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Bleach Substitutes: 5 Safer Cleaning Options

Updated on January 31, 2013
Grapefruit seed extract is a safer cleaning option
Grapefruit seed extract is a safer cleaning option

5 Green Cleaning Options

Chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite) is a chemical that has long been used for disinfecting purposes. We know now that bleach, however, is not environmentally friendly. This is because chlorine bleach forms toxic by-products such as dioxin, and other organochlorines, when it reacts with other elements.

Alternative options, many very old, are available that are safer and useful for disinfection. See list below:

1 - Grapefruit Seed Extract - Grapefruit seed extract is one of the newer products on the market. A powerful, nontoxic disinfectant, it is used to protect against common bacteria viruses and parasites found in the home. This includes influenza, salmonella, staph, e.coli, and strep. Grapefruit seed extract is ideal for disinfecting baby toys, clothes and bottles, because it is harmless to infants. Many hospitals now use grapefruit seed extract to wash linens, as a safe alternative to harsh chemicals, including bleach, to protect against fungi and bacteria.

2 - Hydrogen Peroxide - Hydrogen peroxide is a bleach substitute that has been used for ages. It is made simply of water and an extra oxygen molecule (H202). Because hydrogen peroxide breaks down into water and oxygen, this makes it kinder to the environment. Hydrogen peroxide is also the active ingredient used in many "oxygen" bleaches.

3 - Vinegar - Vinegar used for disinfecting can be traced back to ancient Rome. It was used to purify drinking water and fight disease. Today, vinegar is used to disinfect the home and is especially useful for cleaning wood cutting boards, kitchen counter tops, and as a germ killing agent for rinsing fruits and vegetables. Distilled white vinegar will eliminate exposure to toxic commercial household cleansers. It has acetic acid - making it an effective disinfectant for inhibiting mold and bacteria growth.

4- Isopropyl alcohol - is another old cleaner used for disinfecting and sterilizing surfaces in the home, in hospitals, in food processing plants, dairy farms, veterinary institutions, barbershops and eating establishment. Isopropyl alcohol has properties that are antimicrobial and is a virucide, fungicide and bactericide.

5 - Borax - Borax, also known as sodium tetraborate and sodium borate, is a naturally occurring substance. As a powerful cleaning agent, borax has antimicrobial properties and effectively inhibits fungal and mold growth. Borax has been used since Victorian times. When dissolved in hot water, borax acts a bit like hydrogen peroxide because of its bleaching effects.

For more green options, see links below:


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    • profile image

      May A Soucy 4 years ago

      All very useful information, I'm sure, but what I am looking for is a substitute for the bleach used in whitening clothes. What do you suggest? Regular bleach makes my husband break out in an itchy rash.

    • TheListLady profile image

      TheListLady 4 years ago from New York City

      TIMETRAVELER - glad you found the information useful. And thanks for the vote!

      Sunshine625 - I think we all grew up with bleach and parting has to be hard. It's always been known for powerful cleaning.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

      I'm a fan of bleach. Not sure I could part with it. I do also use Hydrogen Peroxide and Vinegar. Didn't know about Borax.

    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

      Sondra Rochelle 4 years ago from USA

      I didn't know this and am glad you wrote about it. Will change my cleaning methods asap! Voted up!

    • TheListLady profile image

      TheListLady 5 years ago from New York City

      Thanks for all the comments - I enjoyed reading them. I've been offline for several months because I injured my back. I am just getting back online. I'm so glad to have friends at hubpages to return to. What a pleasure!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 5 years ago from United States

      What a useful hub! Now I have to try grapefruit seed extract. It sounds even better than vinegar.

    • blairtracy profile image

      blairtracy 6 years ago from Canada

      Great ideas. Thank-you. Bleach is pretty much the only chemical I still use. I will be happy t replace it.

    • Veronica Allen profile image

      Veronica Allen 7 years ago from Georgia

      I have often used hydrogen peroxide in place of bleach. I've also tried vinegar...I will definitely keep an eye out for the grapefruitseed oil extract. Thank you ListLady!

      Rated it up!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 7 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Very good information on replacements for bleach. Better for the environment. I sure want to thank you for this!

    • pinkdaisy profile image

      pinkdaisy 7 years ago from Canada

      I prefer using these natural products instead of bleach. Great article.

    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 7 years ago

      Thanks for enlightening us. Grapeseed oil extract sounds like a wonderful alternative. I've heard of vinegar and some people even go so far as to use to boil it over a low fire to kill germs in the atmosphere. Rated up.

    • CountryCityWoman profile image

      CountryCityWoman 7 years ago from From New York City to North Carolina

      Sounds really good.I have not used bleach in over 20 years- it is just not necessary. Sometimes I squeeze grapefruit juice in my rinse water when I'm cleaning counters. Gives everything a nice fresh smell.

      Thanks for the list.

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      That grapefruit seed extract sounds ideal. I love grapefruit and like the smell of it. I'd welcome this aroma in my home.

      Thanks for the suggestions. I never use bleach. We have to stop being so irresponsible - and then whining when things go wrong.

      Great hub - thanks and rated up!

    • Tamarajo profile image

      Tamarajo 7 years ago

      enjoyed the useful tips. I have transitioned to all natural cleaners and use vinegar frequently. The grape fruit seed extract is one I have not heard of.

      Good information