlorine and bleach is that Chlorine is a natural element that occurs in nature in pure form and it doesn’t have any other element combined whereas bleach is a combination of many elements such as Sodium, Chlorine, and Oxygen and it is prepared in factories and laboratories for commercial use. 

Comparison Table Between Chlorine and Bleach

Parameter of ComparisonChlorineBleach
OccurrenceIt exists naturallyIt doesn’t exist naturally, it is created for commercial use
formulaThe formula of chlorine is ClThe formula of bleach is NaClO
concentrationIt exists in concentrated form with a 100% concentration of chlorine.It exists in diluted form with 5.25%- 8.25% of bleach depending upon the usage.
colorChlorine is greenish-yellow in color.Bleach is White in color.
Composition  Chlorine consists of chlorine element only, that is, it exists in pure form Bleach is a combination of more than one element, that is, Sodium, Chlorine, and oxygen.
stateChlorine exists in a gaseous state at room temperature.Bleach exists in a liquid state at room temperature.
toxicityVery toxicNon-toxic

What is Chlorine?

Chlorine is a chemical element whose atomic number is 17. Its symbol is Cl and it is 2.5x heavier than air. Being the second lightest element of the halogen group, it shows toxicity. It exists as a greenish-yellow gas at room temperature and can be easily liquified by cooling (temperature= -34℃ ) or by the pressure of a few atmospheres. 

It’s smell is pungent and inhalation of this toxic gas can cause suffocation, tightness in the throat, and after continuous and severe exposure, it could even lead to ‘edema’ ( the disease in which fluid gets filled inside lungs). The presence of more than or equal to 1/1000  part of chlorine in the air can cause death in a few minutes but less than this amount is tolerable for living beings.

Because of Chlorine being this toxic it was the first gas to be used in chemical warfare along with mustard gas in World War I which lead to a large number of casualties.

What is Bleach?

Bleach is a chemical product that is used to remove the color from a piece of fabric or fiber. It is also used to clean or remove stains by the process known as bleaching. It is commonly used in industries and households as well. There are certain types of bleach but the one used generally is liquid bleach which contains a dilute solution of sodium hypochlorite.

These different types of bleach are made up of different chemical elements, that is,

  1. Chlorine bleach: It generally contains sodium hypochlorite
  2. Oxygen bleach: It contains hydrogen peroxide or a peroxide-releasing compound such as sodium perborate or sodium percarbonate.
  3. Bleaching powder: It contains calcium hypochlorite

Bleaches are very rich in anti-bacterial properties and because of this reason, they are also useful for disinfecting and sterilizing instead of chlorine since chlorine is too toxic.

The common places where bleaches are used as a disinfectant are:

  1. Swimming pools for controlling bacteria, viruses and 
  2. Industries for bleaching of wood pulp 
  3. Fields for removing mildew, killing weeds.

How does Bleach work?

Bleaches basically work by reacting with all the colored organic compounds also known as natural pigments present in the substance and making them colorless. Bleaches are both oxidizing agents(chemicals that take electrons from other molecules) as well as reducing agents (chemicals that donate electrons to other molecules).

An oxidizing bleach works by breaking the bonds of the part of a molecule that has a color (chromophore), and this results in a change in the molecule so that it has no color.

A reducing bleach works by changing the double bonds of the part of a molecule that has a color (chromophore) into single bonds resulting in the alteration of optical properties of the molecule, making it colorless.

Main Differences Between Chlorine and Bleach

  1. Chlorine is a chemical element that exists in nature in pure form whereas bleach is a combination of several chemical elements that occur in nature. Bleach is a man-made compound manufactured in industries for general use.
  2. Chlorine is in the form of greenish-yellow gas at room temperature whereas bleach is present in white color in liquid state.
  3. Since chlorine is a pure element it is available in 100% concentrated form whereas bleach is present in diluted form with 5.25% – 8.25% depending on the requirement.
  4. Chlorine consists of chlorine element only, that is, it exists in pure form whereas bleach is a combination of Sodium, Chlorine, and Oxygen in a proportioned amount.
  5. Chlorine is preferred less for usage than bleach. Bleach is used for industrial as well as domestic use and chlorine is used in laboratories and chemical experiments.
  6. The toxicity of Chlorine is very much. Bleach is safe to use and can be stored easily as well.
  7. The chemical formula of chlorine is Cl and that of bleach is NaClO.


Bleach is common and mostly used bleaching as well as a cleaning agent because of its non-toxic properties and performance. It easily takes the color away from the desired part, it is also very useful in cleaning pools, farming, etc. whereas chlorine, on the other hand, is not so usable chemical because of its toxicity which could even kill someone.

Therefore it is preferable to use bleach which contains diluted chlorine than chlorine which exists in pure form since bleach can also do the task of cleaning and bleaching perfectly.


  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1399-3038.2006.00487.x
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304416513003073