You probably have a bottle of bleach somewhere around the house. It’s commonly used to whiten clothes or other fabrics on laundry day. Some cleaning products you use in your kitchen or bathroom may also contain bleach.

Bleach is an effective disinfectant because it can kill some types of:

  • viruses
  • bacteria
  • mold
  • mildew
  • algae

Cleaning with bleach can kill SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. It’s one way to help stop the disease from spreading.

If bleach is so good at killing viruses on surfaces, you might wonder if bleach can be used to kill viruses in people.

There is no evidence that swallowing bleach will help you fight off COVID-19. More importantly, you shouldn’t drink bleach at all, nor should you drink any product that contains bleach or any other disinfectant.

Drinking bleach can lead to serious health consequences. It can be fatal.

It’s true that you can use bleach to purify drinking water in an urgent situation such as a natural disaster. It’s a process that involves only a tiny amount of bleach and lots of water.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this process should be reserved for emergencies only. It’s safer to use bottled water or water that has been boiled.

This is because bleach is poisonous. It’s corrosive enough to damage metal. It could also burn sensitive tissues in your body.

Clorox and Lysol, leading makers of household cleaners, have clearly stated that bleach and other disinfectants should never be consumed or injected under any circumstances.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has previously warned consumers not to drink certain products, such as Miracle Mineral Solution, that claim to have antiviral properties.

According to the FDA, such products develop into a dangerous bleach when mixed with citric acid as directed.

The agency cautions that drinking these products is the same as drinking bleach, “which has caused serious and potentially life-threatening side effects.”

The FDA recently issued another statement about chlorine dioxide products claiming to be safe and effective treatments for a variety of diseases, including COVID-19. The FDA insists that they’re not proven safe or effective and again called them potentially life threatening.

Yes, it can kill you.

Your mouth, throat, stomach, and digestive tract are pretty resilient. That doesn’t mean that they can’t be damaged by bleach.

How much damage will it cause? There are a lot of variables, such as:

  • your size and age
  • other health conditions
  • how much you swallowed
  • what other chemicals were mixed in
  • whether it makes you vomit
  • how much you breathed in while drinking it

Again, there’s no evidence that drinking bleach affects the coronavirus. However, there is evidence that it can be harmful or even fatal. With all those variables, it’s not worth risking your life.

A variety of things can happen if you drink bleach, depending on how much you drink, what other chemicals were mixed in, and how much you breathed in at the same time.


Drinking bleach may cause you to vomit, which can lead to other problems.

As the bleach flows back upward, it could burn your esophagus (the tube that runs between your throat and stomach) and throat.

You’re also at risk of aspiration: Fluid from your throat, nasal cavity, or stomach could end up in your lungs, where it can cause serious damage.

Difficulty swallowing

If you have trouble swallowing after drinking bleach, it could mean that your esophagus or throat has been damaged.

Respiratory problems

Respiratory problems can occur if you’ve breathed in fumes from bleach or bleach mixed with other chemicals, such as ammonia. This can damage airways and lead to chest pain, asphyxiation (oxygen depravation), and death.

Skin and eye irritation

Should you spill or splash bleach on yourself, you might experience:

People have reported serious adverse events after drinking chlorine dioxide products. The FDA lists these as:

Bleach reacts with biological tissues and can cause cell death.

Any amount of bleach is toxic.

No matter how little bleach you drank, it’s a good idea to check in with a doctor.

You can also call the Poison Help Line at 800-222-1222. Have the bottle handy. Report how much bleach you ingested and if it was mixed with other ingredients.

Help line staff will probably advise you to drink plenty of water or milk to help dilute the bleach.

You may be tempted to force yourself to vomit to get rid of the bleach, but this could make matters much worse. Your stomach may be able to handle a small amount of bleach, but the bleach could cause further damage on the way back up.

Medical emergency

Call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room if you:

  • drank more than a mouthful of bleach
  • drank bleach mixed with other chemicals or aren’t sure what you drank
  • have severe vomiting
  • can’t swallow
  • feel dizzy or faint
  • have breathing difficulty
  • have chest pains

Drinking bleach won’t protect you from contracting the virus that causes COVID-19. Even worse, it’s dangerous.

Here are some things that are known to lower your chances of contracting and transmitting the coronavirus:

  • Wash your hands often using soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If you don’t have soap and water, use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your face if you haven’t washed your hands.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick or may have been exposed to the virus.
  • Stay home as much as possible.
  • When in public, keep at least 6 feet between yourself and others.
  • When you can’t avoid close proximity to others, wear a face mask that covers your nose and mouth.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces in your home every day.

If you have a dry cough, fever, or other symptoms of COVID-19, assume you have it. That’s the best way to avoid spreading it to others. Then:

  • Self-isolate. Don’t go out. Stay in a room separate from the rest of your family.
  • Contact a doctor for a phone or video chat to discuss your symptoms and ways to avoid transmitting the virus.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to relieve aches and pains or to reduce fever.
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions and keep them updated on your symptoms.
Medical emergency

Signs that you need immediate medical treatment include:

  • trouble breathing
  • persistent chest pain or pressure
  • confusion
  • inability to stay awake
  • lips or face turning blue

Call 911, but be sure to tell the dispatcher that you suspect you have COVID-19. Arrangements will be made to get the care you need without endangering others.

There is no evidence that drinking bleach will help with COVID-19 or any other condition. In fact, you should store bleach safely away from children or anyone who could mistake it for something else.

Bleach is poison. Drinking it is never a good idea.