Mixing ammonia and bleach is not safe and can be life-threatening depending on the amounts you use. It causes the release of chloramine gas, which is poisonous.

In an era of superbugs and viral pandemics, disinfecting your home or office is a top concern.

But it’s important to remember that more isn’t always better when it comes to household cleaners. In fact, combining some household cleaners can be deadly.

Take bleach and ammonia, for example. Mixing products containing chlorine bleach with products containing ammonia releases chloramine gas, which is toxic to people and animals.

Yes, mixing bleach and ammonia can kill you.

Depending on how much of the gas is released and the length of time you’re exposed to it, inhaling chloramine gas can make you sick, damage your airways, and even cause death.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a 20 percent spike in the number of calls to U.S. poison control centers in early 2020 because of exposure to household cleaners. That spike is attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, death from mixing bleach and ammonia is very rare.

If you’ve been exposed to a mixture of bleach and ammonia, you need to act quickly. Toxic fumes can overwhelm you within minutes.

Follow these steps:

  1. Move to a safe, well-ventilated area immediately.
  2. If you’re having trouble breathing, call 911 or your local emergency services.
  3. If you’re able to breathe but have been exposed to the fumes, get help from your local poison control center by calling 800-222-1222.
  4. If you encounter someone who has been exposed, they may be unconscious. Move the person into fresh air and call emergency services.
  5. When it’s safe to do so, open windows and turn on fans to help dissipate remaining fumes.
  6. Carefully follow cleanup instructions from your local poison control center.

If you breathe in the fumes of a bleach and ammonia mixture, you may experience:

  • burning, watery eyes
  • coughing
  • wheezing or difficulty breathing
  • nausea
  • pain in your throat, chest, and lungs
  • fluid buildup in your lungs

In high concentrations, coma and death are possibilities.

To prevent accidental poisoning with bleach and ammonia, follow these basic guidelines:

  • Always store cleaning products in their original containers.
  • Read and follow the directions and warnings on product labels before using. If you’re not sure, call the information number on the product label.
  • Don’t mix bleach with any other cleaning products.
  • Don’t clean litter boxes, diaper pails, and pet urine stains with bleach. Urine contains small amounts of ammonia.

If you’re using strong cleaners of any kind, always make sure you have good ventilation. Consider using products that meet the Safer Choice Standard from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Studies show that using chemical cleaners once a week can decrease your lung function over time as well as cause allergic airway disease in children.

never drink bleach

Drinking, injecting, or inhaling bleach or ammonia in any concentration can be deadly. To stay safe:

  • Do not use bleach or ammonia on your skin.
  • Do not use bleach or ammonia to clean wounds.
  • Never ingest any amount of bleach, even if it’s diluted with another liquid.

If you want to disinfect surfaces without using bleach or ammonia, there are safe and effective alternatives.

It’s generally safe to use a diluted bleach solution to clean most hard surfaces. The CDC recommends a mixture of:

  • 4 teaspoons household bleach
  • 1 quart water

If you prefer buying a commercially available cleaner, ensure the product is on the EPA’s list of approved disinfectants. Read the instructions for safe use, including the wait-time recommendations.

Mixing bleach and ammonia can be deadly. When combined, these two common household cleaners release toxic chloramine gas.

Exposure to chloramine gas can cause irritation to your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. In high concentrations, it can lead to coma and death.

To prevent accidental poisoning with bleach and ammonia, store them in their original containers out of reach of children.

If you do accidentally mix bleach and ammonia, get out of the contaminated area and into fresh air immediately. If you’re having a hard time breathing, call 911 or your local emergency services, and then call your local poison control center at 800-222-1222.