Some of us are minimalists when it comes to cleaning the bathroom. A spritz of spray cleaner here, a wipe here, a squeeze of toilet cleaner there, a little scrub here and we're done. For others, though, that approach doesn't quite cut it. For the more militant housekeepers among us, a bathroom isn't truly spotless unless it's been disinfected with bleach, and lots of it. And it's for good reason that some are so devoted -- bleach is an amazing sanitizer. It pulverizes mold, decimates mildew and destroys germs.
But if you're a die-hard member of the bleach brigade, you might want to think again about your cleanser of choice. Chlorine bleach isn't exactly the best thing for your (or your children's) lungs. It's a known carcinogen that can cause burns, respiratory problems and gastrointestinal issues. If you happen to mix it with anything that contains ammonia, it produces an extremely toxic gas.
Bleach can also cause serious pollution. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, our indoor air is twice as polluted as the outdoor air, mostly because of the cleaners we use. Studies have shown that chlorinated VOC (volatile organic compound) levels in the home skyrocket when you clean with bleach.
But, you ask, if bleach is off-limits, what else can I use to disinfect my bathroom? There are plenty of effective alternatives out there that aren't so dangerous. On the next page we'll tell you about some of them.
Tips for Disinfecting Your Bathroom Without Bleach
If you're looking for an easy way to break your bleach addiction, you can always switch to oxygen bleach. It disinfects and cleans just as well as chlorine bleach, but because its active ingredient is hydrogen peroxide, it's completely nontoxic and odor-free. (Chlorine bleach's main ingredient is sodium hypochlorite, which is pretty much the opposite of nontoxic.)
Beyond oxygen bleach, there's an amazing variety of safe bathroom cleaners out there. You can always choose from any number of ready-made "green" products on your supermarket's shelves. Borax, for example, is a time-tested, extremely versatile cleanser that contains no chlorine or phosphates. But if you're ready for a big change (and you enjoy saving lots of money), you can work wonders in your bathroom with a few all-natural ingredients that you probably already have.
You might be surprised to hear this, but distilled white vinegar, lemons and baking soda (along with some borax and a little tea tree oil) are all you really need to combat bathroom mold, mildew and grime. Here are some of the ways you can combine these magic ingredients to produce powerful cleaning action:
- A thick paste made of a half-cup of vinegar and a quarter-cup baking soda will spiff up bathroom tiles -- as will scrubbing with half a lemon dipped in borax powder.
- A spray consisting of equal parts vinegar, baking soda and water is an excellent multipurpose cleaner.
- Sprinkle a cup of borax and a quarter-cup of vinegar into your toilet bowl, let it sit overnight, then scrub and flush in the morning.
- Unclog a drain by pouring down a handful of baking soda and a half-cup of vinegar, covering for 15 minutes and then flushing with 2 quarts of boiling water.
And this is only the tip of the iceberg as far as uses for these amazingly versatile cleaning agents. We hope we've been able to persuade you to give them a try! Check out the links on the next page for more info on alternative cleaning options.
- Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. "Safer Alternatives to Hazardous Household Chemicals." (July 7, 2012) http://www.healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/Portals/0/Health/EnvironmentalHealth/healthyhomes-safer%20alternatives.pdf
- Maker, Melissa. "Oxygen Bleach: The Effective and Safe Alternative." May 24, 2011. (July 7, 2012) http://www.naturallysavvy.com/naturally-green/oxygen-bleach-the-effective-and-safe-alternative
- New York Times. "Sodium Hypochlorite Poisoning." Feb. 2, 2011. (July 7, 2012) http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/poison/sodium-hypochlorite-poisoning/overview.html
- Sethi, Simran. "Clean and Green." Oprah.com, Jan. 19, 2010. (July 7, 2012) http://www.oprah.com/home/How-to-Clean-House-Without-Toxic-Bleach
- Van Schagen, Sarah. "A test of eight green bathroom-cleaning products." National Geographic. (July 7, 2012) http://grist.org/article/i-dont-want-no-scrub/
- Wieman, Bethany. "Natural Alternatives to Bleach for Disinfecting." (July 7, 2012) http://greenliving.nationalgeographic.com/natural-alternatives-bleach-disinfecting-2724.html