Description: Cleaning products with chlorine bleach and disinfecting ingredients leave residues that are persistent on surfaces, and in the air. This creates the risk of ingestion by children and others, who may touch or eat food from surfaces which were cleaned even hours earlier. Non-chlorine, natural, oxygen-safe bleach, vinegar, and hydrogen peroxide are excellent alternatives to chlorine bleach.

What to look for: Oxygen bleach and cleansers containing sodium percarbonate, calcium carbonate, soda ash, sodium sulfate, and hydrogen peroxide, combined with naturally-derived, biodegradable surfactants, for cleaning and stain removal.

Surfactants are formulated from the oils of soy, lemon, oranges, peppermint, co-conut, clover, limes, geraniums, corn and others. Grapefruit seed extract is also a powerful agent that is used in many cleaners. “Biodegradable” means that a product breaks down into water, carbon dioxide and minerals, and is harmless to the environment. Just about everything, however, is biodegradable. What is im-portant, is the amount of time a compound takes to degrade, and if it is harmless during the process. Most cleaning products in natural food stores are formulated to break down safely and quickly, but be warned that “biodegradable” also ap-pears on conventional products. The best choice is to buy commercial, non-chlorine bleaches instead of making your own, because store-bought brands of non-chlorine bleach include stabilizers to help reduce the product’s reactivity in the environment. Hydrogen peroxide is composed of water and oxygen only. Hydrogen peroxide is considered the safest, all-natural effective sanitizer. It kills microorganisms by oxidizing them, which can best be described as a con-trolled burning process. When hydrogen peroxide reacts with organic material, it breaks down into oxygen and water.

Uses: Stain removal in clothing, general cleaning.

Where to find: Natural Food Stores and online resources.

Avoid: It is best to avoid most commonly available bleach, sodium hypochlorite (otherwise known as chlorine bleach), metasilicates, caustics, and borine.

Make Your Own: Add 1 cup lemon juice to the rinse cycle of a medium load of whites. It will lightly bleach the clothing. This technique is especially effective on clothes that are then hung to dry on the line. The minerals in hard water can gray clothes. If you have very hard water, add a cup of vinegar to your rinse water. If you don’t have hard water, add a cup of borax to a medium load of laundry, to brighten whites. Borax, or sodium borate, is a naturally-occurring alkaline mineral, which has no toxic fumes and is safe for the environment.