In Defense of Bleach in the Kitchen

updated Dec 17, 2019
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(Image credit: Bleach Bottle: Design56)

Not too long ago, I succumbed to all the talk about how all you really need in your cleaning kit is some vinegar, Castile soap, and baking soda. I used up or threw out my chemical cleaners and replaced them with “natural” alternatives. And I will say that, for the most part, they got the job done.

But bleach (and if I’m being 100 percent honest, a few of those other chemical cleaners) has made its way back into my kitchen. Here’s why.

Why I Gave Up Bleach in the First Place

Of course, I had heard the arguments that bleach is toxic to your health and bad for the environment. But as a rule, I tend to be skeptical; aren’t we always being told things are terrible for us only to find out the next day that they’re actually probably harmless?

On the other hand, as someone dealing with a chronic health condition, I have tried a lot of different things, many of them with absolutely no basis in science, in order to just feel a little bit better. So it was that a few months ago, I decided to try a “diet” to balance my hormones. The plan not only prescribed giving up dairy, sugar, coffee, alcohol, and, you know, everything good, but it also suggested greening my cleaning supplies.

Living Without Bleach: Here’s How It Went

I duly used up the remainder of the stuff I had and replaced it with more natural alternatives. It turns out distilled vinegar and a drop of dish soap makes a pretty good replacement. My glass and mirrored surfaces weren’t quite as shiny, my refrigerator was not quite as white — but probably no one would notice except me.

On the other hand, getting rid of bleach didn’t really make me feel like I was living “cleaner” or “healthier.” To be honest, and I know this is against the current tide of thinking, I don’t believe bleach is “toxic” to my health. The CDC actually recommends adding bleach, in small doses, to make your drinking water safe. Of course, that’s after a natural disaster and I’m not actually trying to argue you should drink bleach; I’m just pointing out that we can get a bit alarmist about all this stuff. In my opinion, there are much worse things you can do for your health (don’t get me started on diet sodas) than have a container of bleach in your kitchen cleaning arsenal.

Getting rid of bleach (and all the other bad things in my life) didn’t ameliorate my health problems either. That was no surprise — I didn’t actually expect that 20 years of period-related pain could be cured by eating more Brussels sprouts and cleaning with baking soda — but it was a factor to consider when my cleaning supplies ran low and I wondered: Should I go back to bleach?

Why I Invited Bleach Back into My Kitchen

As someone who grew up with a German mother with a cleaning fixation, I appreciate a clean house. And for me, bleach is the look and feel of clean. I love the way my refrigerator sparkles after I’ve wiped down every surface with bleach — something I do on a near-weekly basis. I also like knowing that any germs that may have been lingering are no longer. In low concentrations, bleach safely sanitizes and disinfects — and it quickly breaks down into components that are completely harmless. It’s cheap and effective, and I don’t even mind the smell.

Do you use bleach in your kitchen? Share your thoughts in the comments!