Sodium Hypochlorite: Structure, Uses & Formula

Sodium Hypochlorite: Structure, Uses & Formula
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  • 0:01 What is Sodium Hypochlorite?
  • 1:15 Uses
  • 3:50 Precautions & Hazards
  • 4:53 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nissa Garcia

Nissa has a masters degree in chemistry and has taught high school science and college level chemistry.

When our favorite white T-shirt gets badly stained, we reach for our favorite laundry detergent that contains bleach. The bleaching agent present in the detergent is a chemical called sodium hypochlorite, which is the focus of our discussion in this lesson.

What is Sodium Hypochlorite?

When our favorite articles of clothing get stained, and when we need to clean our bathrooms, we reach for our laundry detergent household cleaners that contain bleach.


The main constituent of household bleach is a chemical called sodium hypochlorite. Sodium hypochlorite is a strong oxidizing agent in liquid form and is greenish or yellowish in color. It is commonly referred to as bleach because it is the active ingredient in bleach. Its chemical formula is NaClO, composed of one sodium (Na) atom, one chlorine (Cl) atom and one oxygen (O) atom. Its chemical structure shows that the hypochlorite ion (ClO-) has an ionic bond with the sodium (Na+) ion.

Sodium Hypochlorite Structure

Sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) is produced by a process known as the Hooker process, which is the method used for a large-scale production of NaClO. In the Hooker process, sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is exposed to chlorine gas (Cl2). Along with sodium hypochlorite, the reaction between these two substances produces sodium chloride (NaCl) and water (H2O):

Sodium Hypochlorite Production


Sodium hypochlorite is most commonly known as the bleach that is present in our household cleaners. However, it has other uses as well. In this section, let us discuss some uses for sodium hypochlorite.

Household Bleach & Stain Removal

The most common application for sodium hypochlorite is its use as the active ingredient in bleach. The majority of the sodium hypochlorite that is produced is for use as household bleach, which commonly contains 5% sodium hypochlorite.

Bleach is used for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces in our homes, such as toilets, floors, and counters. Whenever we encounter stains on our clothes and sheets, bleach is the way to go to remove these stubborn stains.

Bleach Cleaner and Stain Removal

Disinfectant & Water Treatment

Sodium hypochlorite is a very effective disinfectant. In the foodservice industry, it can be used to sanitize kitchen utensils and equipment used for food processing. In our own homes, the use of sodium hypochlorite is highly effective to eliminate various types of bacteria and viruses.

Sodium hypochlorite is also used for water treatment - it is a very effective substance used to disinfect water to eliminate bacteria and microorganisms, which helps in preventing the transmission of waterborne diseases. This is used in various industrial applications to prevent bacteria and slime formation, and it is also useful to disinfect swimming pools. Sometimes, sodium hypochlorite is added to wastewater to reduce odors.

Food Industry and Pool Cleaning

Dentistry & Skin

Have you ever had root canal treatments? Sodium hypochlorite solutions of concentrations ranging from 0.5 to 5% are used by dentists as an irrigating agent for root canal treatments. This is to help prevent bacterial infection and to dissolve the dead tissue.

Solutions that contain 0.005% of sodium hypochlorite can also help in treating eczema, which causes skin to become irritated and inflamed. Sodium hypochlorite solution can also help in the prevention of skin damage caused by radiation and sun exposure. This is because the solution blocks the activity of the molecule responsible for inflammation and aging.

Dentistry and Skin Care

Neutralize Nerve Agents

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