How To Whiten Laundry Without Chlorine Bleach

Apartment Therapy Tutorials

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 ways keep white linens, socks, and other fabrics sparkling, and you probably already have the necessary ingredients around the house.

What You Need

Materials

  • Laundry detergent
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Hydrogen peroxide (3%)
  • Dishwasher detergent
  • Lemons
  • Sunlight
  • Water

Tools

  • Measuring cups
  • Large pot
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.
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Dishwasher detergent. We wouldn't suggest buying dishwasher detergent solely for laundry, but if you already have it on hand, you can use it 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.
  • 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.
  • 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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    What are your laundry whitening secrets (that don't involve bleach!)?

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    Edited from an original post published on February 24, 2010 by Emily Han

    (Image credits: Ashley Poskin)