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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Sanitizing Colored Laundry

By Dr. Laundry November 23, 2011

Q:  I use bleach to sanitize, as well as whiten, my whites.  How can I sanitize bedding, towels, and underwear that are bright or dark colors?

A:  Unfortunately, there are currently no products that disinfect all colored laundry.  Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster contains hydrogen peroxide as its active ingredient, which is a much weaker bleach than sodium hypochlorite, the active ingredient in Clorox® Regular-Bleach.  So Clorox2® is color-safe for pretty much all your washable colored items, but doesn’t meet EPA disinfecting requirements.  You may, however, be able to safely launder your colored items with Clorox® Regular-Bleach (as long as the fabric is bleachable—always avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair, leather, and spandex).  You can check colored items you aren’t sure about with a simple bleachability test:


  • Dilute 2 teaspoons bleach in ¼ cup water.

  • Apply a drop of this solution to a hidden part of the sheets, like the hem that gets tucked in at the foot of the bed.  For multicolored items be sure to check each color.

  • Wait 1 minute then blot dry.  No color change means the item can be safely bleached.


It’s hard to predict what colors will pass the test–it really comes down to what dye is used and how it is applied. For any colored items that don’t pass the bleachability test with Clorox® Regular-Bleach, you can at least reduce germ counts by washing them in hot water, and using the hottest dryer heat setting.  Dryer heat doesn’t completely kill germs, but it does reduce their counts.  Other tips to consider include:

  • Wash items you are concerned about separately to help prevent germs from spreading to other items—this can occur in the washer and when transferring/handling from the washer to the dryer.

  • Wash/dry items of concern twice to further reduce the bacteria count.

  • Make the next load a white/bleach load to sanitize the clothes washer.