Issue #25: Effective Bleach Alternatives

Myth: Bleach is the Ultimate Cleaner & Nothing Can Replace it

Chlorine-free Bleach Alternativeby Alicia Voorhies, RN

Did you grow up in the “Clorox generation” like I did?  It was always touted as the most powerful, disinfecting, whitening, mold-killing, must have out there.  If you didn’t use bleach, you just weren’t getting your house truly clean, right?

Not really.  Bleach is a disinfectant and not a cleaner.  And while it does kill germs, it’s not unmatched by less toxic, more natural alternatives like vinegar, lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide.

And bleach can quickly become a nightmare for growing kids, especially when it’s overused in enclosed areas or when it’s mixed with other chemicals like ammonia. It can cause irritation to the eyes, mouth, lungs and skin, and children withasthma or other breathing problems are even more susceptible. Not to mention the toxic dioxin that is released into the environment during the bleach manufacturing process, which has been linked to cancer, birth defects, and developmental disorders.

Okay, so you can make this change in your own home with simple recipes like my favorite from Crafty Little Gome.  But how can you convince your child’s school to stop usingbleach?  Bleach wipes are often a mandatory classroom supply these days, but you can begin increasing awareness by showing up to back-to-school meetings and events armed with solid information and homemade wipes.  It may not be an easy process, especially if there are specific regulations governing their cleaning efforts, but it’s important to get the ball rolling and keep at it.

If you find out that bleach is a required cleaner at the school, just encourage staff members to follow this simple rule: if you can smell it, it’s too strong. Many health departments recommend that levels be no higher than 0.01 ppm of chlorine in air. Most people can smell chlorine when levels reach 0.02-3.4 ppm, so if you can smell it, the level may be too high to be safe.

If a general disinfectant can be used, hydrogen peroxide will get the job done safely and effectively for those often-touched surfaces likes desks and table tops.  The EPA recognizes hydrogen peroxide as a useful disinfectant because it rapidly breaks down in the environment to plain oxygen and water.  Many commercial brands of hydrogen peroxide-based bleach alternatives are available too, including VaskaClorox Green Works, and Seventh Generation.

How are you handling the use of bleach in your child’s school?

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