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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Disinfecting with Bleach

By Dr. Laundry February 10, 2009

Q. Does Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster kill 99.99% of bacteria like the Clorox® Regular-Bleach1?

A. The simple answer to your question is “no.” Unfortunately, there currently is not a product for disinfecting colored clothes. Our Clorox 2® Stain Remover & Color Booster contains hydrogen peroxide as its active ingredient. It is a much weaker bleach than the sodium hypochlorite found in Clorox® Regular-Bleach1, and is not capable of meeting EPA disinfecting requirements.

As I have written previously, the best method for reducing germ count in (colored) laundry is:

  • Use the hottest wash water recommended on the care label. You might also do more than one wash on these items to further reduce the bacteria count.
  • Consider washing the items of concern separately so that the germs are NOT spread to more items. Transfer can occur in the washer and when transferring from the washer to dryer.
  • Use the hottest dryer setting recommended on the care label and dry the items separately to maximize germ reduction. While the dryer isn’t capable of completely killing, it will help lower the germ count.
  • Also, check the items for Bleachability. It’s surprising how many things labeled Do Not Bleach are actually OK to use liquid bleach on. Follow these instructions to conduct a quick Bleachability Test:
    • Add 2 tspn Clorox® Regular-Bleach to 1/4 cup water
    • Apply a drop on a hidden area like an inside seam or hemline for each color/area
    • Wait 1 minute, then blot with towel.

No color change will mean that it’s probably safe to use bleach on the item. If bleachfast, consider a quick bleach soak (1/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 in a gallon of warm water for 5–10 minutes) before washing in the hottest water recommended on the care label.

Finally, to prevent further germ spread, I would do a white load using detergent and 3/4 cup of Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 after these items have been washed. It works kind of like a mouthwash for your washer, and prevents the spread of any leftover germs to future washes.