Everyone seems to agree that disinfecting around the house and having whites clothes white are good things. Right? We used to use clorox or other chlorine bleach products to keep things white and clean. But, the news is out that chlorine bleach is not a safe product. Yes, your mother (and your grandmother) probably used it - as did most of us because we thought it was necessary. But don't continue to be fooled -chlorine bleach is a highly poisonous substance! It is a respiratory irritant and when mixed with other common household products, gives off a toxic gas. Chlorine exposure can harm your skin, eyes, and teeth and has been linked to birth defects. Yet it’s one of the most used chemicals - in drinking water, swimming pools, plastics, textiles, insecticides, paints, building materials, household cleaning products, and in white paper products (wood pulp is bleached to make paper).
Chlorine bleach is very hazardous to the environment. There are unintended byproducts of chlorine use (organochlorines and dioxins), and these do not break down readily and therefore bio-accumulate in our waste streams and eventually get into our rivers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has found dioxin, a toxic byproduct of chlorine, to be 300,000 times more potent as a carcinogen than DDT. Yet chlorine bleach continues to be used, despite its dangers because it’s a cheap disinfectant to manufacture. Currently environmental groups are calling on manufacturers and government officials to ban the use of chlorine in all products. In response to these dangers, a number of important companies have begun to remove the use of chlorine and chlorine based plastics from their products.
There is also something that you and I can do. We can limit our use of this dangerous chemical by using chlorine bleach alternatives in our homes. Read the labels on the products on your cleaning shelf. Besides the bottle of bleach itself, you should check into chlorine use in automatic dishwashing detergents, chlorinated disinfectant cleaners, mildew removers, and toilet bowl cleaners.
The good news is that there are some good, inexpensive alternatives to use instead of chlorinated products. And many of these alternatives are a lot more eco-friendly.
If you want white, sweet smelling clothes, line dry your clothes in the sun. The UV’s in the sunshine are great for disinfecting and whitening your clothes. Also, half a cup of vinegar or borax in the laundry will brighten whites and colors and are good fabric softeners.
You can also make your own laundry soap at home. All you need is some borax, washing soda, and bar soap. It’s eco-friendly and can be made at a fraction of the cost of commercial products. You can find out how to make it with a search on the Internet.
Got stains on your clothes -- some will lift off when soaked in a half-bucket of cold water with a quarter cup of salt. Others can be treated with a paste of bicarbonate of soda or with a spray of full-strength hydrogen peroxide. And don’t worry about rinsing out these pre-treated items, they can safely be added to your regular wash. You can also use hydrogen peroxide, lemon juice, and vinegar for kitchen, bathroom and general cleanup around the house.
If you don’t have time for these kinds of alternatives, there are a number of commercial cleaning and clothes washing products without chlorine bleach. These are made with biodegradable, non-toxic, and 100% natural ingredients, and many don’t cost more than the chlorinated products. So spend a few moments looking at product labels and choose non-chlorine products that are also free of other worrisome ingredients like perfumes, phosphates, enzymes and petroleum.