Do you need a safe and effective bleach alternative? I mentioned in a recent blog that peroxide is a helpful solution for brightening white sheets, and a reader wrote in to ask if it works as well as bleach. It’s a good question because Clorox Bleach is ubiquitous as a whitener and disinfecting agent. Why use peroxide when bleach is so much more familiar?
Bleach is very potent, and if we want to reduce the comparison to which chemical is the more effective whitening agent, then peroxide probably loses (I haven’t actually run a comparison test, and I don’t intend to). The truth is that it isn’t an important point of comparison to me.
How is peroxide a safer bleach alternative?
Safety is far more critical to me than potency. When you compare chlorine bleach and peroxide side-by-side, peroxide is far and away the safer choice.
A glance at the safety data sheet makes that much clear. Peroxide lists only one adverse health effect: eye irritation (it expands to say “redness, pain, irritation”). That listing is only for peroxide “as sold,” i. e., when concentrated. When diluted as recommended, there are “no symptoms known or expected” for eye or skin exposure, inhalation, or ingestion.
Compare that to bleach:
“Inhalation: Exposure to vapor or mist may irritate respiratory tract and cause coughing. Inhalation of high concentrations may cause pulmonary edema.
Eye Contact: Corrosive. May cause severe damage to eyes.
Skin Contact: May cause severe irritation to skin. Prolonged contact may cause burns to skin.
Ingestion: Ingestion may cause burns to gastrointestinal tract and respiratory tract, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.”
Safety is the most important reason I prefer peroxide, but it’s also worth noting that liquid bleach can also cause damage in ways that peroxide can’t. Imagine bleaching your white bedsheets and accidentally splashing the liquid bleach onto your clothes. Now, bleach spots have ruined your shirt!
It’s a small example, but one that matters. Liquid bleach can cause damage to wood floors and carpets, clothes, and many other materials. Unlike liquid bleach, peroxide whitens and removes stains without “staining” or removing the fabric pigment, so you won’t need to worry about damage from accidental splashes or spills. In fact, I don’t let our teams use bleach for most of our professional cleaning services because the risk of accidentally damaging a client’s property is too high!
I don’t bring any of this up to make a boogeyman out of bleach, by the way. Bleach has a lot of applications. When handled safely and responsibly, it can be a very useful tool. However, on average, in my personal experience, peroxide does what I need it to do without the safety risks.
That is true for whitening and disinfecting, by the way. Master Clean USA’s mold remediation division uses devices that denature mold using hydrogen peroxide plasma. They have even written an article about using bleach to kill mold, in which we assert that bleach isn’t the miracle mold remover people believe it is.
To conclude, is peroxide “better” than bleach? The answer isn’t a simple “yes” or “no,” but I highly recommend peroxide, which is a versatile, affordable, and safe cleaning solution and an excellent bleach alternative.