What Is the Chemical Formula of Bleach?

Bleach is essential to whitening laundry
••• Image by Fotolia.com, courtesy of stoffies

Bleach is the generic term for substances that oxidize, or “bleach out,” stains. There are a number of commercially available bleaching compounds. All of them are used to sanitize and brighten laundry, although some are used for whites and others for colored laundry.

Oxygen-Based Bleaching Agents

Oxygen-based bleaches include sodium percarbonate and sodium perborate. The “per” part of the formula indicates that a monatomic oxygen is available for bleaching. Rarely, hydrogen peroxide is used as a bleaching agent, as high concentrations of hydrogen peroxide can produce dangerous burns.

Oxygen Bleach Chemical Formulas

H?O? stands for hydrogen peroxide. Sodium percarbonate has the formula Na?CO?, while sodium perborate is NaBO?.

Chlorine-Based Bleach

The most commonly used bleach, doubtless partly because it is inexpensive, is hypochlorite bleach. The two most common forms of hypochlorite commercially are sodium hypochlorite, NaOCl, and calcium hypochlorite, Ca(OCl)?.

Chlorine Bleach Uses

Chlorine-based bleach is the bleach of choice to kill mildew and to power-wash the exterior of buildings.

Oxygen Bleach Uses

The less aggressive oxygen-based bleaches are used most commonly to bleach color items. Low concentrations of oxygen bleach are used in dental products to whiten teeth.


About the Author

Vincent Summers received his Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Drexel University in 1973. He furthered his education through the University of Virginia's Citizen Scholar Program program, taking many courses in organic and quantum chemistry. He has written technical articles since 2010.

Photo Credits