Living Large Tip of the Week: Ditch the Bleach

I had always used bleach in the laundry before moving to Our Little House.

When we moved here and I became more aware of the effects of harmful chemicals, I learned that bleach is particularly harmful to the environment.

We’re on a septic, which means all of our water and waste goes into a tank, where bacteria helps break down the solid waste. Bleach is not only bad when it is leeched into the ground from the tank; it also kills the bacteria, which can lead to septic system failures.

According to the EPA, there are also many adverse health effects to bleach.

I’ve used several things to replace bleaching our whites, including lemon juice, peroxide (not at the same time) and Seventh Generation Bleach. Last week, I used a ½ cup of vinegar when washing some particularly smelly dog beds.

The results were awesome. They came out fresh and clean.

One of the best alternatives to bleach is also sunshine, which freshens and naturally whitens clothes.

Do you use a bleach alternative, if so, what do you use?

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17 Responses

  1. sarah henry says:

    Not a bleacher here, for all the reasons discussed. But our whites tend to the gray side in this house. I can live with that.

  2. I don’t use bleach, but for me the issue isn’t laundry. It’s mildew. I live in a very damp climate and our showers show mildew in DAYS. Any ideas on environmentally friendly ways to combat that??

  3. Merr says:

    I’ve never been much of a bleacher…I think I’ve used it fewer than a dozen times – and likely far fewer than that – in all my years.

  4. Kim says:

    I’m not sure about it’s safety to septic systems, but Oxi-clean (Oxyclean?) is what I use instead of bleach on whites. I also use it about every third washing of our whites rather than every time.

    Some judicious use of tea tree essential oil can do amazing things on cutting odors caused by bacteria or mold/mildew/fungus, too. It’s amazing what ten drops can do for a washerful of soured laundry.

  5. Sheryl says:

    We, too, have a septic system. I never considered that bleach was a no-no. Thanks for this post!

  6. Frugal Kiwi says:

    I have an easier solution, but it might not work for everyone. I don’t wear whites. I’m too messy anyway. I keep white clothes white for 2 seconds. Frugal Man had some white undies. I tie-dyed them and he thinks they are cool. For anything non-wearable, I simply choose coloured options. My towels and sheets are all sorts of colours.

  7. Oh, I wish I could hang out my laundry to dry. Growing up that’s always what my mom did. I loved it–your sheets would smell sooo good. But I try not to use bleach now anyway.

  8. Alexandra says:

    Another one here who gave up bleach. I used to use it 12 years ago on my elderly dad’s underwear. I wash a lot of sheets now and have switched to HOT rather than WARM, and also hang the sheets outside whenever I can. If I can’t, I usually hold off on doing laundry. We have a sole-source aquifer here on Cape Cod, so I worry about folks who do not know how bad bleach is for the environment. I’m sure not all my neighbors have given it up.