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Oh no! Bleach in my paints!

TTonight's Compost, ink & watercolor (& Bleach!)
Tonight's Compost, ink & watercolor (& Bleach!)

I was feeling so proud of myself for finally setting up a compost bin for food scraps and thought tonight’s red bell pepper contribution looked pretty enough to paint. After I drew the contents in ink, I grabbed what I thought was a spray bottle of water and sprayed all the colors in my palette to wet them. Then I smelled the bleach.

Refusing to believe there could be bleach in there since I remembered emptying the bottle and washing all the bleach out,  I sniffed the contents, and stupidly even tasted the end of the sprayer tube, convinced it must be water. Nope, it still had bleach in it and now I have the taste of bleach in my mouth, even after a cup of cinnamon tea.

Finally I remembered that I’d “temporarily” re-filled the spray bottle with a bleach/water mixture again when I needed to spray something to de-germ it, and that time, hadn’t emptied it.

The next day

Although I painted this sketch with the bleachified paint, I decided it wasn’t worth taking the chance to continue using the paint. I soaked my palette overnight in the sink, and then used paper towels to soak up and scoop out the big blobs of paint remaining.

And now I have a nice clean palette, filled with nice fresh watercolor paint. And I used the spray bottle of bleach mixture to clean the sink afterward. The sink is nice and white. And the bottle is now marked “BLEACH!”

21 replies on “Oh no! Bleach in my paints!”

actually, I would be curious to see how that would come out, to put a little bleach in the water. Might be a nice, white wash effect? I’d like to try it with acrylics, as long as it wouldn’t give off some kind of noxious gasses…


It might look interesting but my concern would be that that bleach would damage the paper. Considering how nice and white it made the sink after it was rainbow colored from cleaning the palette, my guess is that it would do the same to the paint. It’s really stinky too. I’ve used alcohol with acrylics and watercolor. It makes interesting splotchy texture with watercolor and erases acrylics. Jana


Jana, I even have a Word document that makes “DANGEROUS / scull & cross-bones” type labels for all the bottles I have filled with things not-to-be-expected!

Bleach is only one of them! lol.

Also ammonia and detergent, rubbing alcohol…

The lid to every rubbing alcohol container (yes, I use bottles that once held nasal spray!) is painted bright red with nail polish IN ADDITION to the red duct tape replacing the original labels. (I remove the aerators, so they become dropper bottles.)

Your friend who labels pencils!


How brilliant to have labels ready to stick on and to use red nail polish which I don’t have, but I bet a dab of acrylics would work. But now I’m curious about what you use the dropper bottles of alcohol for? Art purposes? And how do you convert an aerator into a dropper? Intriguing. Jana


Well, I printed out a bunch more labels after reading your post! I checked out my chemicals and found two unlabeled bottles!

I use alcohol primarily for cleaning things, most often for removing SHARPIE from relatively non-porous surfaces. In fact, it is the propensity of alcohol to remove Sharpie that requires the use of something ELSE to mark those containers.

I keep one dropper bottle of alcohol in my desk, one in my art stuff, one in the master bathroom… They all get used for removing Sharpie marks, of course, but the one in the bathroom also gets to do its antiseptic thing. lol.

I pull the nose piece out of the squeeze bottle, remove the small straw from the nose piece, clean everything thoroughly (in alcohol, of course!), let everything dry, and put whatever liquid I want into the bottle. Then I put the nose piece back into the top, put the lid on, and label.

I DO use squeeze bottles for painting with watercolor. They are great for delivering exactly one drop of water someplace, much faster than using a brush to transfer water to dried paint on the palette, and great for creating small ‘bubbles’ of water on my palette so that I have a place to dip just the tip of my brush or to pull water from the bubble to the area where I’m mixing… I also use the squeeze bottle as a source of clean water when I’m in sketching mode. I bring two containers: a 4 oz squeeze bottle filled with water and a 2 oz used pill bottle (white, watertight) about 2/3 filled with clean water. I use the lid of the used pill bottle as my clean water, body of the pill bottle as my rinse water, and then I have the following options. 1) To clean a brush that is really full of paint, I often wipe first on a paper towel, then rinse (over the ground) with a stream from the dropper bottle, and THEN rinse in the pill bottle. 2) When my clean water gets dirty, I pour it into the pill bottle. This is particularly useful in places where I can’t just dump water on the ground.

Also, when I’m particularly ‘down,’ I often use my dropper bottle to ‘water my palettes.’ Sort of soothing. I open them all up, put them on flat surfaces, and add water drop by drop until the paint has become soft again. (The only paints that never get this treatment are the St. Petersburg / White Nights / Yarka set. They never get really dry. Also M. Graham, with its honey, never really dries out on my palette.) This is especially useful if I want to paint with the Cotman pan paint set … when the pan paints run out, I will replace them with DS allowed to dry in the pans! The Cotman pan paints just dry VERY hard and often take 2 or 3 rounds of watering before they become useful.



I have to admit I considered just buying a new one instead of spending an hour cleaning the old one, but considering the whole adventure started with my efforts to compost and recycle, that seemed rather counter productive! Jana


I first read the title as ‘bleach in my pants’ !!! Thank goodness it was only in your paints. LOL. You’ve managed to make a less than inspiring subject into a lovely work of art – well done on the composting too – I’m a firm believer! x


Haha! Though that has happened before, but in the laundry thank goodness, not when I was wearing them. I splashed bleach on a favorite pair of jeans (back in the day before splotchy, holey jeans were considered attractive). Jana


Sadly it was a lot of paint since I’d just refilled the palette a few weeks before. But I did try to avoid letting too much paint go down the drain since there were a couple of cadmiums in there. I’ve now replaced the cadmiums in my watercolor palette with my favorite transparent pigments instead. Jana


More disturbing than the bleach, is that your compost container appears to be a see-through container. The inside of a compost container is not something you will want to be seeing!


Funny! Actually I like seeing it, I find it really interesting to look at. And since my big recycling bin is just outside my kitchen door, I can empty my little one easily every day. Jana


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