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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Laundry Additives Overview

By Dr. Laundry June 8, 2010

Q. I’ve been reading a lot about additions to white laundry like OxiClean, peroxides, baking soda and bleach. I have not had much luck with just bleach and stain fighters/color-boosters, so I would like to try these methods. However, I have an under-the-counter front-load HE washer (it’s small), and I am not sure how I should add anything other than bleach to a load. How should I add powdered agents? Thank you!

A. I am somewhat puzzled by your “not much luck with bleach” comment. So here’s some background information on laundering process and products and some suggestions for you:


  • Liquid bleaches like Clorox® Regular-Bleach are based on sodium hypochlorite active. It is the STRONGEST form of bleach that consumers can purchase and the only one that disinfects laundry. Next step down the bleach ladder are oxygen bleaches like our Clorox2® Stain Fighter & Color Booster, OxiClean, etc., which are based on hydrogen peroxide chemistry. These are sometimes referred to as color-safe bleaches since this active is much weaker than hypochlorite and can be used on nearly all colored items. It lacks the stain/soil removal power of hypochlorite and the best results are achieved by pretreating the stains before washing.

  • You shouldn’t mix different forms of bleach. Doing so will cause the bleach actives to react with each other, creating oxygen gas which will bubble away and then you will lose your stain/soil removing power. The net result will be poorer than expected/no better performance than just using detergent alone. You just wasted your $$s.

  • Small washers shouldn’t be overloaded. Unless you adjust for the bigger size by adding more product(s), your cleaning efficiency just went way down.

  • Pick the right products and wash temperature for the job. Use a good detergent, the recommended amount and the warmest water temperature recommended on the care label.

  • Jumpstart your removal process by doing some pretreating and/or presoaking. Tough stains/mud require extra attention. While sorting the loads, set aside those problems. Pretreat with Clorox2, liquid dishwashing (Dawn) or laundry detergent (apply, rub in, wait ~5 minutes; then wash immediately). On whites, always add the recommended amount of Clorox Bleach to get out the stains, body soil and dirt that detergent can leave behind.

  • Creating the best chemical environment for removing stains/soils is necessary to compliment the mechanical action of the washer agitation. Finally, you will up your removal by increasing wash temperature.

  • Check for success after washing and BEFORE you put the clothes in the dryer. If it wasn’t all removed, repeating your extra steps or trying something extra now is the best second chance you will have at total removal. Drying the clothes/stains can set them making future removal much more difficult/impossible to remove.

So after reviewing the points above, I think some process changes probably are your best first steps. Do NOT mix the bleaches/additives. Powder detergents are better for removing dirt/mud than liquids. If you chose to use them, make sure the powder is COMPLETELY dissolved BEFORE adding the clothes. If not you decrease the cleaning power and end up with powder clumps/film on your clothes.