Chemical Formulas and Trademarked Names / Brands

Heather says:

After reading some of the comments on last week’s Quick Tip from and Q-Tips, I began to realize that I may have inadvertently caused some confusion.

Reading some of the responses to my admonition to never mix chlorine bleach and ammonia made me realize that some people are confusing the trademark Clorox with with the chemical NaOCl. When I say not to mix bleach and ammonia I am referring to the chemical compound sodium hypochlorite. Sodium hypochlorite reacts violently with ammonia (NH3) producing chlorine gas as one of the byproducts.

Not all bleaches are sodium hypochlorite, sodium percarbonate is also known as oxygen bleach. Its chemical formula is Na2CO3·1.5H2O2, do you see what’s not in this formula? If you said chlorine, you’re exactly right, give yourself one Internetz. Bleach is a generic term for a chemical that destroys color, there are bleaching agents everywhere, including toothpastes and acne medication.

What has happened is many people hear Clorox and immediately think chlorine bleach. Chlorine bleach is simply one product manufactured by the company. When a product now says with the cleaning power of Clorox, this can mean any number of things, but it is not necessarily indicitave of the presence of sodium hypochlorite. Read the label and pay attention to the active ingredients before deciding whether or not a product is safe for a specific application.



  1. Joquena on May 29, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    We’ve been using cloth handkerchiefs for months now, and I feel the word Kleenex is interchangeable… but it really confuses my husband apparently.

    • HeatherSolos on May 30, 2012 at 7:59 am

       @Joquena exactly. Technically we should call anything other than a Kleenex brand facial tissue a “facial tissue” or, in your case, a handkerchief. That’s actually one of the big pitfalls of trademarking something. You can lose a trademark if the use of the trademark becomes overwhelmingly part of the vernacular as a reference to a range of things. (I’m not a lawyer, nor do I  study intellectual property, that’s just my layman’s understanding)

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.