Hypochlorous acid (HOCl), the active ingredient of household bleach, is the most common disinfectant in medical, industrial, and domestic use and plays an important role in microbial killing in the innate immune system. Given the critical importance of the antimicrobial properties of chlorine to public health, it is surprising how little is known about the ways in which bacteria sense and respond to reactive chlorine species (RCS). Although the literature on bacterial responses to reactive oxygen species (ROS) is enormous, work addressing bacterial responses to RCS has begun only recently. Transcriptomic and proteomic studies now provide new insights into how bacteria mount defenses against this important class of antimicrobial compounds. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge, emphasizing the overlaps between RCS stress responses and other more well-characterized bacterial defense systems, and identify outstanding questions that represent productive avenues for future research. © Copyright ©2013 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved.