The Trouble with Bleach

I’m alarmed and distressed by the number of people that feel nothing is really clean unless bleach is involved in some capacity. Outside of medical and other extreme sanitation situations, the use of bleach in household environments is a bad idea. Why? – primarily due to the chemical chlorine.Bleach shot

Chlorine is a dioxin in gaseous form. In fact, it is a gas at room temperature, making the likelihood of inhalation nearly unavoidable. Those with allergies and asthma may find their symptoms exacerbated by chlorine bleach products. Chlorine is capable of causing permanent lung damage or chemical-induced asthma and can corrode lungs, eyes and skin. It is a corrosive chemical that eradicates organic substances indiscriminately – so, as well as killing germs and bacteria, chlorine can even harm cells.

Why anyone would voluntarily spray, wipe and pour this noxious chemical around their home, children and pets is a mystery to me. (Well – not a complete mystery given how persuasive advertising can be). Like so many chemical toxins introduced to our indoor environments, chlorine in its gaseous state is heavier than air, so it hangs low in whatever contained environment it’s released in. This makes children and pets more vulnerable to its harmful qualities – which includes corrosive agents that are particularly hazardous to the young and small because of the smaller diameter of their airways. Pet bird owners know to never allow bleach products to cross their threshold.

Another sobering fact about chlorine is that water substantially enhances its oxidizing and corrosive effects making it acutely toxic to aquatic life – so it’s imperative that we make every effort to keep it out of our waterways. The amounts of chlorine added to municipal drinking systems are not considered hazardous, however home use is generally not monitored as carefully. It is advised to keep the ratio of bleach to water very conservative. Mixing bleach with other household cleaners such as toilet cleaners or ammonia is an absolute DON’T – because the mixture produces dangerous chemicals that become airborne. Keep in mind, mustard gas (a chemical used in warfare) is a mixture of chlorine and detergent.

There are alternatives to bleach. Oxygenated bleaches do not contain chlorine and do a great job lifting stains and whitening. The tried-and-true vinegar and baking soda combo remains a champion spot cleaner. Hydrogen peroxide is a whitener as well. And I defy you to prove that Bon Ami scrub works any less effectively than scrubs that contain bleach.

If its general germs you’re worried about, chlorine bleach products may be 99.9% effective at killing germs – qualifying as an overachiever in the disinfectant category – but are not a detergent. Plain soap and water combined with vinegar add up to a powerful, non-chemical cleaning alternative for everyday household germs and bacteria. In fact, antibacterial soaps may kill some bacteria, but regular soap kills the same bacteria plus cold and flu viruses – which antibacterial soaps cannot claim. This is why most jGj green cleaners posted use biodegradable soap, water and distilled vinegar as a base. Germs and bacteria do not thrive in acidic conditions – a clue as to why vinegar and lemon are so common in green cleaning formulas.

H2O2 shotTo boost the disinfecting properties of any cleaner, add hydrogen peroxide (3% concentration). This little brown bottle is the unsung hero of disinfectants. Just one extra molecule away from being pure water, H2O2 breaks down in the environment as water and oxygen. It doesn’t get much purer than that. It can clean and disinfect just about anything – from fruits and vegetables to a daily shower spray. For stubborn toilet stains, let the solution sit for a few hours to overnight. For counter tops, sinks or showers that need a good disinfecting, spray this daily solution and walk away. Depending on how much detergent you add, no noticeable residue will remain.


Daily H2O2 Disinfecting Spray

¼ cup hydrogen peroxide

¼ cup rubbing alcohol

1 or 2 drops liquid (biodegradable) dish soap

2 cups water

2 teaspoons dishwasher rinse – for glass surfaces (optional)

For fruits and vegetables, a soak in a sink full of water with ¼ cup hydrogen peroxide and rinse. OR you can follow jGj’s Fruit & Veggie Wash recipe and augment the antibacterial/antifungal power by adding a tablespoon of 3% H2O2 to the water. Remember, you still must rinse after the wash.

Generally, the hydrogen peroxide sold in stores and pharmacies is a 3% content. In the case that you have a stronger solution, convert by using these recipes:

1 fl. oz. of 35% H2O2 combined with 11 oz. distilled water

5 fl. oz. of 7% H2O2 combined with 7 fl. oz. of distilled water

* remember to store hydrogen peroxide solutions in opaque bottles since light reduces the effectiveness.


About the Author

Here at Jenny Green Jeans, by sharing success stories and easy-to- implement tips, I hope to inspire and empower you to continue to make sustainable choices in your life and watch how far the impact goes. Please contact me with any questions or suggestions you may have. Also visit the Green Design Goods store for my favorite environmentally sustainable products.

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  1.' linda Odenborg says:

    Very useful information. Will use the fruits and Veggie rinse right away. Good, Good, Good.

    Please add Dee Wheeler to your newsletter subscribers.

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