Using a Bleach Substitute

I have become a label commando in recent years. People actually become quite disturbed waiting for me to finish my latest epic reading of a cleaning product or food label. I read everything, including the list of ingredients when I can find one. More importantly, I look for what’s missing on the label. For example, I’m surprised at how many margarine labels refuse to tell me that they don’t contain any cholesterol. Lest you think this is one of those odd fetish requirements—some fish oil tablets actually contain cholesterol. We pay the extra to buy a product that’s labeled cholesterol free (and yes, it does make a difference when the doctor tests your cholesterol).

So I was taken by surprise recently when I read a bleach label. The stuff should be labeled toxic waste and left go at that. The label told me about the dire consequences of using the product, such as permanent damage to my esophagus. Bleach is also a terrible product to use in a house with a septic system because it kills off all of the helpful bacteria in the septic tank and causes the waste to just sit there (possibly flooding your house with a really smelly mess). However, the part about not putting the empty container in the trash or in the recycle bin is what got me most. Just where was I supposed to dispose of the container? It turns out that you’re supposed to take it to a hazardous waste disposal site. A product labeled hazardous waste has no place in my house. (Just consider the fact that many of the foods you buy in the store have been soaked in bleach and you don’t have to think very long about why your food is making you sick.)

Of course, country homes require some means of keeping things clean and getting rid of bacteria, just like anyone else does. It turns out that there is a really good solution and it actually works better than bleach. Most importantly, this solution is pretty much harmless to everyone and everything. You fill up two bottles: one with vinegar and another with hydrogen peroxide. Spray a surface first with the vinegar and second with the hydrogen peroxide and you create a really effective cleaning agent called peracetic acid. The point is to keep the two components separate until you actually need to use them in order to gain a highly effective cleaner that’s a whole lot less harmful than bleach.

What impressed me most is that the combination actually works well on carpets as a stain remover. It’s also much more effective than bleach at getting bathroom grout clean and it works especially well on surfaces with small crevices. Some people do mix the two and add water for use in laundry, but keeping the two chemicals separate is the best way to avoid the potentially toxic qualities of the peracetic acid. As with any cleaner, you do want to use this one with care, but it’s frankly a lot better than using bleach. Let me know your thoughts about this interesting cleaning aid at