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!!



Print Friendly
Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on Twitter217Pin on Pinterest112.2kGoogle+0

Enjoy This Post? Never Miss Another!

Subscribe to Jillee's FREE email newsletter and receive more great tips and ideas!



  1. Pam says

    I’m glad you mentioned sunshine! Years ago I got this tip from Martha Stewart & works let a charm on stubborn stains. After washing, lay the item, whites or colored, on the grass or shrubbery in the sun to dry. There is a reaction between the sun & chlorophyll in the green plants that somehow works to get whites whiter and stains out of everything. Suzi

  2. 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.

    • says

      Marliss, this is considered a color-safe bleach alternative, but as usual, I would to a spot test on any articles of clothing you are worried about. I personally would have no problem using it on colors.

    • says

      Marliss – better check with your son. In Martial Arts, dirty belts are a sign of experience. It’s supposedly a negative thing to have a clean belt. At least in Japan, in the dojo where I studied Hakoru Jujitsu, it was a negative thing. lol

      • Rella says

        I always washed my color belts, though I have never washed my black belts because of the embroidery. In tae keon do, at least at my school, there is no hard rule against it. If you want to wash it, spot test it, but I doubt it will be a problem. Red is the only color belt that I have ever seen really bleed its color. You can also try adding 1 cup of white vinegar to your wash – it helps to set the dye in clothes, especially red and dark colors. I do this every time I buy a new red outfit. You should only need to do it the first time you are washing something.

      • says

        Oh that’s fabulous to hear about vinegar helping to set colors. I’d never read that before, but I hate how my pretty, dark-colored shirts fade so quickly. I’ll have to try that next time I buy a red or dark-colored shirt. Thanks for the tip!

      • Jo says

        Vinegar helps to fade colors… I love to use it straight in my wash but I run a farm and do not mind fade.

      • Vicky says

        Being a fabriccare specialist, I must disspell the vinegar myth. It does not set any dye Fabrics will only absorb so much dye, the rest will leach out with the first wash, sometimes even in the second or third wash. Typically the boldest brightest colors bleed and it happens within the first few minutes after immersion. I suggest a cold water soak, no detergent at first as the chemicals in some have been known to move (bleed) different dyes. I have a bright tie-dye shirt I soaked for 30 min, drained water then added fresh cold water for another soak. Repeat this until the water comes out clear. Also, borax is an excellent cleaner for whites as well as peroxide. Borax when heat is added, breaks down certains tannins, which is what usually leaves the yellow stains in whites. On my white canvas shoes, I dab borax with hot water, let sit a few minutes then rinse again and repeat if necessary.

  3. 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?

    • Diana says

      I’m guessing but from what I have seen over time on Jillee’s site, it is 5%. I have looked at and tried most of her cleaning agents. She tries to go for easy to find ingredients. Hope this helps

  4. 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!

  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

      • Chrissy says

        I just learned on the tv show The Doctors peroxide lasts 6 months once opened, 3 years in a sealed bottle.

  6. 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 ?

    • KD says

      Try something like Bon Ami or Barkeeper’s Friend. It requires elbow grease, but I use it on everything porcelain, it doesn’t scratch and does a great job. (works great on enameled objects and glass too) The trick is to use a damp washcloth/kitchen sponge and no other water. Too much water makes it ineffective.

      • annette says

        barkeepers friend is great, if you let it sit on what ever your using it on there I very little elbow grease

    • Tabitha says

      A combination of baking soda/water, baking soda/dish soap/water, or even baking soda and vinegar should do the trick. Also baking soda and hydrogen peroxide. Basically, baking soda wetted and left to sit on discolored surfaces works wonders at lightening, brightening, and whitening.

    • Karen423 says

      I use baking soda to scrub my white kitchen sink, and then follow up with lemon wedge. I just use the straight cut lemon, the rind is a great scrubber. Let the juice dry on the sink, rinse well and run the lemon down the disposal to clean and freshen it.

    • says

      Borax has been my new miracle for my white porcelain sink. Just make a paste and with a little scrubbing, it gleams in no time.

    • Michelle says

      Use Jilly’s Miracle Cleaner-peroxide and baking soda! My sink is white and sparkling!

    • Kathy says

      I used this ona very badly stained tub. I think tbe hard water was never washed off. Spray with good old cheap white vinegar then sprinkle with cream of tartar. Go have a beer or two. Come backin an hour or so, redsmpen with vinegar or water scrub and watch those stains just start to disappear.

      • Just sayin says

        I believe you but if I tried going off and drinking a couple of beers while this worked, I wouldn’t be back till the next day because I’d be passed out that long.

    • Sandra Di Meglio says

      Good old baking soda works really good…it is the only thing I use to scrub my sink, tub and stove.

  7. 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).

    • leah says

      Doubtful. Lemon Juice is HIGHLY acidic and therefore is unlikely to “go bad.” On a long enough time line, yes, lemon spoils. But for the purposes of this article, refridgeration is unnecessary.

      • Jo says

        My husband leaves a bottle of lemon juice on the counter until he is done using it, he uses it in water, in beer. It has stayed there while he deployed for a yr, and had been there awhile. He came home and used it over the next few months. It is so acidic, it smelled and tasted the same. Not saying this is the right way to do it but I do! This is a great recipe too, thanks for sharing.

    • JoyRenée says

      It shouldn’t need Refrigeration, but as it has hydrogen peroxide in it, I’d recommend te use of a dark container. It breaks down quickly when exposed to light.

    • ace says

      Great mixture thank you for the post :] I have been using HP as a bleach substitute for a couple years and have been very pleased! Hydrogen Peroxide definitely needs to be kept in a dark bottle with a snug lid. Allowing in oxygen and light render it useless within hours.

  8. 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?

  9. 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,

    • Landon says

      Yesterday I was using Jillee’s method to clean the outside of my windows (fabulous results, by the way) while we were getting the outer band winds off Sandy clear across the state of SC from the coast. I think I got as wet as the windows!! The wind would shift at times & blow all the wind back on me. When I finished that I figured I might as well do my screened porch furniture too. The wind shifted & threw the water through the screen & onto my husband at one point. LOL

    • says

      You need to say what percentage hydrogen peroxide is to be used. There is food grade 37 per cent which is dangerous to get on skin or 6 per cent used to bleach hair or 3 per cent for antibacterial spray this is all dissolved in distilled water. This is dangerous stuff bought or used unwisely. please answer

      • Joanne Read says

        I doubt you can buy food grade (37%) peroxide in most grocery stores. Most people would pick up the normal brown bottles in the local store when they buy food, etc.

        Good point though.

      • Sandra Di Meglio says

        You cannot buy food grade peroxide at the store. You can Oder it online some places and it has to be shipped by haz material . So there is no chance you will buy the food grade in the store.. I have gotten the food grade and mixed it with my own pure water…

      • Drenka says

        Sorry I don’t understand the answer and I don’t live in the US. What grade shoul we use, 6% or 3%?
        Thank you in advance for the reply and for this useful recipe!

      • says

        Actually one can buy 35% food grade hydrogen peroxide directly from certain health food stores. I got mine at Lassen’s.
        Properly diluted in distilled water, one can consume it and it adds 10 times the amount of oxygen to the body, thereby healing many diseases and stopping precancerous cells from turning cancerous.

        Food for thought and do your research for it is the cheapest cure you can find for many human ailments and problems.

        God Bless

      • kim says

        Consuming hydrogen peroxide is contraindicated. It is highly oxidative causing free radical damage to to the cells it comes in contact with.

    • Shelley Singh says

      I love the IDEA of washing my pillows – I am OCD when it comes to cleaning! I love all the wonderful alternative methods that are green and less toxic! Thanks for the great and helpful posts, its changed how I do everything, and my life!

      My question: Do you have an alternate method of washing pillows/yellowing pillows — I have a front loading washing machine, so there is no way that I would be able to let items soak and add ingredients after wash has started….can you help?


  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 […]