7 Non-Toxic Laundry Bleach Alternatives
By Marilee Nelson |
Is there really an effective non-toxic laundry bleach alternative out there?
Yes! There are several bleach-alternatives that will whiten and brighten your laundry and remove stains without exposing you to the harms of bleach.
Most of us know bleach is poisonous (it’s the #1 cause of household chemicals poisonings), but many choose to continue using it whilst taking certain precautions.
But what you may not know is bleach reacts and generates chlorinated Volatile Organic Compounds (aka: VOCs). These toxic fumes are extremely harmful and considered human carcinogens.
As bleach is used in cleaning, laundry, etc. its fumes emit chlorinated compounds which can produce organochlorines (OC), which are known endocrine-disruptors, neurotoxic, and carcinogenic.
New research has also linked passive household exposure to an increased risk of respiratory illnesses and other illnesses in children.
Regular use is also associated with an increased risk of COPD, irritation of nose, throat, and mouth mucous membranes, and deterioration of theesophagus, lungs, and respiratory system over time.
Bleach can become a deadly gas when mixed with ammonia, vinegar, drain cleaners, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, dirty water high in organic matter (think laundry water, mop water, etc.), and other household cleaning products.
In other words: bleach is extremely hazardous to your health, the health of your family, and the environment. Plus it’s completely unnecessary and, in our opinion,has no place in a healthy home.
So, how do you get along without it? By using these 7 non-toxic laundry bleach alternatives.
1. Baking Soda
There are dozens of uses for baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)—from baking to DIY cleaning and personal care products. But did you know it also makes a great laundry bleach alternative?
To whiten and brighten your clothes, add half to 1 cup baking soda directly to your wash and launder as usual.
For stain removal, make a simple paste of baking soda and water and rub directly on the stain with a scrub brush. Let dwell for at least 10-15 minutes. Rinse and repeat as-needed.
Larger stained items or set-in stains can be soaked in a basin of water with half to 1 cup baking soda. Then launder as usual.
As an added bonus, baking soda also helps boost laundry detergent performance in hard water. Learn more in: Impact Of Soft And Hard Water On Laundry.
2. The Sun
Sunshine is a powerful weapon for removing stains, accelerating off-gassing, whitening whites, and burning off synthetic fragrance in clothing and garments.
To sun your clothing, sheets, comforters, cloth diapers, etc. simply place them in direct sunlight for a few hours and watch those stains fade away.
A couple things to keep in mind:
- Natural sunlight will fade colors, so it is best to use on white or light-colored clothing OR to turn colored clothes inside out.
- For optimal stain removal, put clothes outside when the sun is at its strongest. This is usually at high-noon to about 3PM.
- The sun’s rays will be strongest in the summer, but they will also work in other seasons (just not as dramatically in most geographical locations).
- Always shake out your clothing, etc. before bringing it inside (nature does harbor some insects that may accidentally attach themselves to your garments).
To learn more about the benefits of sunning, check out: Take Advantage Of Summertime: How To Outgas (Or Offgas) & Remove VOCs and How To Get Heavy Fragrance Out Of Clothing.
The acetic acid in distilled white vinegar has a bleach-like effect. It works to brighten clothing and remove stains without harming fabrics.
To use, add half a cup of vinegar to the final rinse for brighter, whiter, softer clothes.
For brightening dingy whites (100% cotton): Add 1 cup of vinegar to a big sinkfull/basin-full of hot water. Soak socks, sheets, undershirts, etc. overnight and launder as usual.
Distilled white vinegar can also be used to keep dark clothing from becoming dull. It works by removing residues that can fade colors over time. To use, add about half a cup to the final rinse cycle.
You can also use distilled white vinegar in place of bleach to clean and detoxify your washing machine. To learn more, see: 12 Ways to Use Distilled Vinegar in your home.
Finally, vinegar is one of nature’s most effective non-toxic disinfectants when used with hydrogen peroxide. This can come in handy when cleaning your laundry room.
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, it is essential they 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.
- To use, clean the surface with Branch Basics All-Purpose
- Next, spray the surface liberally with either the vinegar or peroxide (the order doesn’t matter). Let it sit for 5-30 minutes. Wipe with a microfiber cloth.
- Repeat the same step with the other bottle.
4. Branch Basics
We formulated Branch Basics Concentrate as an all-in-one, non-toxic product capable of replacing all types of chemical cleaners…including laundry products.
Our Laundry dilution works wonders to clean and brighten clothing while removing stains. And when you need an extra boost of whitening, stain-fighting power, Oxygen Boost is a power house!
Parents love Oxygen Boost for soaking soiled baby clothing and kid’s clothes (think blow-outs, grass stains, baby food, paint, crayons, etc.), and it’s great for pet stains too.
This mineral-based powder can be used directly in the washer and/or combined with Laundry, All-Purpose, or Bathroom as an awesome stain remover. See our User Guide for directions as it is always important to test an inconspicuous area of fabric to make sure the Oxygen Boost does not lighten or impact the clothing..
For more non-toxic laundering tips, see Branch Basics Laundry Instructions, our Stainmaster Guide, and check out our Laundry Kit (now available with a glass bottle).
5. Lemon Juice
The natural acids and enzymes in lemon juice make it an effective whitener and stain-remover for surfaces, clothing, and more.
To use on 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.
For oil or grease stains, apply straight lemon juice to the stain, let dry, and wash.
Since lemon juice has a bleaching effect, be sure to test it on an inconspicuous place before doing a full application. Take care with colored fabrics!
6. Hydrogen Peroxide
If you’re used to using bleach to wash your whites, you will love hydrogen peroxide. It brightens and whitens like bleach, without wearing down fabric fibers over time. Plus, there’s no offensive smell.
To use on whites (not colors!), add 1 cup 3% hydrogen peroxide to your wash (in the bleach cup) along with your favorite non-toxic detergent.
We also like to keep this handy for reusable menstrual pads or getting blood out of anything white.
We’re not big fans of table salt for food (pass the pink, sea, or Himalayan salt please!). However, salt’s powerful absorbent properties make it a great stain remover.
Plain table salt can be used in place of bleach, or other stain removers, for:
- Wine (blot up as much as you can then put a pile of salt on the stain to absorb the rest. Launder as usual.)
- Blood (rinse the garment, mix salt with cold water to form a paste, rub onto the stain, let dwell 10-20 minutes, rinse. You can also make a salt-water solution and soak garments in that—just make sure it’s cold when you use it.)
- Grease/oil (apply salt and lemon juice directly to the stain. Let dwell at least 30 minutes. Launder as usual.)
- Sweat stains (combine 4 tablespoons salt with a gallon of water and use directly on stains.)
- To prevent clothing from freezing on the clothesline (a pinch of salt in the final rinse should prevent your clothes from freezing on the line during wintertime.)
Giving up bleach can seem hard, but once you try out these non-toxic laundry bleach alternatives, you’ll realize it’s entirely unecessary.
But bleach isn’t the only toxic product lurking in most laundry rooms.
Detergents, fabric softeners, stain removers, boosters, and dryer sheets contain some of the most toxic chemicals in American households.
Which is why the laundry room is the most potentially toxic room in the house.
Here’s the good news: you have the power to change that. And we’re here to help.
For more information about how to detoxify your laundry room and create a healthier home (and why), see: How To Toss Your Toxic Laundry Detergent. And check out our non-toxic laundry solutions in the Branch Basics Laundry Kit.
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.