What is Hypochlorous Acid? – Why You Should Use It?

Hypochlorous acid is a natural, age-old disinfectant that is used by humans and other animals in white blood cells to fight against infections. It is proven to be one hundred times more effective at killing viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens than standard (artificially manufactured) disinfectants.

Used as an active ingredient in electrolyzed water, hypochlorous acid has a wide variety of applications and uses, particularly in health care settings and as a sanitiser. Its non-toxic qualities and eco-friendliness (no harmful chemicals or fumes, etc.) make this weak but powerful acid a mainstay for many organisations.

The World Health Organization recognises hypochlorous acid as a disinfectant and antiseptic product, which is perfect for use in wound care. Commenting back in December 2020, WHO published the following statement, “HOCl has emerged in the current pandemic as the most potent and environmentally safe disinfectant available and with a wide range of efficacy against many human pathogens, including the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

Read on to learn more about what is hypochlorous acid and why you should use it.

instant sanitiser 1

Dictionary definitions

The following dictionary definitions provide clarity about hypochlorous acid:

  1. Merriam Webster Dictionary – “
    an unstable strongly oxidizing but weak acid HClO obtained in solution along with hydrochloric acid by reaction of chlorine with water and used especially in the form of salts as an oxidizing agent, bleaching agent, disinfectant, and chlorinating agent
  2. Dictionary.com – “
    a weak, unstable acid, HOCl, existing only in solution and in the form of its salts, used as a bleaching agent and disinfectant.
  3. Pubchem (NCBI) – “
    Hypochlorous acid is a chlorine oxoacid with formula HOCl; a weak, unstable acid, it is the active form of chlorine in water.

Abbreviations, acronyms, and alternative names

There are numerous abbreviations, acronyms, and alternative names used to describe hypochlorous acid, which we summarise below:

  • Electrolysed water – this is a term often used interchangeably but is hypochlorous acid charged with hypochlorite ions
  • HClO – this is the official chemical formula for hypochlorous acid
  • HOCl – this is another name for (usually aqueous) hypochlorous Acid

Discovery of hypochlorous acid

Hypochlorous acid was first identified in 1811 by the famous Cornish Inventor and acclaimed Scientist Sir Humphrey Davy (famous for the invention of the Davy lamp). Davy’s student Michael Faraday continued research and isolated/produced HOCl through electrolysis. This was achieved by passing a current through a solution of brine.

The discovery of hypochlorous acid is often incorrectly attributed to French Scientist Antoine Jérôme Ballard, who continued research in 1834. It was Davy though who originally discovered hypochlorous acid back in 1811.

Chemical formula and how it kills

Hypochlorous acid is a chlorine-based oxoacid and has the chemical formula HOCl. It occurs where oxygen connects with both chlorine as well as hydrogen atoms through a single connection. It is an active form of chlorine in water.

Hypochlorous acid kills viruses, bacteria, and pathogens by instantly oxidising the cell wall and rapidly penetrating the cell. Most commercially-manufactured disinfectants kill the RNA or DNA, which is a different method. This approach causes other disinfectants to take longer to work (often over 10 minutes).

Hypochlorous Acid Formula
Hypochlorous acid generation

HOCl kills an extensive range of pathogens including coronaviruses (including COVID-19), E. coli, influenza, listeria, MRSA, norovirus, salmonella, and many others. HOCl also kills moulds and fungi too.

Stabilised hypochlorous acid

Naturally, hypochlorous acid is not stable. This historically caused issues with shelf life and wide-scale use. However, in the past ten years and due to scientific-technological breakthroughs HOCl is now available in its stabilised version. This has led to large-scale adoption worldwide.

Applications and uses

There are a wide variety of applications and uses of hypochlorous acid, it is impractical to list them all, but we summarise some of the most popular applications below:

  • Deodourisation – hypochlorous acid is used to remove foul odours from a variety of sources, e.g., rubbish, rotten food, toilets, etc
  • Healthcare –
    “Hypochlorous acid (HOCl) is the form of free available chlorine that has the highest. bactericidal activity against a broad range of microorganisms.” Source:
    World Health Organization
    • Burns treatment – HOCl is used extensively in treatment of existing infections burns as well as in infection prevention
    • Disinfection and antisepsis – hypochlorous acid is an accredited and powerful disinfectant. In use for over one hundred years (HOCl was used to disinfect in World War 1), HOCl kills a variety of pathogens upon contact
    • Fungal treatment – HOCl treats a range of fungal infections such as athletes foot and even internal yeast infections
    • Skincare – kind to skin, HOCl can be used to treat acne, eczema, and the effects of maskne
    • Wound care – hypochlorous acid has strong microbicidal, antibiofilm, and wound healing capabilities. Used in military field hospitals, operating theatres, and after piercings, HOCl is perfect for wound treatment and infection prevention
Surgical Operating Theatre
Hypochlorous acid is used as a disinfectant and for surface cleaning/preparation in surgical operating theatres

Hypochlorous acid is used as a disinfectant and for surface cleaning/preparation in surgical operating theatres

  • Sanitiser – due to its disinfectant qualities, HOCI is used as a sanitiser in several ways:
    • Hand cleansing – HOCl is used in hand sanitisers to protect against a range of pathogens and has been particularly used to fight COVID-19
    • Surface preparation and cleaning – e.g., in hospitals, restaurants, operating theatres, and food manufacturing
  • Water treatment – such as in swimming pools and also in wastewater treatment

Many of the articles in our news section relate to hypochlorous acid. We are enthusiastic about the use of HOCI, which is why it is the active ingredient used in our MIST-IFY product range. The following articles are all related to hypochlorous acid:

  1. https://colermedical-ppe.com/can-hypochlorous-acid-be-used-as-a-hand-sanitiser/
  2. https://colermedical-ppe.com/everything-you-should-know-about-hypochlorous-acid-disinfectant/
  3. https://colermedical-ppe.com/why-use-a-hypochlorous-acid-hand-sanitiser/
  4. https://colermedical-ppe.com/five-applications-and-uses-of-hypochlorous-acid/
  5. https://colermedical-ppe.com/can-i-use-hypochlorous-acid-as-a-cleaner/
  6. https://colermedical-ppe.com/how-are-hypochlorous-acid-products-manufactured/
  7. https://colermedical-ppe.com/what-types-of-hypochlorous-acid-dispensers-are-there/
  8. https://colermedical-ppe.com/sanitiser-and-ppe-products-glossary-of-terms-part-one/
  9. https://colermedical-ppe.com/sanitiser-and-ppe-products-glossary-of-terms-part-two/

Hypochlorous acid FAQs

Listed below are a range of frequently asked questions relating to hypochlorous acid. We will add to this over time, please feel free to contact us with additional FAQs you may need answers to.

Is hypochlorous acid safe to use?

Absolutely, yes! Hypochlorous acid is entirely safe for humans and to use in veterinary settings. This acid is 100% natural (produced in white blood cells), is non-toxic and requires no chemicals. Its formulation is quite simple, its properties are as simple as water, salt, and electricity.

Is hypochlorous acid harmful to the environment?

No, hypochlorous acid is safe for the environment and eliminates harmful chemicals, residues and fumes produced by other disinfectants. It is non-toxic and helps to destroy viruses, bacteria, and pathogens that threaten health.

Why not contact Coler Medical PPE?

Hypochlorous acid really is a miracle product, and we are sure that you will have learned much about hypochlorous acid from the content above. To learn even more, read the Coler Medical PPE news section, which has many other related articles.

For any further questions, please call us on +44 (0) 1827 794 294, send an email to info@colermedical-ppe.co.uk or complete our contact form here.

Image Credits: Wikipedia and Vithas Vigo