Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Sodium hypochlorite has many uses in commercial cleaning

By Noel Johnson

Sodium hypochlorite, the chemical compound of sodium, oxygen and chlorine is what we in the cleaning industry like to call “hypo”.


With such a technical name, you may not be aware of the many uses of this chemical compound, both industrially and domestically. But if you own a bottle of household bleach or surface cleaner, you will be familiar with sodium hypochlorite.

First developed in 1789, sodium hypochlorite was originally used for bleaching paper and textiles. Now, with more research and discovery into what the compound is capable of, it is frequently used commercially as a hard surface cleaner, deodoriser and sanitiser, or domestically as a bleach for control of mould and mildew.

Bread factory

A powerful disinfectant with a long history

Hypochlorite in the form of bleaching powder was used as early as 1800 for its deodorising qualities. For bad odours, particularly associated with disease, the chemical compound worked wonders on eliminating smells.

As odour is associated with bacteria, with much of the deodorising, came sanitising. As a result, sodium hypochlorite had an influence on reduction in diseases.

Although it wasn’t realised at the time, it has been said that no single element has played as important a role in combating disease over the last century as chlorine in its various forms.

With more understanding of sodium hypochlorite these days, we know what levels of dilution are required for it to be used safely. It is commonly used for the disinfecting and sanitisation of food processing equipment, particularly milking utensils used in the dairy industry.

Sodium hypochlorite has many advantages, but one to note is its ability to rapidly break down innocuous compounds. For this reason it is also used in the chlorination of sewage effluents and swimming pool water.

As the most common compound found in sanitisers, sodium hypochlorite is frequently used in lavatory bowl deodorisers today. It has excellent oxidising qualities.

Water drops

How does sodium hypochlorite work?

Sodium hypochlorite works to damage the outer membrane of microbial cells. This makes the cells more permeable and easy to destroy. Pure hypochlorite is highly reactive and unstable, therefore it is usually supplied as a dilute aqueous solution.

In solution, the hypochlorite eventually decomposes to yield a variety of by-products including oxygen, chlorine gas, and salt. One of these by-products, hypochlorous acid, is a powerful oxidizing agent that gives hypochlorite excellent bleaching and disinfecting properties.

Both bleaching and disinfecting rely on the hypochlorous acid’s ability to destroy microorganisms. The same oxidative mechanism responsible for hypochlorite's bleaching ability also makes it an effective germicide.

Milk factory

Professional expertise for use at commercial level

In our work, we use reasonable volumes of the commercial grade, but we are also fully conversant with the issues related to the product and work to replace it where practical.

Hypochlorite is corrosive at high concentrations and if it comes into contact with skin, it can be extremely harmful. For this reason, it takes professional expertise to handle the compound at high volumes.

When using at a commercial level, having a good knowledge and understanding of what can negatively impact the useful properties of sodium hypochlorite is essential. Factors such as temperature, light, water impurities and improper potential of hydrogen (PH) can be enough to inhibit the chemical from working to its full potential.

This is why we check the area for organic minerals and PH before deciding if sodium hypochlorite will be effective in cleaning and sanitising the area.

Workers cleaning factory

‘Hypo’ for chemical cleaning comes with much to consider

Although it sounds like a fantastic product “Hypo” also has a lot of downsides which include:

  •  Highly corrosive to a number of metals and plastics
  • Strong unpleasant odour

  • Very reactive in the presence of trace amounts of copper, nickel and iron

  • Loses stability and efficiency on storage and can “gas” when not stored properly

  • Needs to be applied by trained personnel  with proper safety equipment

  • Is not effective against some pathogens including Giardia and Cryptosporidium

Our team understand the positives and negatives of “Hypo” and its alternatives.

Before undergoing any cleaning and sanitising treatments, we fully assess the area. By running tests on surfaces, we can treat according to what microorganisms are present and use correct chemicals to eliminate the pathogens.

Whatever your requirements, we will have a solution for you.

Call us today to discuss the treatment that’s right for your commercial space.