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Monday, October 3, 2011

Alternatives to Chlorine Bleach for Cleaning


Reasons not to Use Bleach for Cleaning
  • It is caustic and when mixed with other cleaners, such as ammonia it produces a toxic gas. In fact chlorine gas is so caustic it has been used in chemical warfare from WW I to Vietnam to the Iraqi War
  • It deteriorates your clothing, eating away at the fibers
  • Chlorine loses its effectiveness in just the first 90 days inside a never opened jug or container. Chlorine constantly escapes through the plastic walls of its containers.
  • Chlorine is a key component of DIOXIN.  One of the earliest findings of dioxin's toxicity in animals was that it caused birth defects in mice at very low levels. This finding led to dioxin being characterized as "one of the most potent teratogenic environmental
    . The first evidence that dioxin causes cancer came from several animal studies completed in the late 1970's.
What are our Alternatives to Bleach for Cleaning?
There are many alternatives to bleach when cleaning. So many of them are versatile and can be used for more than just laundry too. There are safer alternatives such as borax or vinegar which don't produce dangerous fumes or leave behind toxic residue. For these reasons try to avoid using bleach and if you must use it, only use it on non-porous surfaces.
Borax can be used as a deodorizer as well as to cleaning toilets and drains. Borax is also used as an insecticide, herbicide and fungicide and it can be mixed with water in a solution to kill and remove mold as it is a natural mold inhibitor. Borax is found in the laundry aisle and is cost effective too.  I personally use this in my laundry, but the more I learn about it the more versatile it is. Last spring we had plenty of rain and it caused mold growth in our basement. We used diluted bleach but we were not able to work for long. I have since found out that the bleach does not penetrate the sheet rock, so the roots regrow again. Now I know why the mold came back. Next time we get a mold bloom I will be sure to use Borax.


Vinegar is a mild acid and is even effective at killing l 82% of mold species. It has a long history of use as an antiseptic but has the the advantages of being natural and safe. Vinegar is non-toxic and doesn't give off dangerous fumes like more caustic bleach. It is strong enough to be used to clean my counters, yet gentle enough to be used in my hair.  Back in the so called dark days of medicine, the medieval ages, vinegar was used as the primary antiseptic. 

Hydrogen Peroxide
Before last week I never considered using Hydrogen Peroxide for cleaning, but I happened upon this post on Stacey Makes Cents has a post about cleaning with it, and I ran across another post here on using hydrogen peroxide for cleaning. When you think of it it makes sense in more ways than one. Oxy Clean and other oxygen cleaners are basically hydrogen peroxide. We use hydrogen peroxide to clean our wounds. So why not use it to clean our houses? It is safe enough to use on our food and surfaces where we prepare food yet it is effective enough to kill mold, mildew, bacteria and

Baking Soda
Baking soda is one of my go –to cleaners. It makes a great abrasive when you need to scrub things. Baking soda is great for deodorizing too.  When the laundry is particularly stinky I will add some baking soda to it.  I use it regularly in my toilets and in scrubbing porcelain sinks, even though it is abrasive it is fairly mild too.

Tea Tree Oil
I could rasp poetically about tea tree oil.  I include it in my homemade cleaners Tea tree oil is an essential oil which is harmless to people and pets. Tea tree oil is antifungal, capable of killing all types of molds. Tea tree oil is antibacterial as well. I make sure to put some in stinky loads of laundry or on stinky pets. Who are usually stinky from rolling in something dead. Kill those microbes.
You can buy tea tree oil for about $10 for a small bottle from most natural food stores. Make sure the tea tree oil you buy is derived from the Melaleuca Alternifolia, which is the technical name for tea tree, as not all brands always are.

The Sun
When it comes to laundry and your whites, the sun is one of the best bleaching agents ever. It miraculously  gets your diapers and towels clean. That with a little vinegar in my washing machine do the trick.  If you don't believe me about the sun's bleaching effects try this experiment. Take a piece of construction paper and lay a leaf on it in the sun, come back a few hours later and remove the leaf. This is an age old tradition of sun printing.

What is your favorite bleach alternative?

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Andrea @ The Greenbacks Gal said...

I needed this! Thanks for linking it to Your Green Resource.

Anonymous said...

I have always wanted to learn more about borax... The mold sheet rock part really perked my attention.

Gaby @ Tmuffin said...

The SUN!! It's amazing! I put everything out in the sun. Mildewy clothing that has sat in the washer too long, my diaper pail, and of course, my toddler's dirty shirts. Tomato sauce, popsicles--so many stains come right out, and it gets rid of bad odors too.

I posted about using the sun to get rid of stains here:

But I like your ideas about peroxide too. I often forget about using that in my cleaning.

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

T - I have been using natural cleaners for over 20 years. But the more I look into them, the more I find out. I wish I had know about the bleach on sheet rock before this spring when we had a lot of rain. But I am ready for the next time it rains!

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Gaby, the sun is wonderful for bleaching It makes a great art/science project with the kids.

Good Girl Gone Green said...

Great post! I have been researching myself to write a post about bleach! :)

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Can't wait to read your post about Bleach.

'Becca said...

Great tips! I'm glad to know how to treat moldy sheetrock as we've had problems with leaks into one of our walls when winter icicles melt; there's been no mold so far, but it could happen!

I use and love all of these cleaners. One great thing about hydrogen peroxide is that it bubbles gunk out of narrow spaces that are hard to scrub, like the groove around a sink drain or at the base of a faucet. It is awesome on soap scum too.

Baking soda is amazing for scrubbing dishes! A mug stained by tea comes clean in a few swipes of a soda-sprinkled dishcloth. For baked-on food, you may need to let it sit a while after dampening the surface and sprinkling with soda, but then it will come off with minimal scrubbing.

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Becca, these are great tips. I learn so much while researching. I had never though to use hydrogen peroxide for cleaning before looking into alternatives to bleach. I had not used bleach for laundry for years. But I did use it for mold remediation. Turns out I was making the problem worse. Not good for someone with mold allergies and chemical sensativities.

Jo's Health Corner/ said...

Great tips! I wish more people would know about chlorine. It is actually hard to find in my home country..Certain stores took it off the shelves in the 90's due to the same reasons you mention here.

I use vinegar, baking soda, salt, lemon, and essential oils. My favorite single oil bacteria busters are cinnamon, clove, lemon, eucalyptus, lavender, thyme and pine.I like tea tree also but my children don't like it much.
I haven't tried hydrogen peroxide yet.

Thanks for linking up to the Living Well blog hop. Have a wonderful weekend!

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Jo, I did not know that chlorine bleach is no longer on the market in some countries. That is wonderful. It really is not that effective and is quite dangerous to boot.

Amanda @ Coping with Frugality said...

Thanks for sharing your tips! I love cleaning with vinegar. Visiting from Mom Mart's Social Media hop. I would love it if you checked out my blog:

Becky Hensley said...

Thanks for these tips! I'm allergic to bleach, so it's good to know that there are effective alternatives for cleaning. :)

I'm a new follower from the Mom Mart Social Media Blog Hop, and can't wait to keep up with your crunchy tips in the future! Feel free to check out my blog at

Charise @ I Thought I Knew Mama said...

Such good info! I feel like Borax and vinegar are the best multi use products ever. I don't know what I would do without them.

Thanks for linking up at Green & Natural Mamas Thursday!

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Charise, thanks for hosting, once again!

Lisa Sharp said...

Can't stand bleach! Not worth the risks, it's even hard on clothes. I use sun bleaching, hydrogen peroxide and biokleen bacout. I don't use borax on clothing and avoid having it in the house because it's hard on skin and can be harmful to pets.

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

Lisa I just started using hydrogen peroxide regularly, I love it! It is great on the berry stains my 7 year old leaves on the counter and even cleans up blood stains on clothes. I have it in a trigger spray bottle.

Anonymous said...

I use a variety of natural cleaners - everything from baking soda and vinegar to Thieves household cleaner to Borax and washing soda. My mother uses hydrogen peroxide to get out old, stubborn stains (it remove a stain from my christening gown over 30+ years old! without harming the delicate fabric!!)


Lori E said...

What is this mystical SUN you speak of?????
Great ideas here. We can always improve on what we do.
Sadly I love the smell of bleach.

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