Friday, April 30, 2010

Chlorine-free laundry whiteners, brighteners

Chlorine bleach is too strong for our own good, and the planet's. It is highly caustic, meaning it can burn our skin, eyes and respiratory tracts, and capable of releasing nerve-damagine chloramine gas if mixed with ammonia or acidic substances. It harms aquatic life and reacts with decaying organic matter, such as leaves, to produce toxic trihalomethanes in our drinking water. Enough, already! You can use a commercial bleach labeled chlorine-free and based on hydrogen peroxide or oxygen (see list, below). Or D.I.Y. with some old-fashioned basic ingredients. For stain removal, I recommend presoaking the item in 2 tablespoons washing soda (a mineral powder) mixed with a gallon of water in a pan, or you can add a half cup to a washer load before you start it. A half cup or so of either mineral-based Borax, or lemon juice or white vinegar in a gallon of water will also brighten and help lift stains. Use gloves to protect skin when handling these ingredients, which are caustic, though not as strong as chlorine. Remember to hang laundry in the sun, a powerful whitener and disinfectant, plus you'll save 723 lbs. of carbon dioxide emissions and at least $50 per year on your energy bill by hang drying only half your loads.

For more green living tips and statistics about how small things add up to big changes, see my book, Do One Green Thing; for new lifestyle and product news, come to .

Look for the label "Chlorine-free" on bleaching products from the following makers:

Arm & Hammer
Clorox 2
Country Save
Seventh Generation

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