6 Green Laundry Bleach Alternatives

bleach alternatives

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

If you don't like using chlorine bleach because of the odor, the harshness of the chemicals, and the possible damage to the environment but still need ways to keep clothes white and remove stains, there are green alternatives. Here are six green ways to get you started and one is completely cost-free.

These six alternatives will not replace chlorine bleach as a disinfectant to kill bacteria but will help keep your white clothes looking good and are easier on the environment. For laundry that must be disinfected, there are other choices like pine oil and phenolic disinfectants to replace chlorine bleach.

  • 01 of 06

    Raid the First Aid Kit for Hydrogen Peroxide

    bottle of peroxide next to laundry
    The Spruce / Candace Madonna

    Hydrogen peroxide is a mild bleaching agent that can be used for more than summer blond highlights. It can be used to remove stains or to whiten and brighten clothes and has less impact on the environment than chlorine bleach. When exposed to light, hydrogen peroxide eventually breaks down to water and oxygen and becomes a biodegradable oxygen-based bleach. Use the same three percent solution of hydrogen peroxide for laundry that is commonly found in the drug store first aid aisle.

    To whiten and brighten clothes, add 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide to each washer load of laundry. It can be safely used on a load of whites or colored clothes. The hydrogen peroxide should be placed in the automatic bleach dispenser of the washer or added as the washer is filling with water, so it is dispersed evenly before clothes are added. Do not pour hydrogen peroxide directly on dry colored fabrics because it can cause spotting by removing color.

  • 02 of 06

    Add Baking Soda to Each Load

    bowl of baking soda

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    Adding just 1/2 cup baking soda to your usual laundry detergent will boost the detergent's cleaning power and leave clothes whiter and brighter. Baking soda is safe to use in both standard and high-efficiency washers. Just add the baking soda directly to the washer drum before you add the dirty laundry. Do not put the baking soda in an automatic dispenser because it may not dissolve completely.

    Even if you still feel the need to use chlorine bleach, you can use less by adding baking soda to the wash load. It also helps chlorine bleach clean more effectively.

  • 03 of 06

    Use Oxygen-Based Bleach

    container of oxygen-based bleach

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    An oxygen-based bleach is more gentle on the environment and your clothes than chlorine bleach but is an extremely effective whitening agent and stain remover. Oxygen bleach can be used on all washable fabrics except silk, wool, and anything with leather trim. While chlorine bleach will permanently remove the color from most dyed fabrics, oxygen bleach can be safely used on colored clothes to brighten the fabric and remove stains.

    Oxygen bleach works a bit more slowly than chlorine bleach, and you will get the best results if you allow the clothing to soak for at least two hours or overnight in the water/oxygen bleach solution before washing as usual. Follow the package directions for how much oxygen bleach to use per gallon of water.

    Powdered oxygen bleach is activated by adding it to water. Powdered formulas are more stable and produce better results than pre-mixed liquid oxygen bleaches which lose effectiveness over time once the container is opened.

    Oxygen bleach brand names include OxiClean, Nellie's All Natural Oxygen Brightener, and OxoBrite.

  • 04 of 06

    Soak in Distilled White Vinegar

    distilled white vinegar in a laundry basket

    The Spruce / Candace Madonna

    To help whiten clothes and linens, presoak the white items in a solution of one part distilled white vinegar and six parts warm water. Mix the solution in a large plastic bucket or tub, a sink, or the washer drum. Completely submerge the white clothes and swish through the vinegar solution to be sure that all surfaces are wet.

    Let the clothes sit overnight and then wash your clothes as usual following the correct water temperature for the fabrics. Any vinegar odor will disappear, and the environment will appreciate your efforts.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Grab Some Lemons

    lemons for laundry use

    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    Lemon juice is acidic just like vinegar and provides the same natural bleaching action. Add one cup of lemon juice to the washer when washing white clothes to help keep them bright. White cotton socks can become heavily stained and dingy. To whiten, add one lemon cut into slices to a large pot of boiling water. Add the socks, turn off the heat, and allow them to soak overnight before washing.

  • 06 of 06

    Use Solar Power to Whiten Clothes

    white clothes on a clothesline
    The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

    Using the ultraviolet rays of the sun to whiten your clothes is the ideal green laundry solution. Once you've installed a clothesline, it's free. You're saving money and natural resources by not using a clothes dryer, and the carbon footprint is nearly zero.

    The ultra-violet rays whiten, fade stains, and disinfect fabrics while they dry. Remember, however, the same rays can fade colored fabrics.

  • What whitens clothing besides bleach?

    There are many green ingredients you can use to whiten your clothing. When washing clothes, use hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, distilled white vinegar, oxygen-based bleach, or lemon juice instead of bleach.

  • Does hydrogen peroxide disinfect laundry?

    Hydrogen peroxide can effectively disinfect your laundry. Do not put on colored clothing that is dry, though, as it can cause spotting and damage.

  • Does the sun whiten clothes?

    Those powerful rays from the sun do whiten and brighten clothing. Just hang those dingy, white clothes on a clothesline and let the sun do the work naturally, without any chemicals.

Article Sources
The Spruce uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Common Chemicals Used for Cleaning & Decontamination Guideline. University of Colorado Boulder. 

  2. Green Cleaning. Washington State University.