The manufacturing of bleach has come a long way since the early years of the First Industrial Revolution. Back in 1799, Scottish chemist Charles Tennant patented a lime powder that was manufactured by treating lime with water, spread thinly over the concrete floor. Chlorine gas was then pumped into the room and absorbed by the lime. This development of bleaching powder as a source of chlorine by Tennant revolutionized bleaching processes in the textile industry and led to a prolific expansion in the production of more stable, high quality bleaches.
Today, there are numerous chemical companies that produce sodium hypochlorite bleach to meet the increasing worldwide demand of whitening and disinfecting applications. Though the basic chemistry for manufacturing bleach is a matter of common knowledge within the field of chemical engineering, the manufacturing process is quite the opposite. The specific processes of production can be varied, quite complex, and involve numerous patents.
One of the leaders in the industry is Olin Corporation. Olin has been involved in the U.S. chlor alkali industry for more than 100 years and is the 3rd largest producer in the North American chlor alkali market. The Chlor Alkali Products Division manufactures chlorine and caustic soda, sodium hydrosulfite, hydrochloric acid, hydrogen, potassium hydroxide and bleach products. Olin is in fact the largest producer in North America for industrial bleach with 10 plants located across North America. Recently, Olin spent $11.8 million expanding its bleach production at the Augusta, GA; Charleston, TN; and Niagara Falls, NY, plants. These expansions increased capacity; doubling the number of truck-loading stations, and introduced new production and filtration equipment, storage tanks, controls, infrastructure, and other related equipment.