Oxygen bleach is a popular alternative to chlorine bleach because it's less smelly, more eco-friendly and safe to use on colored clothes. But can it really replace traditional bleach?
For the more militant housekeepers among us, a bathroom isn't truly spotless unless it's been disinfected with bleach, and lots of it. And it's for good reason that some are so devoted: Bleach is an amazing sanitizer. It pulverizes mold, decimates mildew and destroys germs.
Risks Associated With Chlorine Bleach
If you're a die-hard member of the bleach brigade, you might want to think again about your cleanser of choice.
Chlorine bleach isn't exactly the best thing for your (or your children's) lungs. It's a known carcinogen that can cause burns, respiratory problems and gastrointestinal issues. If you happen to mix it with anything that contains ammonia, it produces an extremely toxic gas.
Bleach can also cause serious pollution. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), our indoor air is twice as polluted as the outdoor air, mostly because of the cleaners we use. Studies have shown that chlorinated VOC (volatile organic compound) levels in the home skyrocket when you clean with bleach.
If you're looking for an easy way to break your bleach addiction, you can always switch to oxygen bleach. It disinfects and cleans just as well as chlorine bleach, but because its active ingredient is hydrogen peroxide, it's completely nontoxic and odor-free.
What Is Oxygen Bleach?
Oxygen bleach, also known as oxygenated bleach, is a type of non-chlorine bleach. The active ingredient is sodium percarbonate, a mixture of sodium carbonate (also known as soda ash or washing soda) and hydrogen peroxide.
Oxygen Bleach vs. Chlorine Bleach
Both products are called "bleach" and used for cleaning and disinfecting, but their active ingredients are different. The main ingredient in oxygen bleach is hydrogen peroxide, while the main ingredient in chlorine bleach is sodium hypochlorite.
According to The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), hydrogen peroxide can irritate the eyes, nose, skin and throat. Hairdressers use hydrogen peroxide to bleach hair, and dentists use it to whiten teeth.
Although you don't want to ingest oxygen bleach, it's generally safer than traditional bleach (sodium hypochlorite).
Chlorine bleach solutions can release toxic fumes and creates a dangerous gas when mixed with ammonia. Aside from its use in household cleaning products, sodium hypochlorite is commonly used to disinfect drinking water.
Oxygen bleach works the same way as chlorine bleach to treat stains. Both chemicals oxidize the bonds in stain-causing materials to reduce the stain's ability to reflect light.
How to Use Oxygen Bleach
You can use oxygen bleach solution anywhere you would normally use chlorine bleach.
Oxygen bleach can help remove stubborn stains that won't come out with regular washing. Apply liquid oxygen bleach to the stained area and let it sit for at least 20 minutes or up to one hour for tougher stains.
If you have oxygen bleach powder, make a paste with the powder and warm water before applying it to stains.
Oxygen bleach can help brighten your laundry. Add oxygen bleach to your the normal wash cycle with your regular laundry detergent according to the product directions; different oxygen bleach products have different concentrations of active ingredients.
Use more oxygen bleach for larger and more soiled loads.
The hydrogen peroxide in oxygen bleach works to disinfect surfaces just like chlorine bleach. Make a paste with oxygen bleach powder and hot water or apply liquid bleach directly to surfaces that need to be brightened or disinfected.
To clean grout in the bathroom, apply oxygen bleach to a toothbrush and let it sit in the grout for at least 20 minutes before rinsing clean.
Lots More Information
Idaho Department of Health and Welfare. "Safer Alternatives to Hazardous Household Chemicals." (July 7, 2012) http://www.healthandwelfare.idaho.gov/Portals/0/Health/EnvironmentalHealth/healthyhomes-safer%20alternatives.pdf
Maker, Melissa. "Oxygen Bleach: The Effective and Safe Alternative." May 24, 2011. (July 7, 2012) http://www.naturallysavvy.com/naturally-green/oxygen-bleach-the-effective-and-safe-alternative
New York Times. "Sodium Hypochlorite Poisoning." Feb. 2, 2011. (July 7, 2012) http://health.nytimes.com/health/guides/poison/sodium-hypochlorite-poisoning/overview.html
Sethi, Simran. "Clean and Green." Oprah.com, Jan. 19, 2010. (July 7, 2012) http://www.oprah.com/home/How-to-Clean-House-Without-Toxic-Bleach
Van Schagen, Sarah. "A test of eight green bathroom-cleaning products." National Geographic. (July 7, 2012) http://grist.org/article/i-dont-want-no-scrub/
Wieman, Bethany. "Natural Alternatives to Bleach for Disinfecting." (July 7, 2012) http://greenliving.nationalgeographic.com/natural-alternatives-bleach-disinfecting-2724.html
Original article: Oxygen Bleach
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