How to Whiten Whites without Chlorine Bleach

Looking for an alternative to chlorine bleach? Here are eight options for whitening whites without bleach.

Amanda Thomas
5-minute read
Episode #204

Many people are moving away from chlorine bleach in their quest to have less chemicals in their homes. It’s understandable when you look at the warning labels that come on bleach containers why people would not want to keep chlorine bleach in their homes. While it is a quick and easy way to whiten whites and disinfect, it’s also a pretty harsh chemical that, if used incorrectly, can cause some serious harm.

If you are looking to change up your laundry routine and ditch the bleach, here are eight ways you can whiten your whites without resorting to the bottle of bleach.

The first few whitening solutions are things that make me think of the 1980s. I was just a little girl in the 80s, but I had older sisters who wanted bleach blonde hair, and there were three things they used to lighten their hair:

·   Peroxide

·   Lemon Juice

·    Sunlight

It turns out the teens of the 1980s did know a few things about how to whiten without dipping their heads in a bottle of bleach (although I think a few of them used that too). These three items are not just effective at lightening hair color, but they are also great at whitening white fabrics as well. Let’s dig in a little deeper.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is a natural whitener. It is great at removing stains, even blood, from white fabrics when applied directly to the spots. It’s also effective at stripping color from non-white clothes, so make sure you use caution if you decide to use hydrogen peroxide in your laundry routine. You can buy a brown bottle of 3% hydrogen peroxide in your local pharmacy aisle. It has to stay in a dark bottle for it to keep its effectiveness, so don’t be tempted to switch it to another see-through spray bottle.

To use with your laundry, you have two options. You can apply one capful of the hydrogen peroxide at a time directly to stains and watch them disappear with the bubbly action of the peroxide. Or, if you want to use it on an entire load of laundry, add 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide to a sink full of water, add your whites, and allow them to soak for 20-30 minutes. If you are short on time, you can also add 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide to the presoak cycle in your washing machine and let it do the work of soaking and wringing for you.

Citrus Soak

Just like you can use hydrogen peroxide to whiten your whites, you can also use another trick from our 1980s friends who used lemon juice to lighten their hair. This is actually a method that Martha Stewart recommends, calling it a citrus soak. This method combines the power of super hot water with the power of citrus. Fill a large pot with water and a few pieces of lemon and place it on the stove with high heat. When the water is boiling, turn off the heat and add your white items. Submerge them completely in the water, and swish them around so they get lots of that hot citrus water into the fabrics. Allow them to remain in the water for up to an hour before tossing them in to a normal wash cycle.  

Sun “Bleach”

Once you’ve done your presoak (or even if you haven’t!), you can add another boost of whitening power by hanging your whites in the sun to dry. The UV rays of the sun actually break down chemical bonds in colors, making them fade. Just like the sun will fade your patio furniture cushions, it will help fade stains and discoloration in your white laundry. Even if you don’t have a clothes line, you can get creative in finding space to sundry your laundry. I use my patio furniture to spread out my white sheets and linens, but I’ve seen people use a rope stretched between two ladders in a pinch as well. Get creative and use the sun’s whitening powers on your linens and other whites.