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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Removing Stains from Egyptian Cotton

By Dr. Laundry November 18, 2010

Q. How can I remove body soils from 100% Egyptian cotton sheets? Will Clorox bleach harm 100% Egyptian cotton sheets by aging them faster?

A. “Is detergent by itself enough”? is a question we get often, and a nicely detailed and pretty timeless discussion of this was posted on the blog back in September, 2006 that you can find here: http://www.drlaundryblog.com/?s=Myth+picture. Scroll down to the bottom of the post to see a Scanning Electron Micrographs of bed sheets that show that so much more soil is removed when you add bleach compared to detergent alone. This test was conducted with Liquid Tide detergent, definitely one of the better detergents. But you are wondering if your powdered detergent with enzymes will sufficiently remove body soils on its own, and I would still say no. While well-formulated powdered detergents generally perform better than liquid detergents, they still don’t clean as well as detergent plus liquid bleach. This is because bleach reacts with body soil and breaks it down into smaller, water-soluble particles, making it easier for the detergent to remove them. Some consumers might decide they can live with the lower performance and skip the bleach, but they might also want to consider that over time, un-removed body soils are building up on their sheets wash after wash, and will contribute to a more dingy appearance. Personally, I like my sheets to be as clean as possible so I bleach them every time I wash them, and I’ve had really good luck safely bleaching the ones with color prints as well as the white ones. Good luck, and let me know if you have additional questions!