Bleach is a chemical solution that is commonly used for cleansing and sanitizing in many Las Vegas, NV, homes. The main constituent of bleach is an inorganic compound known as sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl). This compound is famous for its disinfectant and whitening properties, and it is the primary ingredient in liquid bleach as well as solids like bleach powders or tablets. Given the nature and purpose of toilets, it is understandable that some homeowners may want to use bleach products to keep them clean. However, there is enough evidence that using items like bleach tablets may cause more harm than good. A comprehensive look at how bleach tablets can impact toilets can help you make the right decision for your home.
What Are Bleach Tablets?
Bleach tablets are capsules, pellets, or cartridges that contain compressed sodium hypochlorite or similar compounds. These slow-dissolving tablets typically hang over the edge of the toilet bowl or sit unassumingly in the toilet tank. With each flush, the tablet or capsule gradually disperses cleanser into the toilet bowl. The aim of a bleach tablet is to continuously disinfect and deodorize a toilet, thereby keeping the bowl clean and presentable for as long as possible. Considering the unpleasant nature of scrubbing a toilet, it is no wonder that many homeowners use bleach tablets in hopes of keeping their toilet bowls fresh. However, allowing commercial chemicals to sit in your toilet indefinitely often comes at a great cost to your plumbing.
What Are the Potential Perils of Bleach Tablets?
First patented in 1978, bleach tablets have soared in popularity since the 1990s. Along with this heightened popularity, plumbing professionals have noted an increase in problems associated with lavatory toilets and pipes. According to a report from the American Society of Plumbing Engineers (ASPE), 35% of plumbers report a rise in toilet tank corrosion from bleach tablets. In addition, nearly 29% of toilet repair sessions involve flapper damage due to chemical cleaners. Toilet manufacturers also attribute tablet usage to a 22% increase in warranty claims in the past three years. Other risks associated with bleach tablets include deterioration of toilet components, discoloration, clogs, and hazardous fumes.
Deterioration of Rubber and Plastic Parts
As bleach tablets dissolve, the molecules circulate and interact with the plastic and rubber components within your toilet. These components include the gaskets, washers, tank seals, flush valves, and flappers. The constant exposure to bleach and chlorine can cause these parts to warp, become brittle, and otherwise deteriorate prematurely. This can cause all sorts of functional problems. For example, a worn flush valve can cause water to leak continuously into your toilet. This can create a spike in your water bills and exacerbate stress on your pipes. You may notice that the toilet bowl takes a long time to refill or that the toilet lever begins to flush on its own. These are all signs that the rubber portion of the flush valve has deteriorated. Similarly, degraded rubber seals can cause problems like leaks and water damage.
Corrosion of Metal Parts
Bleach tablets can accelerate the corrosion of tank bolts and metal pipes. Flushing a toilet that contains a tablet sends harsh chemicals into the pipe system with every use. These chemicals can cause cracks in already weakened metalwork. The caustic chemicals can also dislodge bolts or cause corroded pipes to burst. This constitutes a plumbing emergency and requires intervention from a professional plumber to fix the issue.
Discoloration of Porcelain
Because bleach normally has a whitening effect, many homeowners believe that using bleach cleaners can help remove stains that arise from calcium, limescale, or mold. However, leaving a bleach tablet in a porcelain bowl can actually cause stains instead. These stains may include striated marks or tan lines from the residue that builds up each time you flush. If you fail to use a toilet brush or clean the bowl with alternative products, the stains can become permanent. Older toilets are particularly susceptible to permanent stains. In this case, you may need to consult with a plumber to replace or upgrade the toilet hardware altogether.
Clogs and Blockages
Once a bleach tablet has eroded the flushing valve and related components, the toilet may fail to flush fully or correctly. This can lead to line blockages that require plumbing equipment to fix. In addition, the cheapest bleach tablets often fail to fully dissolve in water. Instead, the tablet simply breaks apart into large chunks. These chunks then travel into your pipework and create clogs. Tablet pieces or residue can also get stuck in the flush valve itself, impeding operation and requiring a trained plumber to fix the issue.
Bleach tablets that sit in toilets for extended periods of time also emit chemical fumes. These fumes can exacerbate the health problems of people with allergies, asthma, or respiratory illnesses. Furthermore, tablets also increase the risk of your pet’s exposure to chemical poisoning from taking a sip from the toilet bowl. Because many bathrooms are not very well ventilated, fumes can remain concentrated in the same enclosed space for days. The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) advises that people with respiratory problems avoid using these chemicals altogether.
Septic Tank Damage
If you have a septic tank, bleach tablets may disrupt the microbial balance in septic systems. For example, some tablet chemicals kill the anaerobic organisms that help keep your septic tank and drain field healthy. This can result in septic backups and even constitute a health hazard due to the buildup of untreated human waste. Ask your plumber about septic-friendly cleaning products instead.
Loss of Warranty
Unfortunately, using a bleach tablet can also invalidate a manufacturer’s warranty. Many warranties have clear warnings against using bleach tablets or additives. Be sure to check the toilet manual before dropping anything in the bowl or tank.
What Are Signs of Damage From Bleach Tablets?
Using a bleach tablet can impair your toilet and pipe system. Unfortunately, many homeowners do not notice a problem until it is too late. Some signs that indicate toilet damage from bleach tablets can include the following:
- Slow leaks from toilet base
- Persistent stains on porcelain
- Corrosion or rust on bolts and fittings
- Cracked gaskets or flappers
- Unusually low water levels
- Defective fill valve
- Unexplained clogs
- Strange odors from under the tank
If you notice any of these symptoms, discontinue tablet use and reach out to a professional. Problems like leakage or visible moisture damage can require immediate inspection and resealing. If the damage is extensive enough, you may need to replace the fixture. A plumber can also advise on safer cleaning products to preserve the lifespan of your bathroom hardware.
Get Help Today
While it may feel tempting to drop a bleach tablet into your toilet and forget about it, there are better ways to keep your toilet sparkling and clean. Extensive use of bleach tablets can harm your toilet and pipes. If you have already begun to experience plumbing problems, trained professionals can help.
BEST Air Conditioning Plumbing Repair provides plumbing services to households in Las Vegas and surrounding areas. We can complete toilet and fixture diagnostics to get your system running properly in no time. Our plumbers also conduct leak detection, drain cleaning, and drain repair. We use technologically advanced hydro-jetting and camera inspections to do the best job the first time. Whether you have a problem with your septic system or sewer line, our plumbers can help. Contact BEST Air Conditioning Plumbing Repair today for all of your plumbing needs.