Eco-Friendly Alternatives To Bleach.

July 22, 2009 19 Comments

By now I am sure that most of you know that bleach is incredibly toxic to both you and the environment around you. As I have mentioned before, chlorine bleach releases dioxin, furans and other organochlorines into the air, can cause sore throats, coughs, wheezing, shortness of breath, fluid in the lungs and studies have shown a relationship between dioxin exposure and cancer, birth defects, and developmental/reproductive disorders. Sounds like something you should be using to wash your clothes in, right? And although the above is all true, bleach is still the chemical of choice for whiter whites…but there are alternatives that are much safer for your family that you could be using. Let’s take a look at safer bleach alternatives.

First up, you should look at the ingredients in whatever product you use. The following ingredients can be used in varying amounts to whiten and clean your clothes: vinegar, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, oxygen, borax, washing soda, sodium hydrosulfite (salt & water). Do not combine them all together…who knows what would happen! I just wanted to let you know that these ingredients are much safer alternatives to chlorine bleach. Hydrogen peroxide, which sounds the most dangerous of all the above, breaks down into water and oxygen in the wastewater.

Besides making your own versions of whiteners from lemon or vinegar or borax, there are several brands available that come pre-made and ready to use. They are proven to be very effective in getting your clothes whiter while being safe for use around your family.

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Seventh Generation Chlorine Free Bleach – Is color safe, non-toxic, biodegradable, phosphate-free, safe for septic systems and is not tested on animals. Consists of natural oxygen safe bleach, oxygen bleach stabilizer, deionized water.

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Ecover Non-Chlorine Bleach – No chlorine or optical brighteners, completely biodegradable, not tested on animals and is even approved by the Vegan Society. Consists of 100% percarbonate, which is composed of salt, limestone and oxygenated water.

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Bi-O-Kleen Oxygen Bleach Plus – No chemical cold-water activators or optical brighteners, no metasilicates, borax, or caustics, chlorine and borine free.

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Earth Friendly Oxo Brite Non-Chlorine Bleach – Ingredients are sodium percarbonate and sodium carbonate. Free of enzymes, phosphates, chlorine, DEA and petroleum ingredients.

Of course, this post is mostly about bleach alternatives for washing your clothes, but the same type of ingredients can be used to clean your kitchen and/or bathroom. Bon Ami makes a great safe scrubber and vinegar makes a real good mold killer. So the next time you are about to pick up a bottle of bleach, do yourself a favor and try out a bleach alternative…your family and the environment will thank you!

Filed in: Natural Cleaning • Tags: , ,

About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
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Comments (19)

  1. Im sorry you missed Nature Bright by Shaklee. I have been using this product for years and find it makes my whites so very white, and even helps boost colors. It works the best out of all of my green cleaning trials.. And I know I have been cleaning green for more than 12 years trying everything to hit the market.

  2. Trisha Stilley says:

    I operate a boarding, grooming and training kennel and we use bleach by the gallons daily. Bleach is the one disinfectant that kills Parvovirus as well as other life threatening diseases. what is the alternative to in this application?

    • david says:

      I wish I knew the answer to that one Trisha; anyone know anything other than bleach that can do this kind of work?

  3. Adriana — I read that tea tree oil works well on mold when diluted, but unfortunately, I don’t have a source for you. This website has some good sources, and it’s always worth checking out The Canary Report.

    David, I wondered what you thought of laundry bluing, which is blue iron particles suspended in water. The website says it’s safe, but I’ve never met anyone who used it (either that, or we didn’t talk about their laundry…).

  4. Adriana says:

    Personally I find the use of bleach in laundry as pointless and vain as the use of herbicides on those perfectly manicured front lawns. However I do wonder what would you recommend for black mold?

  5. Chris says:

    I, too, would like to find a safer alternative for bleach used as disinfectant as I rarely have need for it in laundry, but use it to clean the turtle aquarium.
    Thanks.

  6. Adriana says:

    Thank you for the advice, I will try the tea tree oil

  7. CJStewart says:

    Hydrogen Peroxide in the bleach dispenser of my washing machine gets our whites super-duper white. :-)

  8. CJStewart says:

    I’ve read that spraying a surface with white vinegar and then spraying with hydrogen peroxide is really effective. I can’t find any of the articles that I’ve read, but I did come across this one: http://tinyurl.com/m6n8aw.

    I use the vinegar/H2O2 combo everywhere. In fact, my son recently broke his arm. Every night we sprayed it with vinegar and then hydrogen peroxide. It never got smelly at all (even though we went camping with temps in the upper 90s); they even commented on the lack of smell when they removed the cast.

    I commented earlier that I use H2O2 in my bleach dispenser. I also use white vinegar in the softener dispenser–our clothes are plenty soft.

  9. Andrew says:

    There are worse things than bleach. Make sure you keep bleach away from reactive plastics and other polymers (unfortunately celulose is a polymer).

    Good for cleaning, cheap and better than some of the alternatives – with their scents and chemicals.

    Plus you dont end up with drug resistant bacteria.

    Still wouldn’t use on any food prouducts in concentrations greater than 0.05% active ingrediant.

    • david says:

      There are worse things than everything; but that doesn’t mean bleach is OK. I prefer to use nontoxic cleaners around me and my house.

  10. Carla Rose says:

    I use vinegar in my wash most of the time as a fabric softener. To keep my towels white, I hang them on the line outside where the sun hits it. I have used Seventh Generation, but it doesn’t really whiten. I will try some of the other cleaning methods and products you mentioned.

  11. Rachel says:

    Trisha – Basic G by Shaklee kills a dozen animal virus’. I would call them to see if parvo is one of them. 1-800-Shaklee

  12. Vinegar has many uses and one of them is one mold. Works wonders on water scales too!

    Someone once told me vodka works on mildew but that sounds expensive. ;)

    Tea tree oil is a great disinfectant for the laundry. Vinegar makes an awesome fabric softener and rids clothes and towels of buildup.

    ~Karla

  13. Sunny says:

    Vinegar is great for disinfecting in the house, and for laundry accept for use on microfiber. The vinegar will soften laundry when used in the rinse cycle. I am currently testing hydrogen peroxide (3%) in the laundry for stain removal. We are stewards of the earth, and we have to do everything we can to preserve it, as well as ourselves. :)

  14. Sunny says:

    Classy Woman – I tried vodka for disinfecting, and it will fade plastic, and is a bit sticky.

  15. Craig says:

    Great post. We’re firm believers that there are alternatives to bleach. Anything that releases a toxic gas when mixed with ammonia or acid should be off the books when cleaning your home.

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