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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Adding Bleach to a Wash Cycle

By Dr. Laundry April 27, 2011

Q:  Why is it best to add the bleach after the wash cycle begins?  Wouldn’t it be better to add before the wash cycle to let the clothes soak?

A: For a typical load of whites, such as lightly soiled undershirts, socks, dress shirts, tablecloths, sheets,  and any colored items that are bleach safe, delaying the addition of bleach helps a good detergent work better.  Waiting to add bleach allows time for enzymes in the detergent to break up enzyme-sensitive stains and for the fluorescent whitening agents in the detergent to deposit onto the fabric.  These whitening agents are colorless dyes that absorb non-visible light and reflect it in the visible spectrum.  Therefore, delaying the addition of Clorox® Regular-Bleach to the wash cycle gives you the best results.

However, not every load you might wash will contain only lightly soiled items.  There is a wide range of laundry, and people who give it some thought will get the best results no matter the situation!  I have listed some scenarios where a good bleach soak is the best way to go:


  • Heavily soiled work clothes

  • Ground in dirt on kid’s pants

  • White items that picked up dye from a colored article accidentally thrown into a white load

  • A dress shirt that had a ball point pen burst in the pocket


To pre-soak, we recommend a solution of ¼ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach per gallon of water.  Fully submerge the item for five minutes, then drain.  Wash immediately with detergent and ¾ cup bleach in the hottest water recommended on the item’s care label.