These 2 Ingredients Make A Wonderful DIY Alternative To Bleach

by Jillee
2 Materials
30 Minutes

A few years ago, I received an email from a reader that started with, “I need HELP Jillee!” It sort of felt like the city of Gotham turning on the Bat Signal to call in Batman, and I felt a sense of duty to respond to this reader’s distress call!

She was asking for my help in identifying a bleach alternative she could use in place of the bleach in my Miracle Whitening Solution. The reason she couldn’t use bleach is the same reason why many people living in rural areas can’t use it—because rural homes often have septic systems, and bleach can kill the bacteria in septic tanks that are needed to break down and treat waste.

While I don’t personally have a septic system, nor do I have a problem with using bleach for laundry or cleaning when appropriate, I know there are plenty of people out there who avoid it for a variety of reasons. So I was happy to task myself with coming up with a feasible bleach alternative, both for the reader who asked for my help and for anyone else who would be interested in one.

After some research and experimentation, I landed on using a combination of two natural brightening agents: hydrogen peroxide and lemon essential oil. Together, they help to whiten whites and even brighten colors, and it’s an extremely affordable solution too.

Since hydrogen peroxide will start to break down if exposed to too much light, I don’t recommend attempting to mix this up ahead of time. (There are only two ingredients including the optional one, so mixing it up in advance wouldn’t save you very much time anyway.)

How To Make A Natural Bleach Alternative


  • 2-4 Tbsp hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 drop lemon essential oil (optional)


Add the hydrogen peroxide and lemon essential oil (if using) directly to your washing machine’s bleach dispenser. These dispensers are meant to hold undiluted bleach, which the machine dilutes with water as it incorporates it into the wash load.

If your washing machine doesn’t have a bleach dispenser, stir the hydrogen peroxide and lemon oil into 3 cups of water and pour it into the wash basin while the machine is filling or before loading your clothes in.

(One more quick note about bleach dispensers—the dispensers in older top-loading washers may not get flushed out as effectively as they do in newer HE washers. If you have an older top-loader, you’ll either want to flush the dispenser manually with water after each use to prevent carryover into the next load, or dilute it with water as described above and add it to the wash basin instead of the dispenser.)

Is This Bleach Alternative Safe For Colors?

In short, yes. You can use this bleach alternative to whiten whites or brighten colored clothing. However, I don’t suggest pouring undiluted hydrogen peroxide directly onto colored clothes, which could result in permanently bleached spots.

Instead, dilute the hydrogen peroxide (and lemon oil, if using) in 3 cups of water as described above and add that to the wash basin.

When used in loads of colored clothes, this bleach alternative can help brighten colors and dissolve residues or body oil that may be clinging stubbornly to the fabric.

Putting My Bleach Alternative To The Test

We needed a test subject for these photos, and my daughter-in-law Kaitlyn kindly offered to try out our bleach alternative on a bathroom towel of hers. She was eager to see if it could remove the stubborn makeup stains out of the towel, and as you can see, the transformation was pretty miraculous!

Overall, I’m very satisfied with how effective this “bleach alternative” is. If you are on a septic system or just want to avoid using chlorine bleach in your laundry, give this a try! I think you’ll be happy with the results.

And one more thing… no blog post about whitening and brightening would be complete without mentioning the power of good old-fashioned sunshine! The ultraviolet rays from the sun can help brighten and even disinfect fabrics, and all you have to do to harness that power is hang the items you want to brighten outside and let them dry in the sun.

(It’s not always the most practical choice when the weather’s not cooperating, but it’s worth mentioning anyway!)

Do you have a favorite tip for whitening or brightening laundry?

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3 of 19 questions
  • Cj57 Cj57 on Dec 02, 2022

    Can you substitute lemon juice for lemon oil?

  • Leah Leah on Dec 02, 2022

    I have irony well water, do you think it would work knowing that? Or do you think I just have to try and see?

  • Redcar Redcar on Dec 06, 2022

    Yes, I am inspired; however, I'm wondering if Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice can be substituted for the lemon oil ? Thanks.

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2 of 31 comments
  • Carole Muncy Carole Muncy on Dec 04, 2022

    FWIW I use hydrogen peroxide in every load - I just pour it in directly onto the clothes. never had any problem with bleached spots.

  • Bry Bry on Jan 15, 2023

    Wow! I've got to try this on my dingy whites. Thanks for sharing.