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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

How to bleach white fabric with embroidery

By Dr. Laundry June 27, 2012

Can Clorox be used on white clothing with black embroidery?

Normally I recommend the bleachability test to determine if a colored item can be safely washed with Clorox® Regular-Bleach: Add 2 teaspoons bleach to ¼ cup water and apply a drop of the solution to a hidden part of the item; wait 1 minute and blot dry; no color change means the item can be safely bleached. With embroidery, it’s a little more complicated since it is virtually impossible to test for bleachability on a “hidden area” without potentially discoloring the embroidery thread if it isn’t bleach-fast. It would help if you knew the fiber content of the embroidery thread—if it’s polyester, there is actually a good chance that it will be bleach-fast, but this information is generally not provided, making it difficult to know for sure without giving it a try. With cotton embroidery thread, whether or not it is bleach-fast depends on what type of dye was used. Assuming you decide bleaching the item is important enough to take the chance that the embroidery may fade slightly or discolor, I would follow our “for best results” instructions, delaying the addition of the bleach as follows: Dilute ¾ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach in 1 quart water and add to the washer 5 minutes after the cycle has begun agitating.

If you decide against bleaching the entire item, you may want to try applying Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel to any specific stains you are trying to remove. Just be sure to wash the item immediately after pretreating. Or, you could try an overnight pre-soak with powdered Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster. Dissolve 1 scoop or 1 pack in 2 gallons water and fully submerge the item for up to 8 hours. Drain the soaking solution then wash the item in the hottest water recommended on the care label with detergent + more Clorox2®. This approach is particularly good for white items that include spandex and therefore can’t be washed with Clorox® Regular-Bleach or Clorox® Bleach Pen Gel.