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Chlorine-based bleach is applied as a disinfectant very effective for the deactivation of pathogenic microorganisms (bacteria and viruses) in drinking water, swimming pool water and wastewater. It does so by breaking the chemical bonds in their molecules. Disinfectants that are used for this purpose consist of chlorine compounds which can exchange atoms with other compounds, such as enzymes in bacteria and other cells. When enzymes contacts with chlorine, one or more hydrogen atoms in the molecule are replaced by chlorine. This causes the entire molecule to change shape or fall apart. When enzymes cease to function, a cell or bacterium will die.
In addition to this, chlorine can be also used to bleach things like clothes and paper. Chlorine’s ‘bleaching effect’ is due to chlorine or hypochlorite oxidation. Bleach is actually chlorine gas dissolved in an alkali-solution, such as sodium hydroxide (NaOH). When chlorine is dissolved in an alkaline solution, hypochlorite ions (OCl-) are formed during an autoredox reaction Cl2 + H2O -> HOCl + H+ + Cl- . For example, chlorine reacts with sodium hydroxide to sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl). This is a very good disinfectant with a stable effect. Bleaching powder (CaOCl2) is another alternative, produced by passing chlorine through calcium hydroxide (CaOH).