Many of us have banished chlorine bleach from our homes, as it can irritate the skin, eyes, and lungs; poison fish and insects; and release carcinogenic dioxins during production. Fortunately, there are still plenty of other ways keep white linens, socks, and other fabrics sparkling, and you probably already have the ingredients around your house.
What You Need
Distilled white vinegar
Hydrogen peroxide (3%)
Note: With the exception of the lemon pre-soak and sunlight, use just one of these ingredients at a time, not all at once. Each method should work well with 100% cotton fabric, but it's a good idea to do a test before washing different fabrics or an entire load.
• Distilled white vinegar. Vinegar whitens, freshens, and softens fabrics. Add 1/2 to 1 cup of distilled white vinegar along with your regular laundry detergent. Don't worry about the vinegar scent; it will dissipate after drying. Vinegar may also be sprayed on spot stains and collar and underarm stains.
• Baking soda. Baking soda whitens, freshens, and softens fabrics. Add 1/2 cup of baking soda along with your regular laundry detergent. For spot stains, make a paste of baking soda and water and apply directly to the fabric.
• Hydrogen peroxide (3%). Hydrogen peroxide is a non-chlorine bleach. Add 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide along with your regular laundry detergent.
• Dishwasher detergent. We wouldn't suggest buying dishwasher detergent solely for laundry, but if you already have it on hand, it can be used to whiten fabrics. (To be eco-friendly, be sure to choose chlorine- and phosphate-free detergent.) Add 1/4 cup of dishwasher detergent along with your regular laundry detergent.
• Lemon juice. Lemon juice brightens and freshens fabrics. Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of lemon juice along with your regular laundry detergent.
• Lemon pre-soak. Fill a large pot with water and a sliced lemon. Bring to a boil, turn off heat, and add clothing or linens. Let soak for an hour and then launder as usual.
• Sunlight. Hang laundry out to dry in the sun, which not only brightens whites but also keeps laundry smelling fresh.
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(Images: Emily Ho)