The 5 Best Bathroom Cleaners Without Toxic Bleach
By Marilee Nelson |
If you’ve landed on this page, chances are you’re looking for ways to clean your bathroom without bleach.
First, we want to congratulate you on looking for bleach alternatives for bathroom cleaning!
They exist and can be as effective for cleaning and disinfecting and even better than bleach for eradicating mold and mildew.
In this article, you’ll learn the most effective ways to clean your bathroom, remove germs, and disinfect naturally, without bleach.
We’ll also discuss the top 11 reasons to avoid using bleach when cleaning bathrooms or in any other capacity in your home.
11 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Use Bleach for Bathroom Cleaning
Chlorine bleach, also known as sodium hypochlorite, is considered a poisonous and hazardous substance. Because of this, it's one of the most toxic bathroom cleaners.
Yet, it remains one of the country's most popular cleaning and disinfecting agents.
If this gives you pause, here are 11 good reasons to avoid using bleach to clean your bathrooms…or any other space in your home, office, school, car, etc.
- Bleach is one of the top poisoning toxins of children worldwide.
- It is corrosive to the skin and eyes and can cause severe burns.
- Per the CDC, disinfectants, including chlorine, increase the rate of miscarriage and preterm birth. However, they do not know at what concentration they become problematic.
- Bleach creates a chloramine gas when combined with other chemicals or organic matter. This gas is highly irritating and corrosive to the skin, lungs, and eyes.
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- Fumes from bleach, such as chloroforms and nitrogen trichloride, can also cause DNA damage, cancer, asthma, and many other illnesses.
- Bleach fumes also create VOCs, which can trigger and contribute to asthma, COPD, chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions, and headaches..
- As a disinfectant, chlorine bleach negatively impacts the microbiome health leading to less robust immunity.
- Water treated with bleach (and its cousins) has been shown to release chloroform gas when mixed with organic matter, such as urine or dirt. This is a problem because when you shower, the chlorine mixes with your organic matter (the stuff you’re washing off), then the steam intensifies that gas exposure. A Taiwanese study showed an increased cancer risk in those who showered in highly chlorinated water.
- New research shows that passive exposure to bleach in the home can cause an increased risk of respiratory illness and other illnesses in children.
- Bleach can encourage the growth of mold and mildew. Yes, it works to kill surface mold. However, dead mold is an issue, it must be removed. In fact, the EPA doesn’t recommend using bleach or other disinfectants for mold cleanup. Disinfectants can cause bacteria and molds to mutate and grow stronger. The protocol for mold cleanup/abatement is the same as a cleanup for bacteria and viruses. Use soap and water to clean the surface and remove the mold. After removing the mold, a safe disinfectant can be used, if desired. ve. Bleach fumes can accumulate and linger on surfaces and in the air. They can even seep out of sealed bottles (think about the last time you walked down the cleaning aisle… you smelled bleach, right?). This means you’re not just exposed while you’re cleaning, showering, doing laundry, etc., but throughout the day, every day that bleach is in your home.
This isn’t a complete list of why chlorine bleach and its byproducts are toxic. However, it proves that bleach is a dangerous toxin that, in our opinion, has no place in a healthy home.
5 Best Bathroom Cleaners Without Bleach
If you’ve read articles on this topic before, you’ll notice our approach to the best bathroom cleaners without bleach is slightly different.
The products we’re recommending are based on the following criterion:
- They’re 100% non-toxic
- They’re affordable and multi-purpose
- Many of them are products you probably keep around the house
- They can be DIYed, which lets you control the ingredients
- They’re biodegradable and eco-friendly
So, don’t expect to see any chemical-based or fragranced cleaners on this list.
1. Branch Basics Starter Kit
We formulated Branch Basics Concentrate as an all-in-one, non-toxic product capable of replacing all types of chemical cleaners…including bleach-based bathroom cleaners.
- Branch Basics Bathroom dilution is designed to work alone or in concert with Oxygen Boost to clean and remove germs from sinks, toilets, countertops, bathtubs, showers, tub toys, showerheads, and more.
- Mineral-based Oxygen Boost is an excellent bleach alternative used to clean grout, mold, mildew, watermarks, and stains or as a laundry booster.
- Branch Basics Streak-Free (which takes just one drop of Branch Basics Concentrate to make) takes care of mirrors, windows, shower doors, shining faucets, and other metals.
- Branch Basics All-Purpose works great on tile floors, and our Concentrate can be custom-diluted for any floor type.
- Branch Basics Laundry is ideal for washing towels, facecloths, bathmats, shower curtains, bathrobes, etc.
Branch Basics products are all-natural and completely non-toxic, making them ideal for a healthy, bleach-free home.
What’s In Branch Basics Concentrate?
This Certified Made Safe, EWG-verified product contains:
- Purified Water: Reverse osmosis…because the details matter!
- Organic Chamomile Flower Extract: Considered our star ingredient, this organic flower extract has Allergen (IFRA) Certifications as a nonallergenic non-fragrance. Chamomile flower extract possesses anti-irritant, antiseptic, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties and is nourishing and soothing to the skin.
- Coco-Glucoside: A naturally-derived surfactant derived from coconut. Coco glucoside is one of the most gentle cleansing agents available and is a natural alternative to the harsher cocamidopropyl betaine and sulfates. Its chemical nature and production process result in a surfactant free of impurities like ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, making it suitable for baby and pet products.
- Sodium Citrate: A plant-derived, biodegradable sodium salt that acts as a water softener. It’s also an acidity regulator and emulsifier in foods and drinks.
- Sodium Bicarbonate: Also known as baking soda, this is a mineral-based water softener.
- Sodium Phytate: A natural chelator, phytic acid is found in plant seeds and is often used commercially as a preservative due to its antioxidant properties.
What’s In Oxygen Boost?
This Certified Made Safe, EWG-verified mineral-based brightener contains just two ingredients:
- Sodium Percarbonate: A mineral-based brightener, deodorizer, and stain lifter. Rated “1” on EWG’s Skin Deep Database.*
- Sodium Bicarbonate: Once again, we’re harnessing the cleaning, whitening, brightening, and water-softening power of pure baking soda for powerful cleaning, stain-fighting, mold/mildew removal, hard water stains, and more. Rated “1” on EWG Skin Deep
Note: Even though the ingredients in Oxygen Boost are both rated a “1” on EWG Skin Deep, there are some usage caveats. Since it is a powder, care should always be taken to avoid breathing in the particulates to avoid nose and eye irritation. Also, prolonged skin contact with sodium percarbonate is not recommended. Gloves may be needed for some cleaning applications..
To learn more about Branch Basics for bleach-free bathroom cleaning, check out: Non-Toxic Bathroom Cleaning With Branch Basics.
Plain white vinegar* is legendary in the DIY cleaning community for its grease-busting and dirt-obliterating qualities.
Plus, it’s inexpensive and acts as a mild disinfectant.
Here are some ways to use distilled white vinegar as an effective, non-toxic, bleach-free bathroom cleaner:
- As an all-purpose bathroom cleaner: Combine 1 part vinegar with 1 part water and use it as an all-purpose bathroom cleaner on countertops, sinks, floors, bathtubs, mirrors, and toilets.
- For soap scum: Spray undiluted vinegar on tiles, shower doors, etc., to dissolve soap scum.
- As a natural drain cleaner: Loosen clogs using a wire or drain-cleaning contraption. Pour a few tablespoons of baking soda down the drain, followed by a cup of vinegar. Let fizz for 10 minutes. Follow up with a rinse with hot water.
- To clean grout on tile floor or shower tiles: Use vinegar plus baking soda to clean grout on floor or shower tiles. Get the details on how to clean floor tile naturally here.
- To remove odors: Put a bowl of vinegar in the bathroom to remove odors naturally.
- For toilets: Combine vinegar and baking soda to clean your toilet.
Important Note: Vinegar contains acetic acid which is an irritant. When vinegar is used in a spray bottle, the acetic acid becomes an eye and lung irritant. Make sure you avoid breathing the fumes and provide good ventilation to clear the air quickly of the acetic acid. Do not allow the elderly, babies, young children, or the chronically ill to be present when vinegar is being used as a spray.
White Vinegar Can Also Be Used With Hydrogen Peroxide (Stored In Separate Bottles) As A Non-Toxic Disinfectant:
PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING BEFORE USING VINEGAR AND PEROXIDE:
Even though they’re non-toxic, vinegar and peroxide can create harmful and irritating fumes when mixed and stored together. Thus, they must be stored and used in separate bottles. We like to attach a trigger sprayer directly to our hydrogen peroxide bottles (3% in the brown bottle), then designate a spray bottle for vinegar.
- Clean the surface first with Branch Basics All-Purpose to remove germs.
- To disinfect, spray the surface liberally with vinegar or peroxide (the order doesn’t matter). Let it dwell for 5-30 minutes. Wipe with a microfiber cloth.
- Repeat the same step with the other bottle.
Disinfecting note: It is recommended that sanitizers and disinfectants be used sparingly to avoid the spread of superbugs. Disinfect only after first removing the germs with a soap like Branch Basics. See Why Over-Sanitizing Is Harmful To Our Health to learn more.
Learn more about DIY vinegar uses in 12 Ways to Use Vinegar in Your Home.
3. Baking Soda
Baking soda, also known as sodium bicarbonate, is another beloved DIY ingredient for non-toxic cleaning.
Its mild abrasive, water-softening, whitening, and stain-fighting properties make it an excellent non-toxic bleach alternative.
Here are some ways to use baking soda to clean your bathroom.
- Make your own baking soda-based bathroom scrub. There are many recipes for this, but you mix up enough baking soda with liquid castile soap and a bit of water to make a paste. Then, use this on tubs, showers, sinks, or wherever you’d use this type of cleaner.
- For toilets: Sprinkle baking soda in the toilet, then spray with vinegar to clean and scrub away stubborn stains.
- For grout: A simple baking soda and water paste can be applied to a grout or old toothbrush to scrub away stains and renew tired old grout.
- For mold and mildew in showers and tubs: Combine baking soda with hydrogen peroxide. Let sit a few minutes, and remove with a stiff toothbrush or grout cleaning brush.
- Cleaning brushes and combs: Baking soda’s absorbent and deodorizing properties make it perfect for cleaning brushes and combs.
- Prepare a solution of 2-3 tablespoons of baking soda with 3-4 cups of hot water in a large basin (or your sink). Stir to dissolve the baking soda.
- Soak your brush or comb for 30 minutes.
- Scrub with a bottle brush or old toothbrush to remove build-up.
- Rinse and let dry.
- To clean floor tile: See the previous section or click here for details on how to use baking soda with vinegar to clean floor tile.
- As a deodorizer: A bowl or box of baking soda will help absorb bathroom odors naturally.
- To unclog drains: See the previous section on how to use baking soda with vinegar on drains.
Discover more ingenious uses for baking soda in 12 Uses for Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda) Around The House
4. Hydrogen Peroxide
3% hydrogen peroxide (the one in the brown bottle) is one of the best bleach alternatives for bathrooms (and more) because it cleans, whitens, and disinfects.
We like to attach a trigger sprayer directly to the brown bottle for easy cleaning.
Here’s how to use hydrogen peroxide to clean your bathroom:
- For surfaces: Always first clean with soap and water to remove dirt, grime, and germs. Squirt 3% hydrogen peroxide on a microfiber cloth and wipe down the surface. Alternatively, you can spray and wipe.
- For toilets: Use hydrogen peroxide alone or combine it with baking soda for extra toilet-scouring power. For heavy-duty disinfecting, follow the natural disinfecting protocol above using peroxide and vinegar in separate bottles (never combined!).
- To remove mold and mildew: See How to Remove Mold And Mildew From Shower Grout Naturally for the full tutorial.
- For disinfecting: See the previous section on vinegar, or click here for our complete non-toxic disinfecting procedure.
For more hydrogen peroxide cleaning inspiration, check out: The Most Toxic Cleaning Products To Avoid And Non-Toxic Swaps.
5. Lemon Juice
The humble lemon acts like vinegar, cutting through grease and dirt while lightening stains and providing some antiseptic action.
Here’s what you can clean in your bathroom using either plain lemon juice or a 50:50 blend of lemon juice with water:
- Countertops: A 50:50 blend of lemon juice and water works great on countertops.
- Baths, showers, and sinks: Lemon juice can be added to DIY cleaners, like the soft scrubbing cleaner mentioned above, for extra cleaning power. You can also use a lemon juice spray alone or with baking soda. A cut lemon dipped in baking soda also makes a great all-in-one cleaning tool for sinks, tubs, etc.
- Soap scum: Spray pure lemon juice onto stubborn soap scum or hard water stains. Let dwell for a few minutes and wipe clean.
- Mildew: Spray or wipe pure lemon juice on mildew and let dwell for 15-30 minutes.
- Toilets: This works great combined with baking soda.
- Grout: Combine lemon with baking soda and apply using a grout brush or toothbrush.
- Tile floors: Fill a spray bottle with either 100% fresh or bottled lemon juice or a 50:50 mixture of lemon juice and water. Spray onto tile floors and wipe clean.
Note: Acidic cleaners, such as lemon juice, may not be suitable for concrete tiles, natural stone, marble, or unglazed quarry stone.
6. Non-Toxic Dish Soap or All-Purpose Spray
If you’re ever in a pinch, you can use your favorite non-toxic dish soap or All-Purpose spray to clean your tub, shower, sinks, countertops, and toilet.
Dish soap can also be diluted (usually just 1-3 teaspoons in a mopping bucket will do) and used to mop tile floors.
Bleach Alternative FAQ's
Have questions? We've got answers.
Are bleach alternatives as effective in killing germs and bacteria?
While bleach is a potent disinfectant, many alternatives we listed like hydrogen peroxide and lemon juice have demonstrated germ-killing capabilities. However, the effectiveness might vary based on the concentration and application method, so it's important to ensure you're using them correctly.
Are these bleach alternatives for bathroom cleaning family and pet-safe?
Yes! However, we recommend storing any cleaning products, even natural ones, out of reach of children and pets. For more information on home-safe cleaning, check our our guides:
Get Started With a Branch Basics Starter Kit
As you can see, it is possible to clean and even sanitize your bathroom without using harmful chlorine bleach.
Whether you rely on Branch Basics, vinegar, baking soda, peroxide, lemon juice, or a combination, you’ll have everything you need for a sparkling clean, mildew-free, and great-smelling bathroom.
For more non-toxic bathroom cleaning tips, check out:
Marilee Nelson is an Environmental Toxins expert who has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the chemically-sensitive and chronically-ill. She is a Board Certified Nutritionist, Certified Bau-Biologist and Bau-Biology Inspector and specializes in Food As Medicine. She has helped thousands of families and individuals identify, heal and recover from toxic exposures and is on a mission to revolutionize the way American families view their health.