It is understandable why we would want to whiten our clothes without using bleach. Bleach contains chemicals that can pose health risks over the long term. Whether that belief is scientifically based is uncertain, but why take chances?
Better to be safe than sorry. After all, we’ve heard stories about how the regular use of bleach in the home can lead to respiratory problems, headaches, dizziness, and even diminishing mental clarity. We even read online that a boy’s handwriting became erratic; he could not concentrate on his homework because he was inhaling the bleach from the vents in his bedroom which was connected to the laundry room.
So how do we bring back that sparkling white and shine to our clothes without using bleach?
- Lemons, anyone? On a good day when lemons are overflowing on the shelves of our local supermarket, and are selling for 99 cents/dozen, why not purchase a bagful and leave some aside for your laundry needs. When you have soiled laundry and need to whiten it, cut up some lemons and throw them into a tub of hot water. Let them soak for an hour or two and then wash them as you would normally do. For badly-soiled clothes, boil some water and soak your clothes with several slices of lemons. Leave them overnight. Next morning, wash them and then smell that clean! And they’ll come out brighter too!
- Baking soda – it’s amazing that what we keep in our kitchen cupboards can also be stored in the laundry room. Throw a cupful of baking soda into the wash and enjoy the whiteness and hygienic smell of your clothes. Baking soda does a wonderful job of maintaining pH balance because it neutralizes acids and bases. It works well when you also want to eliminate odors from the kitchen and your shoe cabinet. This inexpensive solution is a true deodorizer and cleanser; we have yet to hear about any adverse effects it can potentially cause. So go ahead, whiten your clothes without using bleach because baking soda is all you’ll ever need.
- Natural sunshine should do it, folks – this seems to be a frequent advice from people who believe in hanging their clothes out in the sun to make them brighter and cleaner. It’s your natural vitamin D at work! We’re bombarded everyday with ads about “the fresh smell of spring” and “mountain air cleanness” which commercial products promise to deliver, so we tend to forget that Mother Nature can do as good a job if not better. Besides, by line drying our clothes, not only will they appear whiter, but they’ll last longer as well. So let the sun and wind caress your clothes back to their original color!
- White vinegar for whiter clothes – here’s another inexpensive way to whiten your clothes without using bleach. When you start a wash, use your detergent as usual but add ½ cup to 1 cup of white vinegar. Don’t worry about the smell. It will be there only initially. Once you put your clothes into the dryer, the vinegar smell will disappear and your clothes will come out cleaner, whiter, and safer to wear. Vinegar is a powerful disinfectant. We use it to clean our coffee brewers once every quarter and it beats using dishwashing liquid. It does the same for your clothes. In fact, another tip is to substitute your regular fabric softener with white vinegar.
- Dishwashing liquid – many homemakers have said how they’ve used dishwashing liquid when they ran out of laundry detergent, but be careful about how much you put in. You might get a laundry room filled with floating suds! To whiten your clothes, pour about ¼ cup of dishwashing liquid into the tub along with your regular laundry detergent. Use warm water. Dishwashing liquid apparently has some whitening chemicals in them. Someone also suggested Cascade which she calls a great detergent booster that never fails.
Safe Homemade Bleach
If you no longer wish to use Clorox because you’re concerned about your family’s health, you can make your own homemade bleach. We did our homework and found one “recipe” you can try.
- 1-1/2 cups of hydrogen peroxide – you can buy hydrogen peroxide from any drug store
- Fresh lemons – about five tablespoons
- ½ gallon of lukewarm water
Mix all three ingredients but do not overmix. Just make sure they’re blended well. Pour this mixture into individual glass containers with tight lids. Stick date labels on each container. They’ll be effective for three months. When you run out, make a new batch. Use this homemade bleach the same way you used your old bleach product.
Word of caution: use only 3% hydrogen peroxide. This is the percentage that’s sold by retailers. Make sure this percentage is stated on the label. Anything higher can be dangerous for home and health.
Hydrogen peroxide works best on white clothing but you may want to try using it on darker clothes…with caution.
For dark color clothing, the combination of vinegar and baking soda is effective. Use 1 cup of vinegar and ¼ cup of baking soda and pour them straight into your clothes when you turn on your washer. Since vinegar is acid, it “eats” away at the stains, dirt and grime. The baking soda will produce a bubbling action which will boost the action of the vinegar, leaving your clothes disinfected, squeaky clean, and cloudy white!
“Now they show you how detergents take out bloodstains, a pretty violent image there. I think if you’ve got a T-shirt with a bloodstain all over it, maybe laundry isn’t your biggest problem. Maybe you should get rid of the body before you do the wash.”