Chlorine Bleach is one of the most effective clothes whiteners and disinfectants, but it can be toxic. Chlorine (Cl2) is among the ten highest volume chemicals manufactured in the United States. It is used in cleaning products and as a bleaching agent and was the first poison gas to be used as a weapon during World War I.
Chlorine bleach releases dioxin, furans and other organochlorines into the air. Low level exposures, mostly through inhalation, can cause wheezing, sore throat, shortness of breath and cough. With higher levels of exposure, you can experience chest tightness and bronchial spasms. Studies have shown a relationship between long-term dioxin exposure and kidney, bladder, pancreatic, and other cancers. If chlorine bleach gets on the skin or in the eyes, chemical burns can result. As with most toxins, children are more affected than adults. And, of course it eventually finds its way to the water table.
So, what is a safer and effective alternative to chlorine bleach? Several items right in your kitchen cupboard, like vinegar, lemon juice, hydrogen peroxide, borax, washing soda, (not mixed together however!).
Here are two recipes for bleach from Leslie Reichert’s Joy of Green Cleaning.
1⁄4 cup borax 1⁄4 cup vinegar 1⁄4 cup hydrogen peroxide
Heat the vinegar in the microwave for 30 seconds. Dissolve the borax into the vinegar, and then add the peroxide right before adding to the wash. The peroxide will not stay active for very long so you add it to the mixture right before using it.
Old Fashioned Laundry Whitener
Winter – This is an old remedy that will remove spots from your clothing when all else fails. Wet the clothing that has the spots with water and place it outside in the snow on a sunny day.
Summer – Wet the clothing with water and 1⁄2 cup lemon juice. Place outside in the sun and the combination of the lemon juice and sunshine will bleach the clothing a bright white.
If you don’t want to make your own bleach, Seventh Generation, Ecover, Bi-o-kleen, and Earth Friendly Oxo brite have great products. They can be found at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and some conventional supermarkets.
Information compiled from: http://www.health.state.ny.us/environmental/emergency/chemical_terrorism/chlorine_tech.htm, http://healthychild.org/issues/chemical-pop/chlorine/, http://www.thegoodhuman.com/2007/10/02/consider-these-environmentally-friendly-alternatives-to-bleach/