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How to Use Bleach in Laundry Safely

Reviewed by Professional Cleaner Jennifer L. Betts
Powder bleach used for laundry

Learning how to use bleach in laundry properly can help you disinfect fabrics, get whites whiter, and remove tough stains. You can follow a few general steps to use bleach with laundry, but your washing machine and the bleach packaging can give you more specific directions. Keep in mind that bleach is used as a diluted solution for stain removal or in the washing machine; it's not used in the dryer.

Types of Bleach to Use With Laundry

There are two main types of liquid bleach you'll find for use with laundry. It's important to understand which type of bleach you're using so you don't ruin your fabrics. Read your package carefully to determine the type of bleach.

Chlorine Bleach

Chlorine bleach, also known as liquid household bleach or sodium hypochlorite bleach, is the type you'd use for whites. It disinfects, cleans, and whitens, but shouldn't be used on wools, silks, spandex, mohair, or leather.

Non-Chlorine Bleach

Non-chlorine bleach, also known as oxygen bleach or color-safe bleach, can be used on almost any washable fabric, even colors and darks, to remove stains and brighten.

Colorfastness Test

Before using bleach with laundry that isn't all white, test the fabric for colorfastness. This is recommended for both types of bleach.

  1. Mix 1 1/2 teaspoons of bleach with 1/4 cup of water. Use the hottest water the fabric allows.
  2. Lay out your piece of clothing on a hard surface that won't be affected by the bleach.
  3. Expose a hidden part of the item such as the inside of the hem.
  4. Dip one end of a cotton swab into the bleach mixture.
  5. Place a drop of the bleach mixture on your hidden spot.
  6. After one minute, blot the bleach spot with a white cloth until dry.
  7. If the color of the item did not change, you can use the bleach on it safely.

Steps for Using Bleach as a Laundry Stain Remover

Bleach is a common tool used to remove stains from fabrics. It can help remove yellow stains from clothes or remove tougher stains such as set in ink stains. If you want to use bleach as a stain remover for laundry, it always needs to be diluted with water.

Step 1: Wear Protective Clothing

You don't have to wear any special gear when working with bleach, but it's recommended so you don't ruin the clothes you're wearing or damage your skin. Before working with bleach, put on some clothes you don't care about. This way, if you splash or spill the bleach, it won't matter if your current outfit gets discolored.

Step 2: Mix a Bleach and Water Solution

To use bleach as a stain remover, it's best to soak the entire item in a bleach and water solution. You can add about 1/4 cup of regular liquid bleach to one gallon of water in a clean bucket or bin.

Step 3: Soak the Item

Submerge the item for 5 minutes, rinse, and air dry. For oily stains, pretreat the item by rubbing a small amount of laundry detergent on it and letting it sit for 5 minutes before soaking in the bleach solution.

soaking cloth in bleach

Step 4: Rinse and Dry the Item

If you have other bleach-safe laundry to wash with the item, you can wash and dry as usual. If not, you can simply rinse the stained item thoroughly then allow it to air dry.

How to Wash Laundry With Bleach

You can use bleach in most washing machines. For the best results, follow the directions listed in your washing machine's user manual. Follow these simple steps to wash colored clothes with color-safe bleach or whites with chlorine bleach.

Step 1: Set the Washing Machine Temperature

You always want to wash with bleach using the hottest temperature your fabrics allow. Read the laundry symbols on each item you're washing. Find the item with the lowest recommended temperature and set your machine to that temperature.

Step 2: Start the Washing Machine

If you don't have a bleach dispenser, start the washing machine without adding the detergent, bleach, or laundry. You need some water in the machine to dilute the detergent and the bleach.

Step 3: Add Laundry Detergent

Read the label on your laundry detergent and add the proper amount directly to the water if you don't have a detergent tray. If you do have a laundry dispenser, you can add the detergent there.

Step 4: Add Bleach

Follow the directions on your bleach to add the proper amount. In general, you'll add 1/2 cup to 1 cup of regular liquid bleach to a load. If you have a bleach dispenser, you can add the bleach directly to it by filling up to the provided line. If you don't have a dispenser, add the bleach directly to the water 5 minutes after the wash cycle has started.

Step 7: Add Laundry to the Washing Machine

Give the bleach a minute or two to mix around in the water. Now you can add your laundry items and finish the entire wash, rinse, and spin cycles.

Step 8: Dry Laundry

Once the washer is done, dry your laundry according to the instructions on the tags.

Be Careful With Bleach

Part of learning how to properly do laundry is learning to use bleach products safely. Using chlorine bleach is one simple way to disinfect laundry and keep whites white, but it's important you know how to bleach clothes the right way. If you're careful with bleach in your laundry, it can be your best friend. If you're not careful, it could ruin your favorite clothes.

How to Use Bleach in Laundry Safely