Condo Blues: 5 Ways to Whiten Clothes Without Chlorine Bleach

Thursday, June 4, 2009

5 Ways to Whiten Clothes Without Chlorine Bleach

I like bright white laundry but I don’t like to use chlorine bleach. Chlorine bleach has some nasty chemicals in it and if you’re not careful you could ruin your clothes (looks pointedly at Husband who bought a cleaner that contained bleach unbeknownced to me until it ruined the pants I was wearing at the time I was using it.)

Fortunately there are several ways to keep your white’s white without using toxic bleach.

Five Chlorine Bleach Alternatives

1. Sunshine – Sunlight is a natural sterilizer. Hanging clothes on a line in the sun will whiten them overtime just be careful with colored clothing since they can fade. This may not be a solution for everyone, like apartment dwellers, or folks like me who suffer from allergies and don’t want to make matter worse by hanging clothes outside in the pollen ridden air.

2. Lemon juice - The citric acid in lemons acts as a natural stain remover, bleach, and sanitizer. Adding a cup of lemon juice to the wash cycle it will boost the whitening action of your laundry detergent.

3. Bluing - White clothes take on a slight grey or yellow color over time which is why we have to take an extra step to ensure that white clothes stay white. Bluing is a fabric whitener that adds a trace of blue dye to white fabrics and makes them appear whiter. I use Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing which is environmentally friendly and works surprisingly well. It’s inexpensive and a bottle of it lasts forever. The only downside is that you shouldn’t use bluing together with fabric softener. I don’t use fabric softener so that’s not an issue for me. Your mileage may vary.

4. Oxygen bleach – There are many brands out there but it’s all made with hydrogen peroxide. The Laundry Alternative researched oxygen bleaches so I’ll let them explain the details. “There are three types of oxygen bleaches sold in the consumer market, hydrogen peroxide, sodium percarbonate and sodium perborate…. Powdered bleaches are made by treating natural soda ash or natural borax with hydrogen peroxide….Also they can be used on carpet, upholstery and even the most delicate linens (except for some types of wool and silk) without harming the fabric… [Oxygen bleach] Acts as a disinfectant on both bacteria and viruses likely to be encountered in the home. Non-toxic to animals, plants and humans… [Oxygen bleach is] Very environmentally friendly as they break down into natural soda ash and/or borax after the oxygen is released.” Depending upon the brand, oxygen bleach can be a little pricey. However a big tub lasts me a long time because I alternate using it with bluing.

And if you really want to go old school natural try…

Photobucket5. Horse Urine – I kid you not. In Elizabethan England horse urine was used to whiten clothing because it contains uric acid and ammonia. This is why wearing white clothing was a sign of wealth. Only nobility could afford to own horses to produce the urine and servants to use such stinky stuff to keep their clothes white*. Can I get a big EWWWWWWWWWWW! here? Just goes to show that some of the old natural ways are NOT the best ways. Ew.

What do you use to keep your summer clothes white?

*I haven't had a chance to use that useless fun fact since I taught schoolchildren about Elizabethan life when I performed at the Ohio Renaissance Festival. Yippee!

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