Bleach kills germs and mildew, whitens fabric and is a great all-around, frugal cleaner, right?
Have you ever felt ill after inhaling too much bleach? Do you feel that tickle in your throat when you clean with it? Imagine if you could get your countertops just as clean and “disinfected” (who infected your counters with something, anyway?) with a natural product that wouldn’t make your nose burn.
Bleach is as much of a toxin as it is a cleaner. Here are some of the hazards:
- Respiratory issues
- Skin burns
- Damage to nervous system
- Exacerbates Asthma
- Accidents that cause the skin to come into direct contact with bleach or people ingesting it (as many as 700 adults per year)
- Linked to cancer
Many sources say that chlorine by itself is not hazardous and will break down before it reaches the environment, which may be true (but it sounds a little too good to be true). The real hazard of bleach is that it can’t be mixed with ammonia, vinegar or other acids, and even organic matter (and what would you normally clean up with bleach? Organic matter, of course.). Each of these compounds causes a reaction with bleach that emits toxic, potentially carcinogenic fumes.
The Story that Woke me up to Bleach
I read a story a few years ago about a boy doing his homework in his room. He was concentrating and writing a delightful essay about such-and-such and so-and-so (can you tell I can’t find the exact source for this story?), when rather suddenly he began to feel less focused and his handwriting actually changed and became sloppy, as did his line of thinking. The only thing that changed in his environment was that his mother was using bleach in the laundry room below, connected to his room by the ventilation system. Inhaling bleach fumes actually decreased his concentration, motor control, and cognition. As a teacher, I was shocked by the handwriting sample and even more shocked to think about how much bleach was used in my old school building.
Did you know that housewives have some of the highest rates of air-pollution-caused disease? The indoor air quality in many homes is some of the most hazardous around, in part (in most part?) because of fumes from cleaning products.
Is Bleach Even Effective?
First of all, bleach has to dry on the surface you’re trying to disinfect in order to kill all the bacteria. That may make you think twice about adding a glug of bleach to your dishwater. Besides that, some dishsoaps have ammonia in them – major death-wish no-no!
Secondly, bleach becomes ineffective when it touches organic matter, which means that any food or gunk on whatever you’re trying to disinfect must be completely cleaned off first, before spraying a bleach solution on.
Bleach is overkill. It’s not necessary in your kitchen. Please accept the Monday Mission this week to eradicate bleach from your kitchen, and see my post Tuesday for the easy, frugal, natural cleaners I employ in my kitchen.
UPDATE: Here’s a new post on the natural disinfectant that the EPA rates as highly as bleach!
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