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7 Reasons For Chlorine Smell in House (Sudden Bleach Smell)

Scott Winfield
Written by Scott Winfield
Last Updated on

Chlorine or bleach has a strong smell that can be unpleasant. However, apart from being unpleasant, it can also be dangerous, depending on what is causing the smell.

If you notice a sudden chlorine or bleach odor in your house, you should pinpoint where the smell is coming from and take action if needed.

What Does Chlorine Gas Smell Like?

Chlorine gas has a strong odor that resembles bleach. If you’re not sure what chlorine or bleach smells like, think of the strong chemical smell that usually permeates the air near public swimming pools.

Even though they smell similar, chlorine and bleach are different. Chlorine is largely used in water sanitation since it kills the bacteria in tap water.

What Does Chlorine Gas Smell Like

Chlorine naturally exists as a gas, but it’s possible to cool it down to a liquid form. Its liquid form is one of the ingredients you’ll find in bleach, but bleach also contains other chemicals like sodium hypochlorite, sodium hydroxide, and hydrogen peroxide.

Why Does My House Smell Like Chlorine (Bleach)?

Noticing a chlorine smell in the house can be jarring due to the unpleasant chemical odor of this gas. Your priority should be to figure out where the smell is coming from since exposure to chlorine can be dangerous.

Possible Reason #1: You Recently Cleaned Your Home with Bleach

Bleach is a common product used to disinfect surfaces around the home. It is generally safe to use as long as you take a few precautions, and the CDC even recommended bleach solutions to disinfect your home during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Because bleach contains chlorine, it can cause a strong lingering smell. You can prevent the odor by only using bleach in well-ventilated areas and rinsing the area you disinfected with some warm water.

If you notice the smell and haven’t used a bleach solution, check the labels of the different cleaning products you have. Some products like toilet bowl cleaners, toilet tablets, mildew removers, and even laundry detergents might contain a form of chlorine.

Possible Reason #2: You Mixed Different Chemicals

Mixing bleach with other household cleaners can cause a chemical reaction that releases chlorine gas in the air, resulting in a strong chemical smell in your home. If chlorine comes in contact with any kind of acid, it will react and form a gas.

You should never mix bleach with other household cleaners. In fact, it’s best not to mix any cleaners, no matter what they contain.

If you accidentally mix different products, you should open all your doors and windows and turn some fans on to get rid of the potentially dangerous gasses.

Possible Reason #3: You Accidentally Mixed Bleach and Ammonia in the Toilet

Toilet cleaning products often contain bleach due to its disinfectant properties, and urine contains ammonia. 

If you’re healthy and hydrated, you should only have trace amounts of ammonia in your urine. However, ammonia levels can become higher if you’re dehydrated or due to a medical condition.

When ammonia comes in contact with bleach, a chemical reaction occurs, and the two substances combine to form chloramine.

Chloramine is responsible for the strong chemical smell you will often notice in public swimming pools since urine and sweat react with the chlorine used to disinfect the water.

Avoid urinating directly after using a bleach cleaner on your toilet, and flush the toilet immediately if you notice a strong chemical smell. Open the windows and turn on your bathroom vent fan to clear the air.

If possible, avoid using toilet tablets that can cause repeated exposure to chloramine.

Possible Reason #4: There’s Excess Chlorine in Your Water

Water treatment facilities use chlorine or chloramine to kill bacteria present in water. These facilities also use a thorough filtration process to remove chlorine and other chemicals before distributing the water for drinking.

However, if something goes wrong with this filtration process, it’s possible for chlorine levels to exceed the recommended safe levels of four milligrams per liter or four parts per million. 

It’s best to contact your local government to signal any sudden changes in water taste or smell. However, there are different reasons for your drinking water to suddenly start smelling like chlorine and cause a strong chlorine smell in the house:

  • Your local water treatment plant recently switched from chlorine to chloramine or the other way around since they have different disinfection attributes. Water treatment facilities sometimes switch between these two chemicals to get rid of the slime that builds up in their system due to iron and sulfur bacteria.
  • You were gone for a while or didn’t use the tap water for another reason, and water sat and evaporated in the pipes. It caused chlorine or chloramine to become more concentrated.
  • If you notice that your hot water has a strong chlorine smell, you might have left water sitting in your hot water tank for a while, and evaporation caused the chlorine concentration to increase.
  • You moved recently and are noticing that the water has a strong chemical smell. Water treatment facilities in heavily populated areas tend to leave more chlorine in the drinking water, which can cause a chemical smell that is more noticeable if you’re used to drinking water with less chlorine.

You should try letting the water run for a while to see if the chlorine smell disappears.  If you still can’t get rid of the smell, and if there’s no warning issued by the government concerning the risks of drinking tap water, there are two ways you can deal with it: water treatment options (chlorine water filters) and the more primal boiling method.

If the drinking water has safe levels but still smells or tastes unpleasant, you can remove chlorine with a carbon-activated filter or a reverse osmosis filter.

Alternatively, as a cheaper method, you can boil water to eliminate chlorine and make it safe to drink, but do so for at least 15 minutes and in a well-ventilated area. This will allow the steam, which contains chlorine, to escape.

Possible Reason #5: There is Plastic Burning Somewhere in Your House

Burnt plastic has a very distinctive, unpleasant smell. Once it gradually heats up and starts melting, it will release hydrocarbons, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, hydrochloric acid, and other potentially dangerous chemicals.

Hydrochloric acid, in particular, is a form of hydrogen chloride, which is a common chemical used in pool cleaners with a distinctive smell that resembles bleach. While not all types of plastic will release this acid when burning, some plastic products can smell like bleach when the combustion process begins.

Unless you can see smoke or trace the burning plastic thanks to the smell, finding hot plastic in your home can be difficult. It’s crucial to act fast since hot or burning plastic can often indicate an electrical problem in your home.

Check your extension cords and unplug your electronics and appliances to be safe. If the smell persists, it’s best to call an electrician.

Possible Reason #6: Improper Handling of Pool Chemicals

Yes, a freshly treated pool will obviously smell like bleach, but there might still be certain cases where the smell is too strong for your liking. That would indicate that something has gone wrong during the cleaning process or something was already wrong with your pool.

Chlorine in Water Causes Bleach-like Smell

For instance, you may have exceeded the recommended dosage when using pool chemicals. Most people treat their pool when they open it for the summer and will also use a weekly or monthly pool cleaner that contains chlorine.

If you use too much of these products, the smell can spread and cause your entire home to smell like bleach. The same thing can happen if you have a hot tub or a jacuzzi that you treat with products that contain chlorine.

Moreover, a strong bleach smell can also indicate that your pool or pump is leaking. You should also make sure that you have properly stored your pool chemicals and that the containers aren’t leaking.

Possible Reason #7: Humidity and Mold

Humidity can cause a wide range of issues in your home, including mold. You might not notice the signs of a mold infestation at first, but they will become hard to ignore as it starts spreading.

We often associate mold with a musty smell, but some types of mold can smell like ammonia, which is similar to bleach. This smell can become more noticeable when it rains since odors caused by mold tend to intensify in elevated humidity.

If you recently treated your home for mold or mildew, you should know that most products used to get rid of it also contain chlorine, which compounds the issue. 

If you indeed realize that the issue is mold, don’t hesitate to contact mold removal specialists. Professionals will be able to pinpoint the source in your home and eliminate it.It’s vital to take action quickly since mold can cause respiratory problems.

Can Inhaling Excessive Chlorine Gas Cause Suffocation?

Chlorine gas can be extremely dangerous. It can cause suffocation and respiratory failure, as well as severe burns to the airways. However, concentration levels have to be high for these severe symptoms to appear.

You would have to breathe in a concentration of 400 ppm for 30 minutes to be at risk of dying. However, death can occur within minutes if levels reach 1,000 ppm.

It’s unlikely that chlorine gas exposure that results from mixing household cleaners, using too much pool cleaner, or an issue with your drinking water would reach these levels.

However, in workplaces or swimming pools, exposure to lower levels of chlorine gas can cause burns, coughing, difficulty breathing, and other symptoms. It can also be released into the air during traffic accidents, spills, and industrial leaks, leading to more serious issues.

Therefore, if you can’t locate the source of the chlorine smell and if opening the windows doesn’t seem to reduce the odor, it’s best to get out and contact first responders.

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Scott Winfield
Scott Winfield
My name is Scott Winfield and researching and writing about water filters and other strategies to purify water has become my full time passion in recent years. I'm glad that you found our site and you can look forward to authoritative and well researched content here to help you get the best in water.
1 Comment
  1. All these articles about household smells are great. BUT we are in a bad drug age and believe me there are tons of drug smells/irritants going on and it ruins your life. They are so strong it is unreal. Let’s start addressing that huge problem.

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