WaterStep has developed a portable device that uses electrolysis to produce bleach from just salt, water and electricity. The resulting solution can be used as a medical disinfectant and to decontaminate water for drinking.

The BleachMaker is a small, portable device that can produce bleach to be used as a disinfectant. Using just water and table salt, the device can generate approximately five litres of bleach per hour. It can be powered using any 12V DC power source, such as a car battery, and is small enough to carry in a backpack, making it convenient to use where needed. Through electrolysis, the BleachMaker can produce bleach with a 0.5% concentration of sodium hypochlorite, which is considered sufficient for medical use by the World Health Organisation. If kept in a sealed container, the bleach solution has a two-week shelf-life.

Bleach has two important applications. First, it can be used as a medical disinfectant for use in hospitals and clinics – it is highly effective at killing off bacteria, fungi and viruses. Second, diluted bleach is an easy way to produce safe drinking water in instances where boiling and other filtering methods are not available. In addition, despite having a bad reputation, plain, unscented household bleach has little environmental impact because it usually breaks down into salt water.

The BleachMaker was developed in 2014 by WaterStep, in the wake of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, and launched in 2016. It is available for purchase on the company’s online store for $250.

Why you should care

According to the 2018 SDG report, 870,000 people died in 2016 as a result of unsafe water or poor sanitation and hygiene. Although household bleach is considered to be affordable and widespread, in many countries it remains expensive to buy, ship and store. This is particularly problematic in countries affected by conflict and natural disasters. The BleachMaker is a simple and affordable solution allowing bleach to be produced where it is needed, using easily accessible ingredients.

How the Global Goals are addressed

No poverty

The BleachMaker can help people in lesser developed areas build resilience to vulnerable situations, like climate-related disasters and conflict, by safeguarding access to drinking water and sanitation.

Good health and well-being

Access to medical grade disinfectant is important for preventing the transmission of communicable diseases.

Clean water and sanitation

In 2015, 29% of the global population still lacked access to clean drinking water. BleachMaker is a portable and affordable device for disinfecting water for drinking.