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Oxygen bleach

Matthew Nistico


Joined: Nov 20, 2010
Posts: 209
Location: Clemson, SC ("new" Zone 8a)
    
  13
After reading through over a hundred search results here on permies.com for "bleach," I could find only two posts that even make the distinction between the different kinds of bleach commonly available for household use: in this case, chlorine bleach and oxygen bleach. Both were posted under the thread "Laundry products for grey water systems" here in the Grey Water forum:

"There are many kinds of bleach. Traditional chlorine bleach is probably the only problematic ones; peroxide (sometimes blended with washing soda, trade name OxyClean...again, OK if your land can discharge sodium) and ozone are found in nature. Aerobic life handles them just fine. In fact, most life makes peroxidase enzymes: your own enzymes cause peroxide to bubble in a wound, even though it will sit in the bottle for years, and doesn't bubble much on the q-tip until some blood mixes in. It also bubbles when it hits bacteria in the cracks of your sink drain, due to different enzymes they make for the same purpose...unless you keep things cleaner than I do." ~ Joel Hollingsworth (steward)

"I'm looking around online, trying to find out if anyone has concluded if laundry water that had OxiClean in it is okay for grey water to be added any or all of lawn, trees or food garden.
I see Sodium Percarbonate and Sodium Carbonate as 2 of the ingredients in it. Anyone here know about OxiClean?"
~ Ted Coakley

I am well aware of Paul Wheaton's opinion, as expressed in many a podcast, that chlorine bleach is pure Devil Juice, hehe, and I totally agree that there is almost no justifiable reason that you would possibly want to willingly introduce chlorine to your homestead environment. But what about oxygen bleaches? I am a big proponent of oxygen bleach and have been using it for a little while now whenever I need some heavy duty household disinfecting or cleaning, including the restoration of some heavily soiled salvaged building materials. It seems to work like a charm in many many applications. But how safe is it? Should I be sharing in any of the concern so many others have expressed over "bleach," by which generic term everyone describes chlorine bleach?

I am not so concerned about my physical/medical health (though perhaps some here will suggest that I should be...?). I am fairly confident that, if used with some common sense and precautions, it is a safe enough product to have around the house. But what about flushed into the environment? What about in my septic system? What about drained into the little dew pond that I plan to use as a filter for some small volume of household grey water? What impact might it have on plants and micro-organisms, both in this pond and in the surrounding soil?

Joel's comments above would seem to reassure that I shouldn't be overly worried. Still, I hope that these questions might spark a larger conversation on the topic. To start it off, I will list some of the things I THINK I know about oxygen bleach:

1. When mixed with water, the bleach powder reacts to release oxygen ions, or single oxygen atoms with a strong charge.
2. These oxygen ions clean and disinfect because they are so highly reactive; they chemically alter any of a huge variety of organic molecules they might encounter, breaking them into different molecules that can wash away. Oxygen is powerful stuff. When the cells of our immune systems attack some microbe that has been flagged as undesirable, the weapon they use is oxygen.
3. Excess oxygen ions that escape from the bleach solution into the atmosphere are not problematic because they will bond with each other to form stable diatomic oxygen, the O2 that we breath.
4. The oxygen ions created in the bleach solution WILL kill many kinds of bacteria and fungi.
5. Oxygen bleach does not persist in the environment like chlorine does. The bleach solution has a "pot life" of only a few hours, after which it is spent and no more ions are produced.
6. The bi-products created in the ion-producing reaction, which may or may not precipitate out of the spent solution, are completely non-toxic.
7. However, these bi-products do contain sodium. Sodium in enough concentration to accumulate in the soil...? I suppose that this question depends in part on rain. I get 50" per year, so generally I am not too concerned about accumulating salts.
8. Oxygen bleach is marketed as safe for septic systems.
9. In fact, on the advice of my plumber, I occasionally will flush a package of spoiled ground meat down my toilet and follow up by flushing scoops of oxygen bleach for a few days. This is intended to clean out my septic tank. No doubt the bleach is killing some bacteria in the septic tank, while at the same time the injection of food and temporarily-oxygenated environment will cause an explosion of other bacteria. I assume that the balance is in my favor, but then again I don't really know...?
10. I've been using it in my laundry and can confirm that it is a color-safe alternative to chlorine bleach, though it can affect natural plant-based dyes. I don't use it on any home-dyed clothes. It is best used as a pre-wash soak.

I will appreciate any additional information, opinions, clarifications, or contradictions that anyone can offer. Thanks!


Blazing trails in disabled homesteading
Matthew Nistico


Joined: Nov 20, 2010
Posts: 209
Location: Clemson, SC ("new" Zone 8a)
    
  13
@Ted Coakley - Your post (quoted above; originally in the "Laundry products for grey water systems" thread) specifically addressed the brand name OxyClean. Allow me to offer that I prefer the StainSolver brand. It is more expensive, but I appreciate its marketing, which is replete with much more information than I could find about OxyClean, and gives at least the impression of being more concerned with quality. In your post you noted the two active ingredients of Oxyclean as being two among many. StainSolver is made of Sodium carbonate and Peroxyhydrate and that's it.

The following is from the FAQs on the StainSolver web site:

"Full Question from customer: "I will be using this primarily for laundry applications. I am accustomed to regular oxiclean that I bought at Sam's. What is the ratio of oxiclean to Stain Solver that contains the same amount of active ingredient? I love that it doesn't have any of the brighteners, fillers, etc., but want to make sure I don't use too much. Does this make sense?" It makes PERFECT sense. There are two factors that differentiate Stain Solver from OxiClean. First, our active ingredient is made here in the USA. We're not positive, but we're almost certain that OxiClean purchases their chemical from Chinese suppliers. It may not be as pure as the one made here in the USA. We suspect that from all the bad reports we've read about Chinese dog food, Chinese drywall, Chinese toys that contain lead paint, etc. Second, we're almost certain that OxiClean puts in only half as much active ingredient as we put in our Stain Solver. We put in the maximum amount as allowed by Federal DOT laws. The bottom line is that I would try to use only 1/3 as much as you used to use with OxiClean and tell me what your results are. Remember, you get the best results by always using Stain Solver as a pre-soaking agent. Be sure to use your washing machine's soak cycle and allow my product to soak in your clothes for an hour or more before advancing to the wash cycle."

Just to clarify: I am not associated with StainSolver in any way. Just a satisfied customer.
 
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