How to Whiten Clothes With No Bleach or Optical Brighteners.

February 17, 2011 at 6:12 pm 29 comments

Skyrocketing prices, global chaos, and continuous health warnings, are causing some people to start thinking green. Potentially hazardous products that we use and consume everyday are slowly being replaced with natural substitutes. For many chemicals, there is a more natural alternative, even for chlorine bleach and optical brighteners.

We’ve all seen laundry detergents that contain optical brighteners. These are chemicals that make fabrics seem brighter or whiter than they are. They remain behind on clean laundry as a coating of microscopic fluorescent particles. When invisible ultraviolet light hits these particles, they convert it into visible light to create an optical illusion that tricks the eye into thinking our clothes are super clean. Many optical brighteners are derived from benzene, a very toxic compound. In addition, these chemicals generally don’t break down in the environment and remain in the waters they’re washed into, where they poison fish and other aquatic life. Optical brighteners can also cause allergic reactions in people via a process called phototoxicity. When they rub off on our skin from laundered clothes and come into contact with sunlight, they can create a rash or irritation that’s mistaken for sunburn.

Chlorine bleach has also been known to cause serious health concerns, and improper mixing can result in the formation of toxic gases and dioxins. It has been determined that the effects of these dioxins can result in respiratory complications, certain cancers, and kidney damage.

But giving up optical brighteners and chlorine bleach, doesn’t mean you have to give up bright whites. Let lemon juice be your greener alternative!

We have tried 2 different methods of using lemon juice to whiten clothes:

Method #1 Instructions:

1.Place your white clothes in a large basin.
2. Fill the basin with very hot water.
3. Add a generous amount of lemon juice, and allow your white clothes to soak overnight.
4. The next day, remove your clothes from the basin and place in your washing machine with your SmartKlean Laundry Ball or whatever product you’re using to wash your clothes (we hope it’s green!)
5. Wash as usual, and your whites should be brighter than ever!

Tips & Warnings

-Try it twice if the first time does not work to your satisfaction.
-Don’t let the mixture sit too long in the lemon juice!

Method #2:

For an easier, milder version of this technique, you can wash your clothes in your washer as normal, and during the rinse cycle, pour in about a cup of lemon juice. Then hang in the sun to dry.

Additional cleaning uses with lemon:

Lemon juice is a viable alternative for cleaning jobs requiring acid, such as hard-water stains, tarnish, dissolving waxy buildup, and cleaning wood. It can also be used a rust remover. We’ve had some success treating rust stains on clothes and other fabric with lemon juice and salt. Squeeze lemon juice directly onto the stain, then sprinkle on a generous amount of salt. Rub the fabric together until the stain starts to break up. Wash away the loosened rust with soap and water. Repeat the process until the stain is entirely removed.

We hope this article has come in handy 🙂 Happy and safe cleanings!

Entry filed under: Home and Health, Natural Cleaning, Smart Laundry Tips. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , .

A Wake Up Story “Non-toxic” Scented Products Release Toxic Chemicals

29 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jhaniezah  |  August 14, 2016 at 8:53 am

    What is the components if lemon juice that can whiten the clothes?

    • 2. smartklean  |  August 14, 2016 at 7:03 pm

      We’re not sure, we just know it works. But a google search might be effective!

  • 3. Valblanc  |  October 27, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    I have used 1/2 a cup of vinegar to reduce static & soften the fabric. I will also try adding lemon to it. Thanks for the helpful tip!

  • 4. eden  |  July 19, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    can lemon juice remove all types of stains from whites?

    • 5. smartklean  |  August 14, 2016 at 7:04 pm

      We have not tested lemon juice on all stains so we cannot answer that for your accurately.

  • 6. gopack78  |  February 24, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    I have used white vinegar for years but wondered if it does not do as well as lemon. What are your thoughts?

  • […] 1. Bleach Alternative If you feel like your whites aren’t clean unless they come out smelling faintly of swimming pool, then you’ll be happy to know that a little old lemon is a great bleach alternative. Not to mention, it smells a lot better. The citric acid in lemons helps to break down stains and get those dingy whites back to bright. And unlike bleach, lemon juice is safe for colors, too. Just add one cup of lemon juice to your wash load. See other methods here. […]

  • 8. Laundry Au Naturel BleachesGord's Appliance  |  January 8, 2014 at 7:34 am

    […] SmartKlean: “How to Whiten Clothes with no Bleach or Optical Brighteners” […]

  • 9. veggal  |  December 31, 2013 at 5:08 am

    going experiment with lemon juice & basins soda paste on my off-white couch that has been abused by 3 kids over 4 years. The goal is to make them last one more year, and at this point discoloration is better than the stains, so this will be a fun experiment!

  • 11. Andrea  |  July 6, 2013 at 2:21 am

    would a lime juice be as effective? I live in Thailand and lemons are very expensive here.

    • 12. smartklean  |  July 9, 2013 at 2:29 am

      Lime should be effective, we’re not sure if it will be just as effective, but why don’t you give it a try, let us know how it works!

  • 13. Faye  |  May 23, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    This article is truly a nice one it helps new web users, who are
    wishing for blogging.

  • […] sodium percarbonate, also known as powdered hydrogen perioxide, but SmartKlean has a few natural ideas of their own on their […]

  • 15. Annie  |  March 15, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    I love lemons, I have one in warm water every morning, I had never thought about using them on laundry.

  • 16. Bob  |  March 12, 2013 at 3:13 pm

    So I’m sitting here at work wearing a freshly laundered shirt that I soaked in non-chlorine bleach (and water). Even though I rinsed the shirt carefully, twice, it has a faint odor of bleach. I’m thinking “This stuff can’t be good for me, taking in this weird chemical through my skin, breathing the faint aroma.” From now on – lemon juice!

  • 17. megan  |  December 30, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    i have to do a science project for school. how should i incorperate lemons in it?

  • 18. Paulette Paulin  |  December 23, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    I am trying the laundry wash ball for the first time. I just read the bit aabout hard water. so i hope it Toronto has very hard water.
    I lI love your posts on lemon as I use lemons for everything . They rock.
    Cheers.I will def try the lemon bleach thing. Any suggestiones for getting poo stains out?

    • 19. smartklean  |  December 29, 2012 at 10:41 pm

      Hi Paulette,

      Thank you for your comment and for trying out our laundry ball! Lemon is great indeed for so many cleaning purposes. Try our stain remover for poo stains, it is completely natural and works excellent so many different types of stains!

      Cheers and Happy New Year!

  • […] either with their non-toxic stain remover, or check out some their DIY tips here, here, and here. You could also pour some peroxide in the detergent dispenser to help whiten […]

  • 21. Steffen  |  October 28, 2012 at 2:02 am

    We stumbled over here coming from a different web page and thought I might
    check things out. I like what I see so now i am following you.
    Look forward to finding out about your web page again.

    • 22. megan  |  December 30, 2012 at 6:51 pm

      me to i wander what will come up next

  • 23. lynn wylie  |  August 31, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    i am going to try using the lemon juice:) I love going green, the greener i can the better and a added bonus is that most times it works better and is so much cheaper too!! I will keep you posted on the results……thanks for the tip!!

  • 24. Kate  |  July 27, 2012 at 4:20 am

    Silly question: do you have to use fresh squeezed lemons or can you use lemon out of a bottle? I currently buy my cleaning products from a health and wellness store. I love them because they are safe for my kids to be around (they actually do not require safety caps), they are eco-friendly, and they work great. But I love to learn new tips on what others are doing! (p.s. If you want to know more about where I shop, email me at

  • 25. Niamh  |  April 30, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Thank you! Love lemon, good to see effective and less harmful alternatives 🙂

  • […] natural alternatives to whitening clothes without need to add a film of toxins to your laundry. See How to Whiten Your Laundry without Bleach or Optical Brighteners. Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  • 27. Wayne  |  December 31, 2011 at 8:30 pm

    Lemons as a cleaning product. Pretty awesome.

  • 28. Live Green Mom  |  May 13, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    […] does have some more natural, greener suggestions for whitening your laundry without […]

  • […] 1. DIY. Make your own personal care products and cleaners when possible. For example, lemon juice as a natural whitener to replace bleach. […]


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