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The Difference Between Color Safe and Non-Color Safe Bleach

By Dr. Laundry November 20, 2013

Can you tell me the difference between color safe and non-color safe bleach?

 

The bleach active in Clorox® Regular-Bleach is sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl). This is the bleach that people sometimes refer to as “chlorine bleach” (even though the active is hypochlorite, not chlorine). It can be safely used as directed on a variety of fabrics, for example cotton, polyester, cotton/poly blends, acrylic, and nylon. There are other fabrics it should never be used on—you should always avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair, leather, spandex, and non-fast colors.  “Non-fast colors” refers to any colored fabric that is discolored by a properly diluted sodium hypochlorite bleach and water solution. You may be surprised to learn that some colored items actually can be safely laundered with Clorox® Regular-Bleach. It all depends on the type of dye used, and how it was applied. There is so much good that the product can do—not only does it improve cleaning and whitening compared to detergent alone, but it also sanitizes for a safer, healthier home and workplace. Careful use of the product allows people to take full advantage of all it has to offer.                  

The bleach active in Clorox2® Stain Fighter and Color Booster is hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). At the concentration used in the laundry, hydrogen peroxide is a much less aggressive bleach than sodium hypochlorite. Where a small number of colored items can be safely washed with sodium hypochlorite based bleaches, almost all washable colored items can be laundered with hydrogen peroxide based bleaches. In fact, in a test we conducted of over 600 textile products, over 98% could have been safely laundered with Clorox2®. What was particularly interesting about the 600+ garments is that they were all labeled “Do Not Bleach”. So we know Clorox2® can be safely used to launder pretty much any washable colored item, and that apparel manufacturers don’t always put the correct care label on a colored item. Items that can be safely laundered with Clorox2® should be labeled “Only Color-Safe Bleach When Needed” or “Only Non-Chlorine Bleach When Needed”.

As a general rule, if you can machine wash a colored item with detergent, then you can also wash it with detergent and Clorox2®.  Even so, if you are worried about whether or not your colored item just happens to be in the 2% of items that aren’t safely washable with a color-safe bleach, there’s an easy way to test a colored item for colorfastness to liquid Clorox2®.  Here’s how: 

1. Apply a drop of Clorox2® to a hidden part of the item (be sure to test all colors)

2. Wait 5 minutes, and then rinse with water

3. Allow the item to dry completely and check for a color change. No discoloration means the item can be safely laundered with Clorox2®.

As far as how to use Clorox2®, you can add it along with your favorite detergent to the washer as it is filling with water before the clothes are added. You can also add it along with the detergent using the detergent dispenser if your clothes washer has one. Some washers even have a special dispenser compartment just for color-safe bleaches. You can always check your washer’s Use and Care Guide for more specific instructions. Additionally, liquid Clorox2® is also a very effective pretreater. You can apply it directly to a stain and then wait 5 minutes before washing, just don’t let it dry out on the fabric.