Q. I read somewhere recently that a woman almost died while cleaning with chlorine bleach and ammonia. I clean with these items every week. Could you tell me how this could possibly cause death?

A. Combining the common cleaning agents chlorine bleach and ammonia can liberate deadly chlorine gas. We trust you have not made this mistake.

This example points up the potential problem of mixing chemicals. Just as you were unaware of the danger of adding ammonia to chlorine bleach, some people do not realize that certain drugs are incompatible. For example, a person taking Coumadin might experience life-threatening bleeding if he started taking the antibiotic Bactrim (co-trimoxazole).

The antidepressant Nardil may be deadly when combined with another antidepressant such as Zoloft or even cheddar cheese. Methotrexate is a powerful drug used to treat psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer. If combined with co-trimoxazole it could trigger serious methotrexate toxicity such as blood disorders.

The bottom line is that mixing household cleaners can be very hazardous and so can mixing medicines.

Get The Graedons' Favorite Home Remedies Health Guide for FREE

Join our daily email newsletter with breaking health news, prescription drug information, home remedies AND you'll get a copy of our brand new full-length health guide — for FREE!

  1. DVH

    Medication is, like anything, a chemical that we use to help ourselves. There are some that do not react with each other but there are some that can be bad… very very bad…. one or two can be down right deadly (as per examples above) I was once put on 1200 mg Ibuprofen for a recently extracted tooth the same time and instructed that I could not take my herbal St Johns Wart for anti-depression while taking the high dosage as it can cause sudden bleeding and blood clots in the heart.
    However there are other things you can find all over Google.com for deadly and risky herbal/drug or multi-drug interactions. I advise ANYONE taking ANY THING to be aware that Milk Thistle, St. John’s Wart, Black Cohosh, and even Ginseng, Ginkgo Bilbao, and even concentrated Green Tea to check with your doctor when being prescribed anything at all!

  2. RJM

    I’ll never forget once mixing two different brands of medicated shampoos on my hair. It gave me a deathly headache and I felt like vomiting, plus I almost passed out in the shower! I quickly rinsed my hair and the sickness gradually subsided. Never again will I mix two different types of chemicals. It’s not worth the risk.

  3. Gerry Anne M.

    Young folks today don’t usually take “cleaning house” as seriously as we old timers do (I’m 79). Now, I’m thinking it is just as well!

  4. Gerry Anne M.

    Years ago, I also combined chlorine bleach and ammonia to clean the tub. I managed to survive, however, because of the warning sign of near-fainting. It is helpful for you to offer many examples of the types of problems that can arise when mixing chemicals. There is not enough publicity about these matters. Thank you.

  5. RAK

    The gas is not chlorine when chlorine bleach are mixed but a gas called chloramine which is much more deadly than chlorine. Never mix chloros and ammonia if you value your life!

  6. Nadia

    I have experienced an adverse reaction by unknowingly using chlorine bleach with “Comet” type powder cleaner. I got very sick within less then two hours, with symptoms of fever, chills, and altogether, type of flu symptoms. Later I got sores on my lips, resembling cold sores, even inside of my mouth. I was sick for few days. I later found out it was the chemical reaction. I never use any chemical cleaners without checking the back bottle print. Bleach especially is very strong chemical, and really needs to be handled with care.

  7. RuthA

    A friend of mine’s mother died from using this deadly combination of ammonia and clorox to clean her shower. It was a long and agonizing death.

  8. Amy HS

    I made the mistake of mixing household cleaners around 30 years ago and had an asthmatic reaction that lasted for months. I became chemically sensitive and have had to avoid exposure to commercial cleaning products and chemical lawn products ever since. I became interested in safe, organic alternatives for my own protection many years before the green movement caught the public eye.

What Do You Think?

We invite you to share your thoughts with others, but remember that our comment section is a public forum. Please do not use your full first and last name if you want to keep details of your medical history anonymous. A first name and last initial or a pseudonym is acceptable. Advice from other commenters on this website is not a substitute for medical attention. Do not stop any medicine without checking with the prescriber. Stopping medication suddenly could result in serious harm. We expect comments to be civil in tone and language. By commenting, you agree to abide by our commenting policy and website terms & conditions. Comments that do not follow these policies will not be posted.

Your cart

Shipping and discount codes are added at checkout.