When I started to notice mold and mildew on the white siding of my home, I knew that bleach would probably be the best way to clean it off. That got me thinking, would my hand-pump garden sprayer work, or should I look for a different type of sprayer? I decided to do some research and put my garden sprayer to the test using bleach. Here is what I learned.
A hand pump sprayer or backpack sprayer can be used to spray bleach. However, bleach can degrade the pump over time and different sprayers will work better than others. The type of materials the pump is constructed with, the sprayer type, and the concentration of bleach used will all factor into how the sprayer holds up to bleach.
Before you grab your sprayer and fill it with bleach, we should examine what types of sprayers will work best with bleach, what percentage of bleach is ok to use, and how to make your sprayer last as long as possible when using it with bleach.
Will Bleach Damage a Sprayer?
Bleach will have negative effects on many different materials. Therefore, the first thing to consider is the materials that make up your sprayer.
If you have a sprayer with any metal components, using a bleach solution will lead to corrosion and rust. Even stainless steel will be affected over time. For a dedicated bleach sprayer, It is best to avoid metal tanks, spray wands, valves, etc.
You may not have any issues using bleach in a sprayer with metal components for single use. Just be sure to flush and clean the sprayer thoroughly after you are done.
Bleach also has an effect on plastics and rubbers as well. Most of the common rubber materials used for seals and o-rings in sprayers will be ok for bleach, but over time materials like EPDM or Buna/Nitrile can be affected to the point where your sprayer will leak. If you plan to use your garden or backpack sprayer with bleach, be sure that it has materials suited for bleach.
Materials to Avoid with Bleach: brass, aluminum, stainless steel, carbon steel, & nylon.
Best Materials for Use with Bleach: polypropylene, Viton, PVC, & polyethylene
How My Garden Sprayer Held Up to Bleach
Before I went ahead and used my hand pump sprayer, I reached out to the manufacturer to find out what materials make up the seals, tank, hose, and wand in my specific model. They explained to me that the tank is made of polyethylene, the hose is PVC, and the wand is also poly. According to Cole Parmer’s chemical compatibility database, these materials will hold up well to bleach, the pump rod in the sprayer is actually galvanized steel. This is less than ideal with bleach but since it does not come into contact with the liquid in the tank, it should not be affected.
I was able to Use My 2-gallon solo sprayer to spray bleach with no issues. But I was curious to see how long it would take for any effects of bleach to start showing up. Using bleach one time and then rinsing your sprayer will result in very limited effect from the bleach. I wanted to get an idea of the long-term effects that bleach would have.
I decided to do a stress test. I put bleach (6% sodium hypochlorite) straight from the bottle into my sprayer. Then, I primed the pump and sprayed with it to make sure that there was bleach throughout the entire hose and spray wand. Then I stored the sprayer in a safe place.
After two weeks I attempted to use the sprayer again it worked just fine. There was no noticeable effect from the bleach.
Testing Sprayer Components with Bleach
In addition to testing the effects of bleach on my own sprayer. I wanted to get an idea of what common household bleach (6% sodium hypochlorite) would do to different types of rubber or plastics, so I decided to test out some different pieces I had available. I cut a small piece of the braided nylon hose on my ATV sprayer and I took a small Viton o-ring, an EPDM gasket, and a piece of PVC hose. I put them in a container and submerged them in bleach.
After 10 days I examined the items for any damage or negative effects. There was virtually no effect from the bleach on the Viton o-ring, the EPDM gasket was slightly enlarged, but still flexable and it sealed up fine when put back inside the coupler it came from. The hoses were most effected, and even that was minimal. The nylon hose was slightly stiffer and harder. The PVC hose was less flexable and stiffer but not brittle.
In the image below the items that were submerged in bleach are shown below. Starting from the left you will see the Viton o-ring, EPDM gasket, braided nylon hose, and finally the PVC hose.
What Sprayers Will Work Best With Bleach?
Ideally, a sprayer for bleach will have a polyethylene tank with Viton o-rings and seals. The spray wand would be made of polypropylene. There are many other materials that will be ok to use but would not last as long. The Solo hand sprayer that I have is no longer available, but they do have a 2-gallon sprayer that is constructed of materials that you can use with bleach as well as herbicides, fertilizers, and more. You can check the current price here: Solo 430-2 Gallon Farm & Garden Sprayer.
Be Safe While Using Bleach With a Pump Sprayer
Bleach can cause severe damage to you skin, eyes, and lungs. You should be very careful when handling and pouring it into a sprayer. Also, remember to be mindful of where you spray it, a slight breeze can result in drift.
Breathing protection, eye protection, and the use of gloves is highly recommended. If you get bleach on your skin rinse it off with fresh water asap.
You can also use a backpack sprayer to apply bleach however since you carry it on your back, a leak in a backpack sprayer is more likely to get on your body than using a hand pump sprayer.
Bleach is a useful cleaner, but it can be harmful to people and hard on equipment. But as long as you are safe and your hand pump sprayer made with bleach compatable seals and materials it is ok to use it to spray bleach. Remember to prevent long term wear and tear, flush your sprayer with fresh water after each use.