I contemplate recycling often, especially every other week when my curbside recycling has to be sorted for our curbside pickup. Recently, my mother, sister and I mixed up a triple batch of homemade laundry soap. We made roughly a year’s supply for each of us, so I have not had to buy or recycle a laundry detergent bottle for a number of weeks.As I was proudly telling a friend about the success of our laundry project, she asked, “But aren’t you still using bleach?” When I told her I don’t ever use bleach — especially chlorine bleach — she was speechless. Then she asked why.
Seventh Generation bleach recycling
Seventh Generation’s bleach is chlorine-free, but it still comes in a large, rigid plastic container.
Beyond the immense plastic waste that bleach containers create, breathing in the fumes of cleaners containing a high concentration of chlorine can irritate the lungs. This is especially concerning for those with heart conditions or chronic respiratory problems like asthma or emphysema. The risks are even greater when the cleaners are used in small, poorly ventilated rooms, like the bathroom. Chlorine is also a highly corrosive substance, capable of damaging skin, eyes and other membranes. This is from the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) on chlorine bleach:
“DANGER: CORROSIVE. May cause severe irritation or damage to eyes and skin. Vapor or mist may irritate. Harmful if swallowed. Keep out of reach of children.”
The unintended byproducts of chlorine, organochlorines and dioxins, remain in the environment and in our bodies because they do not readily break down. The Coming Clean Network explains that organochlorines contribute to many acute and chronic illnesses, are associated with many chronic diseases and are hormone disruptors. Dioxins are carcinogenic chlorinated hydrocarbons. According to The Environmental Working Group, “Chlorinated hot water in the kitchen sink, washing machine, dishwasher and the shower can release chloroform, a carcinogen. Emissions increase when people use chlorine bleaches and dishwater detergents containing bleach.” The folks at Apartment Therapy say we can avoid chlorine bleach by searching labels for it and its alternative names, hypochlorite and sodium hypochlorite, in the following products:
  • Dishwasher detergents
  • Laundry detergents
  • Coffee filters
  • Paper products like paper towels, napkins, tissue and toilet paper
  • All purpose household cleaners
  • Toilet cleaners
  • Mildew removers
  • Disinfectant cleaners
We do not want to come in close contact with chlorine bleach, and we do not want to utilize the bulky plastic containers it comes in. I gave my friend a lot to think about, but thankfully alternatives to chlorine bleach do exist. Seventh Generation makes a chlorine-free bleach, or simply hang your laundry in the sun to brighten your whites. For more family- and planet-friendly alternatives to chlorine bleach, visit ApartmentTherapy.com.