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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Rebecca said...

My solution is to not wear too much white! I don't like to use chlorine bleach, either, so I am glad to know that horse urine is a good substitute. Ha!

Thanks for joining us for Thrifty Green Thursday!

Morgan said...

I love the smell of clothes that have been out on the line. Unfortunately, I am a city girl and I have a very wonderful washer/dryer that I love dearly.

Oh Lisa, you're such a great source of information. We need more people like you to help take care of the environment and teach us all how to help the world and help our budgets at the same time.

You performed at the Ohio Ren festival?
Why are you so damn cool?

P.s.! Will you be going to the arts festival this weekend?!


Colette S said...

Horse urine!! lol.

Very interesting post. I learn something. I love the idea of bluing and will try a few of these.

Amber Lu said...

Great ideas! I love using the clothesline, unfortunately I live in a community that doesn't allow it =(

I had never heard of bluing clothes before, although it makes perfect sense.

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

This has nothing to do with whitening clothes, but is another interesting historical fact about urine and clothes...I was reading a book called Someone Knows My Name about a slave on an indigo farm in South Carolina, and I learned that part of the process of making indigo dye was having the slaves pee, pouring the urine over the indigo plant, and making the slaves mix it with their feet in big vats. Gross!

Thanks for sharing these laundry tips!

Lisa said...

Horse urine is one I haven't heard lol. Sun bleaching is my favorite way to bleach. :)

Lisa said...

Oh and to Amber, I don't have a clothes line so I just clean off one of our outdoor chairs and lay the item on it to sun bleach.

Unknown said...

Wow -horse Urine, who knew! I think if I hooked up some 'cups' to my horses, my husband would officially commit me!

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