Bleach, for years it has been the go-to solution for whitening laundry and disinfecting our homes. Chlorine bleach whitens our whites, keeps our drains clean and fresh and kills mold and mildew so fast it will make your head spin.
Wait… the spinning you feel is actually not a good thing. Bleach makes your head spin because it’s also a potent respiratory irritant. It’s toxic for the environment and for humans. But who wants gray towels and socks? And nobody wants a bacteria laden bathroom, or worse, kitchen! Fortunately, there are non-chlorine alternatives ranging from commercial to homemade, and they all work without creating a toxic mess.
Reach for a natural laundry detergent that doesn’t contain optical brighteners and go easy on how much you use. Extra soap doesn’t get things cleaner, it just means there’s still soap in your clothes once the rinse cycle is done, and that attracts dirt. You can boost your detergent’s power with baking soda, which will help deodorize and brighten. White vinegar will do the same (and no, your clothes won’t smell like a salad bar). Just a half a cup of either one added to your laundry will do the trick.
Drying laundry on the line is a natural way to keep your whites fresh and bright; it also helps them last longer. If you have dingy whites, boil lemon slices in water, then soak your whites for 30 minutes before laundering to brighten them up. If they just need a bit of a brightening, try adding a cup of juice to your wash.
There are plenty of natural bleach alternatives on the market, look for ingredients like vinegar, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide (a key ingredient in a popular laundry booster), borax and washing soda. All are better choices than chlorine bleach. In fact, you can add any one of the peroxide-based boosters directly to your laundry, or let your clothes soak for extra oomph. Oh, and hydrogen peroxide? It breaks down into water and oxygen.
Your best bet for keeping your whites bright? Proper laundry sorting. If you just must have sparkling bright whites, but don’t want to chlorinate your laundry, make sure you do a load with nothing but pure whites. Use a small amount of soap and your choice of laundry boosters and make sure you don’t overstuff the machine. Add the water and then let your clothes soak for a bit before you run the wash cycle. Hang your whites out to dry in the sun and you’ll have clean, fresh and sparkling bright whites, without any of the harmful effects of chlorine.
What about laundry bluing? Way back when, the way to keep whites bright was to use a bluing product that would counteract the natural yellowing of white fabrics. There isn’t a whole lot of information about any of these products, but the few that still remain do say they are non-toxic and biodegradable. And yes, this is the same stuff you probably used in that science project many years ago when you “grew” crystals.
Don’t stop with the laundry room, though. Ditch the bleach-filled counter sprays and disinfecting wipes for something more environmentally friendly. Today’s market is full of bleach-free cleaners and disinfectants, making going bleach free as easy as a trip to the store, or a quick online purchase.
Vinegar is just as effective at killing mold and mildew as bleach, and it’s certainly less toxic. Lemon juice and baking soda are just as handy in the kitchen and bath as they are in the laundry – they’ll clean and disinfect just about anything except marble (which can be damaged by the acids in the lemon juice).
Give it a shot, say goodbye to bleach today!