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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Cleaning Heaters with Bleach

By Dr. Laundry December 5, 2011

Q: Why I smell aluminum when I clean my heaters with Clorox® Regular-Bleach?

A:  I’m actually not sure!  Are these radiant heaters in an older home, or the registers on the floor or wall of a forced air heating system, or a portable electrical heater?  I suspect that there is some component of the heater you are trying to clean that is made from aluminum (like ductwork, for example), which is one of the materials that Clorox® Regular-Bleach should NOT be used to clean because the bleach reacts with the metal and can cause discoloration.  I also wonder what concentration of bleach solution you are using for cleaning.  Just to clarify, full-strength Clorox® Regular-Bleach should never be used to clean anything–it should always be diluted.  If you have aluminum surfaces to clean, you may want to try Clorox® Concentrated Outdoor Bleach, which has some additional ingredients for cleaning outdoor surfaces. Ingredients include corrosion inhibitors and cleaning agents that make it suitable for cleaning aluminum.  Be sure to follow the label instructions and use the proper dilution for what you want to clean, including testing a small area to ensure the dilution is compatible. 

Does anyone use Clorox® Concentrated Outdoor Bleach?