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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Cleaning White Sheets With Bleach

By Dr. Laundry May 28, 2009

Q. I have been using Clorox bleach for more years than I care to recount. However, it seems that now most 100% cotton products (including my white bed linens) are marked “Do Not Bleach.” Not “no chlorine bleach”; just “No Bleach.” Laundering (good detergent, either hot water or cold), just isn’t getting my sheets clean and WHITE. So my questions are: why “no bleach”? And, is there any other solution to this problem?

A. This is one of my pet peeves. I’ve noticed that a lot of garment care labels do discourage washing with chlorine bleach, and I’ve even seen it on white cotton T-shirts. I can tell you that after extensive testing and research, we have found that, when used as directed, liquid bleach such as Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 can be safely used on these garments. There are some items that should definitely not be bleached and we list them on our label (wool, silk, mohair, leather, Spandex and non-colorfast items).

The answer is that many clothing companies simply under-label all clothing to avoid any liabilities from laundry products and processes. You may be surprised to know that a large number of colored items can also be safely washed in Clorox® Regular-Bleach1. I recommend consumers do the quick Bleachability Test (2 tsp. in 1/4 cup water; apply a drop on a hidden colored area like inside seam, hemline or cuff; wait 1 minute and then blot with towel); no color change means it is safe to use bleach on the item. Any color change could also show you the amount of change in color that likely will occur if you proceed with the liquid bleach usage.

Furthermore, I know that liquid bleach is the only laundry product that cleans, whitens and disinfects clothing. Detergent alone is not enough to truly clean your whites — using detergent alone can leave behind stains, dirt and unseen “body soil” made up of body oils, dead skin flakes and sweat. It’s estimated that the average person excretes up to 50 grams of body soil per day to deposit on any item touching your body. Yuck! Adding disinfecting liquid bleach to your laundry will remove more of this gunk than detergent alone, plus it gets rid of odor-causing germs. No other laundry additive can make that claim.

So my solution is to keep using Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 so that you get the clean, white and disinfected clothes that you want.