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The Best Bleach Alternatives Around the House

Natural cleaning supplies.

​Bleach is hard to beat when you need to brighten whites and kill germs, but using it as your all-around cleaning solution could be doing you more harm than good. Toxic compounds in bleach can cause immediate irritation, headaches, and fatigue, and over time, you may even develop chronic respiratory problems.

A clean home should never come at the cost of family health. Before you reach for bleach to tackle tough stains and disinfecting jobs, try these safe alternatives instead.

DIY Cleaning and Disinfecting

Bleach is the preferred household disinfectant because it is inexpensive, easy to use, and extremely effective against germs. A mixture of one cup of bleach and one gallon of water is potent enough to kill all kinds of bacteria, fungi, and viruses, including influenza and SARS-CoV-2.

That kind of power is hard to replicate with household ingredients. When you take a step back though, you might see that you don’t need heavy-duty disinfectants like bleach in every situation. There are plenty of germ-killing solutions around the house that supply the strength you need without sacrificing your safety.


You won’t see your average cleaning service using it too often, but vinegar is an incredible all-purpose cleaner to use in place of bleach. A 1:1 solution of vinegar and water can clean all sorts of surfaces, including countertops, glass, and bathroom fixtures.

The acetic acid in vinegar breaks down dirt and grime so you can wipe them away with ease. And although it’s by no means the most practical stand-in for bleach as a disinfectant, it can be effective at killing certain bacteria, including:

  • E. coli
  • Listeria
  • Salmonella

Keep in mind, vinegar isn’t a registered disinfectant, even against these listed pathogens. But although it may not be the best alternative to bleach when you need to bust germs, vinegar shines as a cleaner, especially in the bathroom.

Vinegar’s cleaning and deodorizing power are perfect for replacing bleach-based toilet bowl cleaners and surface sprays. It breaks down hard water deposits, soap scum, and many surface stains. Plus, if you’re facing the common hazard of bathroom mold, you can hold off on the bleach and try a vinegar and Borax mildew cleaner instead.

Hydrogen Peroxide

If you need real disinfecting power, vinegar won’t cut it. But that doesn’t mean you have to jump to bleach. 

When you need something strong enough to handle bacteria and viruses, including coronavirus, check your medicine cabinet for hydrogen peroxide. You can use it as a spray solution in its as-is 3% concentration, or you can mix it with water to dilute it down to 0.5% concentration. Depending on what you’re disinfecting and trying to protect against, you may have to leave it on the surface for several minutes before wiping it down.

Hydrogen peroxide can be dangerous in industrial concentrations, but you don’t have much to worry about that with the stuff you find at the drugstore. It is mildly corrosive, so you want to be careful about it getting in your eyes or on your skin. But beyond that, hydrogen peroxide is one of the safest and most effective cleaners you can find.

Unlike bleach, hydrogen peroxide doesn’t release noxious compounds, and it isn’t dangerous to ingest in small amounts. You can even use it in a fruit and vegetable wash to kill foodborne pathogens, and it makes a great rinse to keep your toothbrush fresh. Just be careful to avoid mixing it with vinegar when cleaning, as it can create peracetic acid, a toxic gas that is hazardous when inhaled.

Whitening with Bleach Alternatives

So you replaced bleach for disinfecting around the house, but there is still no denying its superior capacity for whitening clothes. A little bleach in the laundry can strip the deepest stains and restore a crisp, white article of clothing to a like-new state. But there are many simple, gentle bleach alternatives around the house that you can try to bust through hard set stains as well.

Here are a few ways you can boost the whitening power in your next load of laundry:

  • Add ½ cup of baking soda to the washing machine tub before putting in clothes
  • Pour a cup of hydrogen peroxide into the bleach dispenser
  • Pretreat stains with lemon or vinegar for 15-30 minutes

If you want intense stain-removing power, you can also try mixing warm water and oxygen bleach and soaking clothes for a few hours before washing. Not only is it effective on a vast array of stains, but it’s also color-safe, so you won’t have to worry about ruining your clothes. You can even use it in place of bleach when you need to refresh porcelain sinks and tubs of any color.

The Best Bleach Alternatives You Can Buy

Safe disinfecting alternatives to bleach can be found at the supermarket if you’re not getting results from the staples at home. Some popular options include cleaners that replace bleach with hydrogen peroxide or oxygen bleach in the formula. But if you want to take a more natural route, you can find some of the most powerful disinfectants in essential oils.

One essential oil to look for is thymol, an antimicrobial substance found in thyme and other assorted plants. Thymol is a registered EPA disinfectant, effective against coronavirus and a host of other viruses, bacteria, and fungi. You can find thymol as an active ingredient in many products from eco-friendly brands like Seventh Generation and CleanWell.

Take a Safer Approach with a Green Cleaning Service

Protection from pathogens is crucial for most people, but you don’t need to risk your health even further with toxic cleaners like bleach. If you worry about your family’s health and safety, try these bleach alternatives to get the peace of mind that a clean home should provide.

Are you trying to cut the chemicals from your cleaning routine? If you would like maid service to help manage the mess, Anita’s can help you find a local green cleaning service that meets your unique standards. Take a few minutes to request a booking, and start making your home a little healthier today!


Anita's Housekeeping Editors