Dr. A.K. Williams, Ph.D
San Pedro, Costa Rica
How Clorox Works
You guys all know that I use Chlorine bleach (Clorox or other) for all sorts off magical transformations in the basement. Nothing magic about it. It just
happens to be a pretty good, cheap, and easily available oxidizing agent that usually gets the job done.
Lets talk just a little about Clorox. What it is, what it is not, what it can and cannot do for us. The chemical that makes it work is Sodium Hypochlorite
(NaOCl). This stuff is sort of unstable. It would rather be something other than what it is. The thing(s) that it wants be are caustic soda, Chlorine gas,
and "nacent" Oxygen, monatomic Oxygen, or as we usually say now, "Ozone".
Everyone knows that it's that Chlorine smell coming out of the jug that gets your shirt white, right? Sorry, it just ain't that way. Chlorine is just a by-
product of the bleaching reaction. It's that Ozone that is getting the job done. Ozone is a charged atom of Oxygen. Oxygen atoms hate to be alone.
They just gotta have a companion. So it usually grabs another Oxygen and hangs on making the Oxygen molecule O2. No charge. If you grab that sucker
and rip it apart you get two atoms of Oxygen both carrrying a single negative charge I.e. O2-------> 2 O-.
I know you've all been dying to know that all your life. But think about it, everytime you open that jug, Ozone is escaping and replenishing our damaged
Ozone layer. Guess it's got holes in it like a pair of worn out Levi's. Now it's that Ozone that does nearly all the bleaching, so what about the Chlorine gas
that is stinking up the place? Hey, in the Basement we use that too. In the Basement we don't usually get into all that domestic stuff like washing
cloths etc. That the wifes area of expetise. However, when that bleach starts to break down and release all that good stuff it also produces a current of
electricity. That, basically, is what we are using to oxidize stuff. remember "redox". It 's not quite as simple as I am making it but it'll do for gumment
So, we got Clorox, right? It's cheap, readily available, and gets the job done. Why would we want to "superize" it? I know that some of you have had
some trouble using it because of the fact that the stuff from the store is very weak. It is only 4-5% NaOCl, and 95 % water. For some things you have
to add so much that the water becomes a problem. Just too much of it. Too much volume. And, many times you have to eventually get rid of all that
excess water. Sort of a pain!
Get On Wid It Already!
There are two pretty simple ways to skin that cat. First, and easiest is to just buy dry NaOCl powder from a chemical supplier, make a 10-50% solution of
it in water. You got it.
The other way takes a little more doing but HEY, this is Basement Chemistry too. Go down somewhere and buy a bag of dry "swimming pool" Chlorine
(Calcium Hypochlorite). Measure out some. For example, 10 tablespoons Put it in a container that you can see through, and add about 5 tablespoons of
baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate, NaH2CO3). Now add about 250 ml of water (or more, if you want a weaker solution). Don't fill the container too full
cause it's gonna do a little fizzing and bubbling. At this point it's gonna look like sort of a white paste. Not to worry. Ain't gonna leave you hanging like
that. Stir this mix around occasionally until you get no more bubbling etc.
At this point you could just let it settle and pour off the top layer. Probably faster to simply filter it through a coffee filter. The filtrate probably wont be
perfectly clear but you will have gotten rid of a lot of Calcium Carbonate, etc. Now you probably should dissolve a little baking soda in a little water and
add it to the near-clear liquid. This is a test to see if you put in enough soda to begin with. If you get more white precipitate, add more soda until no
more precitate comes down. or you could filter this again but I usually just let it settle and pour off the supernatant, and put it in a bottle.
Now you got a strong solution of bleach! Now the little woman can put a few tablespoons in the wash instead of several cupfuls.
Proud a Ya!
You did that without even breathing hard!