If you don’t like using chlorine bleach because of the odor, the harshness of the chemicals, and the possible damage to the environment but still need ways to keep clothes white and remove stains, there are green alternatives.
These alternatives will not replace chlorine bleach as a disinfectant to kill bacteria but will help keep your white clothes looking good and are easier on the environment.
Hydrogen peroxide can be used to remove stains or to whiten and brighten clothes and has less impact on the environment than chlorine bleach.
When exposed to light, hydrogen peroxide eventually breaks down to water and oxygen and becomes a biodegradable oxygen-based bleach. Use the same three percent solution of hydrogen peroxide for laundry that is commonly found in the drug store first aid aisle.
To whiten and brighten clothes, add one cup of hydrogen peroxide to each washer load of laundry. It can be safely used on a load of white or colored clothes.
The hydrogen peroxide should be placed in the automatic bleach dispenser of the washer or added as the washer is filling with water, so it is dispersed evenly before clothes are added. Do not pour hydrogen peroxide directly on dry colored fabrics because it can cause spotting by removing color.
Adding just 1/2 cup baking soda to your laundry detergent will boost the detergent’s cleaning power.
Baking soda is safe to use in both standard and high-efficiency washers. Just add the baking soda directly to the washer drum before you add the dirty laundry. Do not put the baking soda in an automatic dispenser because it may not dissolve completely.
Even if you still feel the need to use chlorine bleach, you can use less by adding baking soda to the wash load. It also helps chlorine bleach clean more effectively.
An oxygen-based bleach is more gentle on the environment than chlorine bleach but is an extremely effective whitening agent and stain remover.
Oxygen bleach can be used on all washable fabrics except silk, wool, and anything with leather trim. While chlorine bleach will permanently remove the color from most dyed fabrics, oxygen bleach can be safely used on colored clothes to brighten the fabric and remove stains.
Oxygen bleach works a bit more slowly than chlorine bleach, and you will get the best results if you allow the clothing to soak for at least two hours or overnight in the water/oxygen bleach solution before washing as usual. Follow the package directions for how much oxygen bleach to use per gallon of water.
Powdered oxygen bleach is activated by adding it to water. Powdered formulas are more stable and produce better results than pre-mixed liquid oxygen bleaches which lose effectiveness over time once the container is opened.
Oxygen bleach brand names include OxiClean, Nellie’s All Natural Oxygen Brightener, or OXO Brite.
To help whiten clothes and linens, presoak the white items in a solution of one part white distilled vinegar and six parts warm water. Mix the solution in a large plastic bucket or tub, a sink, or the washer drum. Completely submerge the white clothes and swish through the vinegar solution to be sure that all surfaces are wet.
Let the clothes sit overnight and then wash your clothes as usual following the correct water temperature for the fabrics. Any vinegar odor will disappear, and the environment will appreciate your efforts.
Lemon juice is acidic just like vinegar and provides the same natural bleaching action.
Add one cup of lemon juice to the washer when washing white clothes to help keep them bright. White cotton socks can become heavily stained and dingy. To whiten, add one lemon cut into slices to a large pot of boiling water. Add the socks, turn off the heat, and allow them to soak overnight before washing.
We all love fresh, clean clothes, but we may not be crazy about using bleach. Using common household ingredients, you can have your clothes and linens crisp and bright, naturally.