6 Best Cleaning Products Without Bleach
By Marilee Nelson |
If recent news about the dangers of bleach has you searching for safer alternatives, you’re not alone.
Chlorine bleach and bleach-based cleaning products are some of the most popular for household cleaning and laundry.
Unfortunately, they’re also some of the more toxic products in the average American household.
This is a hard pill to swallow for those who have trusted bleach as a safe and effective household cleaner for generations.
The good news is there are plenty of safer and non-toxic alternatives to bleach for cleaning, laundry, stain removal, disinfecting, sanitizing, washing produce, and more.
This article will teach you the best cleaning products without bleach, including the most effective, non-toxic brands and DIY options made from everyday household items.
First, Is Bleach Toxic?
Bleach is an incredibly dangerous chemical. However, if you grew up with bleach in your home and have used it for years, you may find this hard to believe.
After all, bleach is sold in nearly every grocery store, hardware store, and pharmacy in America.
It’s used to disinfect hospitals, is recommended for cleaning baby toys, and is even promoted by some natural health enthusiasts as a safe produce wash for removing pesticides and extending shelf life.
Sure, bleach may be poisonous if you drink it…but it can’t be that bad for cleaning, can it?
Unfortunately, it’s worse than any of us could have likely imagined.
Here are a few reasons (with scientific references) to avoid using chlorine bleach in your home:
- Bleach is an EPA-registered pesticide Bleach is a leading cause of poisonings and deaths in children worldwide.
- Passive exposure to bleach in the home has been shown to cause an increased risk of respiratory illness and other illnesses in children.
- Exposure and passive exposure to bleach can increase your risk of lung disease, including asthma and COPD.
- Bleach is an EPA-registered “hazardous substance”.
- It is corrosive to skin and eyes and can cause severe burns.
- Disinfectants including chlorine, increase the rate of miscarriage and preterm birth per the Centers for Disease Control. However, they do not know at what concentration these toxins become problematic.
- Fumes from bleach, such as chloroforms and nitrogen trichloride, can cause DNA damage, cancer, asthma, and a host of other illnesses.
- Bleach fumes create VOCs, which can trigger and contribute to asthma, COPD, chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions, and headaches.
- 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.
11 12 13
- As a disinfectant, chlorine bleach negatively impacts the microbiome health leading to less robust immunity.
- Water treated with sodium hypochlorite (and its cousins) has been shown to release chloroform gas when mixed with organic matter, such as urine or dirt. When you shower, this is a problem because 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.
Bleach can encourage the growth of mold and mildew. It does kill surface mold. However, it does not kill mold beneath the surface and introduces water to the invisible mold, allowing it to thrive. Hence why the EPA and OSHA no longer recommend bleach for mold remediation.
Hopefully we’ve convinced you that bleach has no place in a healthy home.
However, if you’re still thinking of keeping some around “just in case” or for really tough jobs, remember what you just learned about the dangers of passive exposure.
Bleach fumes can accumulate, linger on surfaces and in the air, and seep out of sealed bottles. This is why you smell bleach in the laundry aisle at the store. Think about it! If you have a bottle of bleach anywhere in your home you are exposed 24/7 to the fumes. This means you’re not just exposed while cleaning or doing laundry but all day and night so long as bleach remains in your home. That is why we recommend tossing this toxin!
As always, we don’t share this information to scare you or create alarm (although it is alarming what is allowed in seemingly “safe” cleaning products).
Our goal is to empower you with proven facts so you can confidently decide whether to continue using bleach…or not.
Check out Is Sodium Hypochlorite (Bleach) Toxic? The Dangers & Alternatives and The Most Toxic Cleaning Products To Avoid & Non-Toxic Swaps to dig in more.
How to Disinfect Without Bleach: 6 Bleach Alternatives for Cleaning
If you’re still reading, chances are you’re ready to ditch and switch toxic bleach for safer alternatives.
Here are some of our top recommendations for the best cleaning products without bleach.
Branch Basics Concentrate was created as a one-bottle, non-toxic solution to replace every household cleaner in your home.
Just add water to create All-Purpose, Bathroom, Streak-Free, Foaming Wash, Laundry, Floor Cleaner, and more.
Oxygen Boost is its companion product, designed to add extra whitening, brightening, scouring, natural bleaching, and cleaning power to your cleaning or laundry routine.
Here are some ways to use Branch Basics Concentrate as a bleach-free cleaner:
- All-Purpose dilution to remove stains, clean surfaces, sinks, produce, most types of hard flooring, to wash dishes, clean toys, remove mold, and more
- Laundry dilution remove stains from clothing and works wonders for hand- or machine-washing clothing
- Bathroom safely removes germs and leaves your tub, toilet, sinks, and bathroom surfaces sparkling clean
- Concentrate can also be used undiluted on tough stains, cloth diapers, in carpet cleaning machines, and more.
Here are some of the many ways to use Oxygen Boost as a bleach-free cleaner, laundry booster, and bleach alternative:
- For whitening and brightening your laundry.
- Cleaning grout.
- Deep cleaning toilets, tubs, and sinks.
- Removing stubborn stains from clothes, countertops, surfaces, toilet bowls, sinks, etc.
- For cleaning mold (for which the EPA does NOT recommend bleach because it only kills surface mold), see: How To Clean Mold On Grout and Showers Without Toxic Bleach.
Note: Branch Basics products are not disinfectants or sanitizers. Instead, they are surface cleaners thatremove germs versus killing them.
2: Baking Soda & Vinegar
Baking soda (aka sodium bicarbonate) and distilled white vinegar are the most popular ingredients in DIY, non-toxic cleaners for good reasons:
- They work.
- They’re widely available.
- And they’re inexpensive.
Here’s how to use distilled white vinegar as a bleach alternative:
- For extra cleaning power in laundry: Add 1 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle for extra-clean (and extra soft) clothes.
- For floor cleaning: ½ cup f vinegar to a gallon of warm water can clean most types of floors. Be sure to check for compatibility with the floor manufacturer if the floor is a natural stone with a sealer.
- For soap scum: Spray undiluted vinegar on soap scum and allow 10-15 minutes dwell time. Wipe clean.
- To bleach out stains: Apply undiluted vinegar to the stains on clothing, surfaces, etc. Allow dwell time, gently scrub, and rinse. Repeat as necessary.
How To Use Baking Soda As A Bleach Alternative
Baking soda has natural bleaching properties, making it an ideal alternative for many cleaning jobs, including:
- Combine with hydrogen peroxide to clean grout.
- As a laundry booster and water softener.
- To remove stains from clothing, cutting boards, and surfaces.
- 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, combine with vinegar for a powerful toilet-cleaning-combo.
- For mold and mildew in showers and tubs: Clean first with Branch Basics Bathroom cleaner and a microfiber to remove the mold and mildew. Combine baking soda with hydrogen peroxide. Let sit a few minutes, and remove with a stiff toothbrush or grout cleaning brush.
- For deodorizing shoes, pet beds, etc.
- To clean floor tile and grout. Click here for details on how to use baking soda with vinegar to clean floor tile.
- 12 Ways To Use Vinegar In Your Home
- 12 Uses for Sodium Bicarbonate (Baking Soda) Around The House
- How To Get Oil Stains Out Of Clothes Naturally
3: Hydrogen Peroxide
3% hydrogen peroxide (in the brown bottle) is a powerful and non-toxic cleaner, whitener, and disinfectant.
This makes it one of the best bleach alternatives for bathrooms, laundry, kitchens, and surfaces.
For convenience, we recommend attaching a trigger sprayer directly to the brown bottle. Exposure to light breaks down hydrogen peroxide so the brown bottle protects it.
Here’s how to use hydrogen peroxide as a bleach-free cleaner:
- For surfaces: After cleaning surfaces with soap and water to remove dirt and debris, spray 3% hydrogen peroxide on a microfiber cloth and wipe down the surface, or spray and wipe. Note: Here, hydrogen peroxide is not being used as a disinfectant because there is no dwell time.
- To remove stains: Use on white clothing to remove all sorts of stains like grass stains, blood, red wine, chocolate, etc.
- In place of bleach in the washing machine: Add hydrogen peroxide in place of bleach for extra whitening, brightening, and disinfecting power on white clothing.
- For toilets: Use hydrogen peroxide alone or combined with baking soda for extra toilet-scouring power.
- For disinfecting: When heavy-duty cleaning is warranted (such as cleaning a cutting board after cutting raw meat, disinfecting toys, pacifiers, after illness, etc.), we recommend the following:
- First, clean the area with hot water and soap (Branch Basics All-Purpose). This process, in itself, removes the germs. Then, if disinfecting is desired
- Spray the cleaned surface with hydrogen peroxide and let dwell for 5-10 minutes.
- You can also use a combination of distilled white vinegar and 3% hydrogen peroxide (stored in separate bottles) on surfaces. Put white distilled vinegar in a separate spray bottle, or find a nozzle that will just fit onto your bottle of vinegar
- Spray the surface with vinegar. After spraying, let it sit for 5 minutes (dwell time), then wipe with a microfiber.
- Note: Vinegar is not a disinfect, but it does have some killing action against some food borne illness.
- Click here for our complete non-toxic disinfecting procedure.
- To remove mold and mildew: See How to Remove Mold And Mildew From Shower Grout Naturally for the full tutorial.
- For grout: See How to clean Floor Tiles.
- The Most Toxic Cleaning Products To Avoid And Non-Toxic Swaps
- 7 Non-Toxic Laundry Bleach Alternatives
- How To Get Chocolate Out Of Clothes Naturally
5: Lemon Juice
Lemon juice contains natural antimicrobial acids and enzymes, making it an effective bleach alternative for surfaces, clothing, and more.
How To Use Lemon Juice As A Bleach-Free Cleaner
- For stains: Combine lemon juice with salt directly on the stain and agitate. Let sit for 15-30 minutes, rinse, and repeat if needed or launder. When using for stain removal, remember lemon juice has a natural bleaching effect. Test in an inconspicuous place before doing a full application. Take care with colored fabrics.
- Countertops: Use a 50:50 blend of lemon juice and water to clean countertops. Note: Some natural stones and sealers are not compatible with lemon juice as a cleaner. Check with the manufacturer.Baths, showers, and sinks: Add lemon juice to DIY cleaners for extra cleaning power. Use lemon juice as a spray—alone or with baking soda. Or, try a cut lemon dipped in baking soda as an all-in-one cleaning tool.
- Soap scum: Spray pure lemon juice onto stubborn soap scum or hard water stains. Let dwell for a few minutes and wipe clean.
- Mildew: After cleaning with soap and water, spray or wipe pure lemon juice on mildew and let dwell for 15-30 minutes. Wipe with a microfiber.
- Toilets: Combine lemon juice with baking soda, scrub, and flush.
- Grout: Combine lemon with baking soda and apply using a grout brush or toothbrush.
- Tile floors: Fill a spray bottle with 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, unglazed quarry stone, and some sealers. Check with the manufacturer.
6: Even Sunlight is A Bleach Alternative!
You know you’ve become a non-toxic cleaning buff when you see sunny days as an opportunity to supercharge your laundry routine!
That’s because sunshine is a natural bleaching agent, deodorizer, and stain remover. Plus, sunlight can kill various bacteria and microbes.
It’s also an excellent whitener and brightener for white fabrics and can remove stains.
However, too much sun can fade or ruin your clothing, so care must be taken.
For optimal stain removal, place items outside when the sun is at its strongest (usually high noon to 3 PM).
Avoid fading colored clothing by turning items inside out.
Sun-bleaching may take less than an hour or several hours over a few days, depending on the stain and the sun's strength.
Stains will fade the longer the item(s) sits out.
Many parents have told us this is their secret weapon for naturally bleaching out and deodorizing cloth diapers, onesies, etc.
Sunning also speeds up the outgassing of fragrance and other chemicals from clothing, electronics, furniture, toys, etc.
No wonder clotheslines have made a comeback.
Use Bleach Alternatives to Clean Your Home Safely
The idea of cleaning and disinfecting without bleach may initially seem daunting or even impossible.
However, now that you know the best non-toxic bleach alternatives, you’re ready to start cleaning greener while creating a healthier home.
Isn’t it wonderful to know non-toxic cleaning and disinfecting can be safe, economical, and effective? That alone is a game-changer.
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.