Chlorine vs Bleach: Difference and Comparison

Chemicals have become a 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 brush 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 to many problems.

Key Takeaways

  1. Chlorine is a chemical element used as a disinfectant and a component in various compounds, including water treatment and cleaning products.
  2. Bleach is a cleaning agent that contains sodium hypochlorite, a compound derived from chlorine, which removes stains and disinfects surfaces.
  3. Although both are used for cleaning and disinfecting, bleach is a specific product, while chlorine is an element with broader applications.

Chlorine vs. Bleach

Chlorine is a highly reactive gaseous substance. It is moderately water soluble and is used a strong oxidizing agent. Bleach is a commercial and industrial product composed of many substances. It is used as stain removal solution in household. Most common bleach is sodium hypochlorite or chlorine bleach.

Chlorine vs Bleach

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Comparison Table

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.
Composition  Chlorine consists of chlorine element only; that is, it exists in pure form. Bleach is a combination of more than one element: 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. 

Its smell is pungent, and inhaling this toxic gas can cause suffocation and tightness in the throat. Continuous and severe exposure could lead to ‘edema’ ( the disease in which fluid gets filled inside the 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 Chlorine is this toxic, it was the first gas to be used in chemical warfare along with mustard gas in World War I, leading to many casualties.


What is Bleach?

Bleach is a chemical product that removes the color from a piece of fabric or fiber. It is also used to clean or remove stains, known as bleaching.

It is commonly used in industries and households as well. There are certain types of bleach, but the one used is liquid bleach which contains a dilute sodium hypochlorite solution.

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

  1. Chlorine bleach: It contains sodium hypochlorite
  2. Oxygen bleach 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 and killing weeds.

How does Bleach work?

Bleaches work by reacting with all the colored organic compounds, also known as natural pigments, in the substance, making them colorless.

Bleaches are oxidizing agents(chemicals that take electrons from other molecules) and 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), which changes 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 the 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 greenish-yellow gas at room temperature, whereas bleach is present in white color in a 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; 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 and 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.
Difference Between Chlorine and Bleach

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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22 thoughts on “Chlorine vs Bleach: Difference and Comparison”

  1. The comparison table is very enlightening. It helps understand the different characteristics of chlorine and bleach more clearly.

    1. Agreed, the comparison table is fantastic for a quick overview of the differences between these chemicals.

  2. The content is great, but perhaps a more neutral tone would be beneficial. There seems to be some bias in favor of these chemicals.

  3. This piece is incredibly well-written and detailed. However, I am concerned that the focus on the positives of these chemicals might be misleading.

  4. Avatar of Stacey Richardson
    Stacey Richardson

    I think this article is a little misleading – it doesn’t adequately explain the dangers of using these chemicals, especially chlorine.

  5. Excellent and informative article! The comparisons made are quite useful for understanding the differences between these two chemicals.

  6. I found the details about the toxicity of chlorine to be quite fascinating. I had no idea about its potential dangers.

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