Chlorine bleach is one of the most polarizing cleaning products. Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF A&E / Via giphy.com People either love it and use it in every room of the house, or are completely terrified of it. And you know what? Both sides have a point. On the one hand, household bleach is incredibly useful both as a disinfectant and a laundry booster. On the other, it can be extremely dangerous, both to your health and your belongings when used incorrectly. So, I'm here to set the record straight and give you all the information you need to determine whether or not you want to incorporate bleach into your cleaning routine. Here's everything you need to know about using bleach in your home: 1. Chlorine bleach can whiten, brighten, deodorize, and remove stains from fabric. Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Clorox In Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House, Cheryl Mendelson explains that if you have a high-efficiency washer, the machine will dilute bleach (just pour it to the max line!) and incorporate it into the cycle when appropriate. If you don't have a high-efficiency machine, add the bleach and detergent while the basin fills, then add your clothes. An alternative solution is a bit more complicated, but will have better results: Dilute the bleach in warm water, then add it to the basin five minutes into the cycle. This will give the detergent time to work first and will reduce the risk of any splotchy bleach marks. 2. But some fabrics are too delicate for bleach, even when it has been properly diluted. Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF NBC / Via giphy.com Wool, silk, mohair, leather, nylon, and spandex are all too delicate for bleach. 3. Don't use bleach to remove protein stains. Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Disney / Via giphy.com Protein stains are stains produced by anything that comes out of your body (blood, sweat, semen, etc) or by animal byproducts, gelatin, and baby food. Using chlorine bleach to remove protein stains will only turn those already upsetting stains yellow. Instead, scrape off as much of the substance as you can with a blunt knife or paper towel, then soak the garment in cold water to pretreat the stain, then stick it in the wash with an oxygen bleach like OxiClean.Get OxiClean from Amazon for $12.89. 4. Flood your kitchen sink with bleach to sanitize it. Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Clorox The sink is one of the most germ-ridden spots in your kitchen, so it's important to properly clean it. First, wash the sink with hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly — you should definitely do this every time you cook because it gets dirty fast. Then, flood it with diluted bleach (about one teaspoon of bleach to one quart of water). Finally, make sure to wipe all sides of the sink with a clean rag, and drain after a few minutes — don't rinse out the bleach, just let it air dry or pat it down with paper towels. This process will also sanitize your drain so it doesn't stink to high heaven. Mendelson recommends sanitizing your sink once or twice a week. 5. Soak your sponges in bleach to clear out any microorganisms that have taken up residence. Andreas HÃ¤uslbetz / Getty Images Mendelson says to either toss or sanitize your kitchen sponge every time you use it to clean up meat, fish, or poultry. Even if you aren't cleaning up potentially hazardous materials, sponges are still ridden with bacteria so doing this once a week or so is definitely a good idea. After washing them thoroughly with hot, soapy water to get rid of any food residue, soak them in a solution of 3/4 cup of bleach and a gallon of water for five minutes. Rinse them and let them air dry. 6. Use bleach to sanitize anything that's come in contact with raw food. Fotek / Getty Images Thomas Benzoni, an ER doctor and expert on the toxicity of bleach, explains to BuzzFeed that sanitizing cooking surfaces and utensils that have made contact with uncooked meat or poultry will prevent the spread of food-borne illnesses like salmonella and E. coli. Whether it's a chopping board or cooking utensil, make sure to wash it with hot soapy water, then soak in a bleach solution for a few minutes before rinsing off and letting it air dry. 7. Use bleach to sanitize surfaces and remove mold or mildew. Ruslandashinsky / Getty Images Dilute the bleach (about two gallons of warm water for every cup of bleach), flood or wipe the surface with the solution, and let it soak for at least five minutes. As a precaution, you should wear gloves, leave the doors or windows open to ventilate, and keep kids or pets out of the room while working with bleach. Then, rinse and dry it off. Here are a few objects that can be sanitized with bleach:— Porcelain, ceramic, fiberglass, enamel-painted woodwork, and walls.— Changing tables, cribs, high chairs, washable toys, and diaper pails.— Pet crates, bowls, and toys.— Stoves, refrigerators, and indoor garbage cans. 8. But avoid using bleach on metal fixtures or colored grout. Cameronaynsmith / Getty Images Stainless steel will be fine as long as you don't leave the bleach on for too long but it can be too corrosive for non-stainless steel, copper, aluminum, or silver. While it's great for brightening plain grout, chlorine bleach will degrade colored grout so work around it if you're disinfecting your backsplash or floor tile. 9. Do a spot test with a drop of bleach if you're worried about ruining the countertops or your favorite pair of pants. Clorox Instead of trying to memorize an entire list of stuff that reacts poorly, Mendelson suggests applying the diluted bleach to an inconspicuous area, leaving it on for a minute, and dabbing it away with a clean cloth. If the surface color changes or the cloth picks up color, the item is not bleach-fast, and you'll want to avoid using it in the future. 10. Never mix bleach with ammonia or other cleaning agents as doing so can create chlorine gas which can damage your eyes, throat, and lungs. Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF FOX / Via giphy.com "If you inhale chlorine gas into your lungs, it kills the top layer of cells in your lungs," says Benzoni. He explains that a few drops of dish soap in diluted bleach can help cut through grease, but that mixing it with anything else can create an unnecessary danger. If you are incorporating bleach into a cleaning routine, rinse between steps to ensure that the it doesn't react to any other product. 11. Accidentally swallowing household beach isn't necessarily life-threatening because it's already quite diluted. Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Disney / Via giphy.com According to Benzoni, most household bleach is only 3-5% bleach. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention actually recommends adding a few drops of household bleach (about eight drops per gallon) to drinking water to kill off any pathogens in the aftermath of a natural disaster. "Poison Control will tell you that if you ingest it, it's probably best left alone. No need to rush to the hospital. You won't need to get your stomach pumped or take a bunch of drugs — just drink some water or milk to help dilute it," says Benzoni. That being said, drinking more than half a cup is a cause for concern, and should be addressed by a professional. In any case, it's always best to call the Poison Help hotline (1-800-222-1222) if you or someone else swallows bleach. 12. Store bleach in a high, dark cupboard in its original packaging. Golfx / Getty Images Just because it won't kill you, doesn't mean it'll make you stronger. As tempting as it may be to pour the bleach into a container that's a little less bulky, doing so may confuse your family members or housemates. Make sure to keep it on a high shelf out of reach of small children in a cool cupboard (somewhere between 50 and 70 degrees). 13. Bleach goes bad after a few months so be sure to replace it regularly. Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Sony / Via giphy.com Chlorine bleach breaks down over time into salt water, which is good news for the environment — to dispose of bleach, you can just flush it down the toilet. However, that also means that bleach begins to lose its potency as a sanitizer after about three months (you can locate the packaged date code on the side of the bottle). If you're only using bleach in laundry, it should work fine for six months or until it loses its strong scent when you open the bottle. 14. Be wary of over-using bleach, as raising kids in a totally sterilized home may do more harm than good. Grinvalds / Getty Images If you're regularly scrubbing your home down with bleach to keep your home "germ-free", you may be doing more harm than good. The hygiene hypothesis (or the microbiome hypothesis) is the idea that because kids in industrialized countries are growing up in such sterile environments, their immune systems aren't learning what they should attack or shouldn't attack. "We think that there might be such a rise of asthma and immune-related disorders in children because, in the past 23 years, people have gotten hyper-vigilant about keeping their houses sterile," says Benzoni. 15. And cleaning with bleach frequently may cause or worsen asthma. Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF Tap to play or pause GIF ABC / Via giphy.com Scientists at Harvard University and the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research carried out a 30-year study of several thousands of nurses to study the respiratory effects of regularly using disinfectants. In most cases, even weekly use of disinfectants (bleach, hydrogen peroxide, and enzymatic cleaners) exacerbated asthma, but the effects were particularly worse for those that used bleach several times a week. That's not to say you shouldn't ever use bleach — again, these are nurses that use a lot of bleach over the course of decades — but that you should limit your usage, and always work in a well ventilated area.