Green Laundry: How to Brighten Your Whites Without Bleach

Mindy Pennybacker, author of "Do One Green Thing" and editor of GreenerPenny.com, answers your green living questions. 

Q: How Can I Brighten My Whites Without Using Bleach?

A: So glad you asked -- chlorine bleach is highly caustic (which means it can burn our skin, eyes, and respiratory tract), harms aquatic life, and reacts with organic matter to produce toxic compounds called trihalomethanes in our drinking water. 

You can use a chlorine-free commercial bleach based on hydrogen peroxide or oxygen, or DIY it with some old-fashioned basic ingredients. I recommend the recipe below, which uses washing soda (a powdered mineral soap available wherever you buy baking soda).

The Green Way to Whiten
Presoak the item in 2 tsp. washing soda mixed with 1 gallon water in a pan, or add 1/2 cup to a washer load before you start it. 

Add 1/2 cup or so of mineral-based Borax or white vinegar in 1 gallon water during the wash cycle, or lemon juice and water at the rinse cycle, to brighten and help lift stains. (Make sure you wear gloves to protect your skin.) 

Hang laundry in the sun, a powerful all-natural whitener.

For green-living tips on other topics, read more advice from Mindy.

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