Sodium Hypochlorite is a chemical compound with the formula NaOCl or NaClO, comprising a sodium cation (Na+) and a hypochlorite anion (OCl− or ClO−). It may also be viewed as the sodium salt of hypochlorous acid and can be crystallised as a pentahydrate NaOCl·5H 2O, a pale greenish-yellow solid which is not explosive and is stable if kept refrigerated. The compound in solution is unstable and easily decomposes, liberating chlorine, which is the active principle of such products.
Sodium Hypochlorite is most often encountered in a dilute solution commonly known as liquid bleach. In the home, you may know it as the liquid in that white or blue plastic bottle often spotted near the family washing machine where it gets added to the laundry to kill germs and to make white clothes whiter. This household chemical has also been widely used (since the 18th century) as a disinfectant for mopping floors and cleaning toilets.
Sodium hypochlorite is also used in safe food production and preparation by adding it to water in amounts that are known to destroy germs that are associated with raw foods. Sodium Hypochlorite solutions are effective in disinfecting food preparation surfaces, food sorting machinery, containers and instruments of all types involved in producing, transporting and preparing the foods people eat.
Sodium hypochlorite solutions are also used to disinfect many types of surfaces in hospitals, medical labs, doctors’ offices and nursing homes to prevent the spread of infection among patients, residents and workers.
Chlorine bleach, sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl), is an extremely useful and inexpensive disinfectant. However, its corrosive properties, common availability, and reaction products can make it a significant safety risk. For example, when mixing liquid bleach with other cleaning products, such as acids or ammonia, it may produce toxic fumes.
Beginning in 1908, countries started to chlorinate drinking water. This resulted in serious waterborne diseases such as typhoid fever being practically eliminated. The use of Sodium Hypochlorite in the water purification process has significantly improved the quality of life for people across the world.