Bleach is almost synonymous with clean and sanitized white towels, linens and hard surfaces throughout your home. Could this age-old chemical be harmful for you and your family? While bleach is certainly a powerful disinfectant, the health and environmental costs of using it may convince you to look for some natural alternatives.

Health and Environmental Effects of Bleach

Bleach is inexpensive, widely used and relatively safe when used in the correct amounts. Excessive bleach exposure, however, may cause irritation in the eyes, mouth, lungs and on skin. Individuals with asthma or other breathing problems are particularly susceptible. Bleach mixed with other household cleaners, such as ammonia, can even result in the release of toxic fumes. Bleach manufacturing also produces dioxin, a chemical that is harmful to the environment. (See References 6)


Vinegar is an effective natural disinfectant, and even kills both salmonella and E. coli, making it a valuable sanitizer in the kitchen (see References 6). Researchers conducting a study published in "Infection Control 4-cup baking soda and 1⁄2-cup white vinegar with warm water to scrub down tile. Clean glass surfaces by mixing equal amounts vinegar and water in a spray bottle. (See References 1)

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is not the best product for sanitizing surfaces because it can cause burns at high concentrations (see references 6). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, however, recognizes hydrogen peroxide as a useful disinfectant because it rapidly breaks down in the environment to plain oxygen and water. The agency also says hydrogen peroxide does not pose a health threat to humans when used according to label directions. Skip using hydrogen peroxide on the countertops, and add it to your laundry as a bleach alternative. A cup of hydrogen peroxide will brighten your whites (see References 4).


Perhaps the most surprising natural disinfectant is sunlight. Ultraviolet radiation of the sun kills pathogens that cause diarrhea. In fact, scientists have found that exposing a bottle of water to sunlight for 6 hours is an economical way to provide developing countries with safe drinking water (see References 2). The disinfecting properties of sunlight can also be useful around the house. If you have an object that you can move outside, the sun's rays can help disinfect it. A stained piece of white laundry can be effectively brightened and disinfected by spraying the stain with lemon juice or vinegar and then hanging it in the sun... see full article here.