A Natural Bleach Alternative

I recently got an email from La June which included the words, “I need HELP Jillee!”  Well shoot, I can’t possibly ignore that! ;-)   Actually what she needed help with is something I’m sure a lot of you probably deal with who live in a rural area. Not being able to use bleach in your laundry because you’re on a septic system.

Specifically, La June was talking about the Miracle Whitening Solution post, which does indeed include bleach. While VERY effective…I know not everyone uses it. SO, I went in search of an alternative for La June (and the rest of you!) that I thought was a good substitute.

I looked at LOTS and LOTS of “bleach alternatives” and to be honest wasn’t extremely impressed with any of them. First of all, MOST of the homemade bleach alternative solutions I came across combined Hydrogen Peroxide and Vinegar which shouldn’t be mixed together in the same container.

Mixing the two results in Peracetic Acid, which is a strong oxidizing agent used for high level disinfection. It’s popular in the food industry because it breaks down into water, oxygen and acetic acid (vinegar), making it very environmentally friendly. But studies have found it is very irritating to the skin, eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. So probably NOT a good idea to use it on your laundry. Then I came across this post from Grit.com and it made perfect sense!  So I decided to give it a try.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 12 cups water
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup hydrogen peroxide

Mix. Add 2 cups per wash load or put in spray bottle and use as a household cleaner.


bleach alternative

I decided to test it on a pair of white pillow shams I have on my bed that were beginning to look a bit on the dingy/dirty side. I don’t wash them often because we don’t actually SLEEP on them…but you know how it is…they still get dirty from being handled and thrown on the floor and lounged on when someone is watching TV on the bed, etc. I figured they would be a good test.

Unfortunately, I totally spaced taking a BEFORE picture of them, so you’re just going to have to use your imagination. But they looked a lot like this mattress cover did that I featured in the Miracle Whitening Solution post I did. Maybe not QUITE as bad. But close.


I added 2 cups of the solution to the load of whites I washed the pillow shams with (along with my regular homemade detergent), let it agitate, and then let it soak for a little over an hour. Here are the pillowcases on my bed. :-) Not bad huh?

bleach alternative


I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the effectiveness of this combination. I’ve also used it a couple of times now just as a general all-purpose cleaner around the kitchen and have liked the results there as well. I’ve been using straight hydrogen peroxide for awhile now as a kitchen/bathroom/etc. cleaner, but the addition of the acidic lemon gives it a nice cleaning boost and, of course, a fresh citrus scent!


bleach alternative


If you are on a septic system or just want to avoid using chlorine bleach in your laundry…give this a try!  I think you’ll be happy with the results.

And one more thing…this post wouldn’t be complete without adding a plug for good old-fashioned, 100% natural, SUNSHINE. The ultraviolet radiation of sunlight is a natural disinfectant. You can effectively brighten and disinfect your stained laundry by spraying it with lemon juice and then hanging it in the sun.

I realize this isn’t going to be extremely PRACTICAL at times….but I had to give it a shout-out anyway. :-)


Happy whitening!!



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  1. Penny Hannah says

    That sounds like a useful combination and the results look great – just wish I could add the sunshine to my mix; we’re getting the add on effects of ‘Sandy’ here at the moment,

  2. Emma says

    Wow, just yesterday I was trying to come up with a substitute for bleach – which has been a staple for so long that I can’t imagine laundry without it. That’s why I have white towels, wash cloths, etc.. cause you never know what germs could be there and bleach is a pretty effective broad spectrum disinfectant and stain remover. But you cant use it on microfiber and I love the microfiber towels for cleaning. So —– does anyone know if this combination is safe for micro fiber?

  3. Laurel G says

    Two Questions! Does this mixture need refrigeration (because of the lemon juice)? and how long will it keep? I only have a small amount of whites that would need the solution (although I might use it from time to time on other laundry).

  4. Teri says

    I have been searching for a non toxic cleaner for my white porcelain kitchen sink. I am trying to convert to all non toxic cleaners in my house and so far have not found one to get my sink back to white like bleach or comet or toilet bowl cleaner. Have you tried this mixture for this job ?

  5. Cathy Walker says

    Hi Jillee
    First I love you site and have followed you for a long time. Also thansk for all the work you do and just pass it along, you rock!

    Q?-Peroxide loses its intensity in the light hence the brown bottle. How long does this last??

    Cathy W

  6. Deb Vaughn says

    Jillee, I too have heard that this needs to be stored in a darker container. I bought a solid plastic pitcher to store mine in. Also, being on a septic system I find this works great, especially if you can hang your clothes outside in the sun! I was surprised at the amount used tho. I guess if you have a top load washer you might need 2 cups, but I have an HE washer and only use about 1/2 cup per load with good results. Thanks for the tip!

  7. Sarah says

    Thanks for this Deb, I was just going to ask about how much to use in an HE machine but you answered right here! :)

  8. says

    This is great Jillee! I am not on septic yet but we plan to move to the country so will really need this then.

    Quick question: is the peroxide solution 3% which is available in most pharmacies or is it 35% food grade?

  9. Marliss says

    Will this solution cause negative effects on colors like bleach does? My son’s karate belt is black with a white stripe down the middle from end to end and the white is getting VERY dingy.


  1. [...] the question is – homemade bleach is great for whitening laundry, as Jillee at One Good Thing and Robin at Thank Your Body have shown, but what about cleaning? Can a homemade version be as [...]

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