Bleach is a chemical that whitens clothes, removes stains and disinfects surfaces. The bleaching process has been know for a thousand years, but the chemicals used today for bleaching are based on chlorine. Sodium hypochlorite is the most used liquid and calcium hypochlorite is known as the “bleaching powder.” Chlorox® regular bleach will last about a year, if stored properly. It should be stored between 50ºF and 70ºF and away from direct sunlight. After a year it should be replaced because the sodium hypochlorite begins to break down into salt and water at a rate of 2% per month. If it still has some bleach smell, it will have some activity. No smell, it is finished and can be flushed down the toilet without fear of harm to sewer or septic systems.
The way to identify the age of a bottle (people don’t always remember when they bought it!) is to use the production code stamped on the neck of the bottle. Let’s use A81621321CA3 for an example. To find the date the product was made, you read it from left to right and use the first 7 characters as follows:
Plant Number—Last two digits of year made—Day of the year made
         A8                             16                                 213
A bleach bottle with this code was made in August 1st, the 213th day of the year 2016.1

Calcium hypochlorite, (also known as pool shock) in powder form has a much longer storage life. It is should be stored in a sealed container. It is commonly used to sanitize public swimming pools as well as disinfecting surfaces and equipment in kitchens. A little bit of this goes a long way and has been frequently recommended to disinfect water. A one pound bag in granular form will treat 10,000 gallons of drinking water. Be sure to wear eye and breathing protection when mixing. When mixed with water it also degrades at the rate of 2% per month.

Bleach Alternatives

In the arena of homemade bleach alternatives, there seem to be a few major key players:
•  hydrogen peroxide
•  lemon juice
•  baking soda
•  vinegar
•  citric acid
•  lemon essential oil

The goal is to find a winning combination that a) brightens your clothes, b) smells good, and c) doesn’t irritate your skin. Here is a do-it-yourself recipe:
•  3/4 cup 3% hydrogen peroxide
•  1/4 cup lemon juice
•  10-15 drops lemon essential oil
•  3/4 cup baking soda
•  7 cups water

Combine all ingredients in a container that can hold 1/2 gallon or more. Shake well. Use one cup per load, washing with hottest water setting.2


Billie Nicholson, Editor
September 2016

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