Dear EarthTalk: My neighbor told me to pour bleach down my drains every week to keep them clear. Is this safe to do? -- Trish Osterling, via e-mail
Bleach is a useful cleaner and disinfectant, but pouring it down the drain will not do anything to help keep the drains clear. In addition, you could cause a dangerous chemical reaction if it comes into contact with other household products you might be using.
Common household bleach, also known as chlorine bleach, is a liquid compound of sodium hypochlorite, which is a combination of sodium chloride (a salt) with water and chlorine. It’s often used to whiten laundry or to disinfect kitchen surfaces. Bleach is also an ingredient in other household cleaners, like those used for bath and toilet cleaning. (A different sort of bleach, known as oxygen bleach, is used for laundry stain removal and does not have the same disinfecting/cleaning properties as chlorine bleach.)