Do you dislike entering a bathroom that's just been cleaned with chlorine bleach or ammonia? Your lungs constrict from breathing in the fumes and you want to leave as quickly as possible. Many harmful chemicals like chlorine bleach have become commonplace in our homes as we are fed the dream of effortlessly clean and sanitised surfaces! But, bleach is one product where the safer alternative has many benefits over the corrosive, unhealthy choice.
Read on to learn why oxygen bleach is better than chlorine bleach, and tips on how to use it in your home.
What is chlorine bleach?
Household chlorine bleach products, for example Exit Mould, Domestos and White King, are a mixture of synthetic chemicals with the main ingredient being sodium hypochlorite. Chlorine is an element found in nature and it is used to make sodium hypochlorite along with a vast range of other industrial and consumer products--e.g. PVC (polyvinyl chloride), to bleach paper pulp white, and to kill bacteria in drinking water and swimming pools. It is highly toxic and was used as chemical weapon in WWI, Iraq and the Syrian Civil War. And while many of us drink a form of chlorine in tap water every day, at higher concentrations such as found in household cleaners, disinfectants and bleach it is harmful to health. Buy oxygen bleach here >
How is chlorine bleach harmful?
Chlorine bleach is harmful if you splash it on your skin, accidentally drink it, or inhale it. The recent findings of a 30-year study by Harvard University showed that people who used bleach and other common disinfectants once a week had a 32% increased risk of developing fatal lung disease (1). The research looked at the incidence chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in more than 55,000 nurses in the US. Numerous studies have shown that exposure to chlorine causes constriction of the airway with symptoms similar to exercise-induced asthma such as coughing, wheezing and fatigue. Further, the manufacture of chlorine compounds and products is harmful to the environment, the workers and people living around factories due to the release of gases into the air.
Mixing bleach and other chemicals can be toxic
You cannot, under any circumstances, mix chlorine bleach with other cleaning products. According to Dr. Axe (3), mixing bleach with ammonia produces chloramine gas, bleach plus acidic products create chlorine gas, and bleach plus alcohol creates chloroform. Exposure to all of these carry severe health risks. Although bleach and ammonia must not be mixed, we noticed on the Material Safety Data Sheet for Exit Mould (2), it contains sodium hypochlorite (chlorine) and amines (a compound derived from ammonia).
What is oxygen bleach?
Oxygen bleach, or sodium percarbonate, is made from sodium carbonate (also know as soda ash) and hydrogen peroxide. It works by releasing oxygen once it is exposed to water. This release of oxygen lifts stains and dirt off whatever you're cleaning. The only by-product is soda ash. This makes oxygen bleach an excellent natural stain remover.
Oxygen bleach is better than chlorine bleach because:
1. It is safer for your health.
The health risks of chlorine bleach are too great as explained above. You still need to take care when using oxygen bleach, such as avoiding contact with eyes, wearing gloves if your skin is sensitive, not inhaling it, and keeping it out of reach of children.
2. It is safer for the environment.
Sodium percarbonate is an eco-friendly chemical which decomposes into oxygen, water and natural soda ash when it contacts with water making it biodegradable and septic safe (though it is not grey water safe due to the high salt content). It contains no phosphorous or nitrogen. We also note that Exit Mould ingredients are tested on rabbits (2. See excerpt of MSDS for Exit Mould at end).
3. Back to basics single ingredient.
Liquid commercial bleach that contains 12.5% sodium hypochlorite is considered a hazardous good and has restrictions around its transportation. Thus, with chlorine bleach designed for domestic use such as Domestos, sodium hypochlorite is diluted with other chemicals such as lauramine oxide, sodium laurate, sodium hydroxide, sodium silicate, and perfume. In contrast, Biome's Oxygen Bleach is so basic! Just 100% sodium percarbonate, with no fillers, SLS, fragrance, or preservatives. It is a stable powder that you mix at home with water.
4. Does not corrode the fibres of fabrics and clothes.
Oxygen bleach will not break down fabric fibres as will corrosive chlorine, but note that it is still not safe for delicates such as silk and wool. Use Oxygen Bleach in your eco friendly laundry for removing stains and washing your clothes.
5. Safe on colours.
Oxygen bleach is safe to use on coloured fabrics and will not bleach dyed fabrics as chlorine is likely to do. We do recommend to always patch test first as the fabric dyes may not be stable.
6. Oxygen bleach can be mixed with other cleaning products.
Foe example, you can add a few tablespoons of oxygen bleach to your washing along with a natural laundry liquid to provide a brightening boost. It can also be mixed with washing soda and bi carb.
How to use oxygen bleach for cleaning and laundryFor all your green cleaning needs, oxygen bleach needs to be mixed with water to work. It needs time to completely dissolve and turn in to peroxide to do its work. Cold water can be used, but it dissolves more quickly the hotter the water. Note: once you mix with water, do not leave in a sealed container as it continues to release oxygen and may burst!
- General laundry: to brighten whites or remove dirt and light soiling, dissolve 2-3 tablespoons and add to washing machine. Works very well combined with soapberries. For a heavily soiled load, use 1/2 cup dissolved in water. It is low sudsing too, so better for machines.
- Stain removal / laundry pre-soaker: dissolve 1/4 to 3/4 cup per 4 litres of water depending on intensity of stains in warm/hot water to bleach whites. Do not sprinkle directly onto the clothes, dilute in water first. Soak for at least one hour or overnight (works more slowly than chlorine bleach). Sodium percarbonate solution only remains active for up to 6 hours, so there is no point leaving for more time.
- Reusable menstrual pads and cloth nappies: dissolve 1/2 to 3/4 cup per 4 litres of hot water, soak for at least 30 minutes or overnight, then wash.
- Getting rid of yellow armpit and collar stains: soak in 1/4 cup per 4 litres of water for at least an hour or overnight, then wash.
- Cleaning: dilute 1/2 cup per 4 litres of warm/hot water to clean fridge, kitchen, bathroom, carpet, upholstery (patch test first). To clean tile grout, mix to a paste.
- Mould removal: dissolve 3/4 cup per 4 litres of hot water, apply to surface and scrub with brush or sponge, leave for 30 minutes then rinse thoroughly. Also, read how clove oil can help remove mould
- Water bottles: soak bottles and lids in hot water with one tablespoon of sodium percarbonate for one hour, rinse thoroughly. More about how to clean a water bottle
When finished, tip solution down the sink or toilet and it will assist with cleaning and deodorising drains. If you have a septic system, do not tip large amounts of oxygen bleach down the toilet.
(2) Exit Mould Safety Data Sheet -
(3) Dr. Axe