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Is it safe to use Clorox on COLORED towels, wash cloths, etc and if so, how much is safe to use?

By Dr. Laundry March 22, 2016

Q:  Is it safe to use Clorox on COLORED towels, wash cloths, etc and if so, how much is safe to use?  I don’t want to fade out my laundry but would sure like to use Clorox. I would feel like they would be much cleaner. Thanks! A: This is such a great question.  Depending on the type of dye that is used to color towels, some can be safely laundered with Clorox® Regular-Bleach.  You can’t tell just by looking at them or what color they are if they are colorfast to bleach, but you can test for colorfastness with a simple bleachability test: –add 1 + ½ teaspoons Clorox® Regular-Bleach to ¼ cup water. –apply a drop of this solution to a less visible part of the towel.  Try under or near the care label since this part of the towel is usually out of sight when the towel is hung over a towel bar. –wait 1 minute then rinse the towel where you applied the drop of bleach and water solution and blot dry. –look for a color change.   No color change means you can safely add the towels along with the other items in your bleach load!  I hope your towels pass.  Towels used to be more universally bleach friendly until towel manufacturers began making fewer towels with Vat dyes (great bleach fastness!),  switching to Fiber Reactive dyes (not bleach fast at all).  At the time of this change, most US consumers had traditional deep fill clothes washers, which don’t develop malodors in the inner workings of the machine.  Fast forward 30+ years when more US consumers have front load washers.  Their closed system design allows soil buildup on the inner workings of the machine that produce malodors that can transfer from load to load.  Without frequent cleaning of the machine itself, towels will get smelly in these washers!  I’m not sure if this is a problem for you, but just in case it is here’s how you can use Clorox® Regular-Bleach for periodic machine maintenance (note: do this with an empty washer).  
  1. Select the hot water setting. If there is no hot water setting, then select a “white” or a “stain” cycle setting.
  2. Select the “extra rinse” option, if offered.
  3. Add Clorox® Regular-Bleach to the bleach dispenser. Fill to the maximum level.
  4. Run the cycle through its completion.
  5. If the HE washer does not have a second rinse option, manually select an additional rinse cycle to ensure that no bleach remains in the washer.
  6. If the HE washer still has unpleasant odors, you may need to repeat steps 1 through 5 as necessary.
  I hope this information is helpful.  If you have any other questions, please send them along, and let me know how it goes with your towels.  Thanks for writing!   –Dr. Laundry