Whichever way you look at it, bleach is one of the nastiest substances in any home.
A recent study revealed that regularly breathing in strong cleaning chemicals can increase the rise of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by up to 32%. And to give this some context, COPD is a degenerative disease that is most commonly associated with heavy smokers.
The research also revealed that disinfectants such as glutaraldehyde — used in bleach and hydrogen peroxide — could be affecting the respiratory system of up to three million people in the UK alone.
As well as being a potential health hazard, bleach can also be harmful to the environment — and particularly to marine ecosystems and inland watercourses.
If you can reduce your reliance on bleach, you can protect both your health and your environment. And fortunately, there are some very effective — and natural — alternatives.
1. Baking soda
Baking soda is a hugely versatile cleaning agent — and it is a must-have in your cleaning cupboards. It can be used to clean grubby sinks, toilets and carpets. It’s also great for absorbing bad odours and cutting through greasy or stubborn stains. It’s highly alkaline, which makes it great for breaking down most things. You can even create a cleaning paste with it using water or acidic liquids such as lemon juice and vinegar.
The active ingredient in white vinegar is acetic acid, and its great for cutting through grease, limescale, dirt and a huge array of household stains. You can use it to clean your bathtub and shower, but it’s also highly effective at removing tough stains from clothes and carpets. Vinegar also possesses antibacterial properties, so it can be used to clean kitchen worktops and toilets.
A targeted jet of steam can be used for some very precise and effective cleaning in every area of the home. Whether you’re sanitising kitchen work surfaces or cleaning a toilet seat, a steam cleaner can remove stubborn stains and kill 99.9% of bacteria at the same time. And because both dirt and bacteria are removed, so are bad odours.
4. Castile soap
Castile soap is a plant-based cleaning agent that is very effective at removing dirt and grease. Because it’s plant-based, it’s kind to the environment — and reasonably kind to human health. To create a highly effective multi-purpose cleaner for every area of your home, add a few drops of castile soap to a solution of one part white vinegar and one part water. This is perfect for cleaning grubby tiles, grouting bathtubs and toilets.
While Borax — sometimes called soda crystals — is predominantly a laundry booster, it is also a highly effective disinfectant and fungicide. It doesn’t react with other cleaning agents, so you can use it to boost your household cleaning power in areas such as the kitchen and the bathroom. When combined with vinegar, it is every bit as effective as commercial bleach.
Yes, good, old-fashioned sunshine is Mother Nature’s disinfectant. The ultraviolet light from the sun kills most food poisoning bacteria, and it’s also a natural fabric brightener. If you ever have appliances, items of furniture or utensils you need to disinfect, place them in direct sunlight for a few hours.
7. Lemon juice
The acidity in lemon juice is so high, almost all types of bacteria are destroyed when they come into contact with it. It can also cut through limescale, metal corrosion, soap scum and grease with ease. In fact — although it would be expensive — you could clean your bathroom and kitchen in nothing but lemon juice. Yes, your shopping bill would go through the roof, but at least your home would smell fantastic!
If you really want to remove bleach from your home, there’s absolutely nothing stopping you. All of these seven alternatives are highly effective — and far safer.