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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

To Bleach or Not To Bleach: Colored vs. White Sheets

By Dr. Laundry September 4, 2008

Q: I am in college to become a Massage Therapist. One of my instructors said that we could not use colored sheets and towels because color safe bleach did not disinfect them. Please let me no if this is true or not. I will pass this info on to my school so they can pass it on to future students.

A: Congrats on your career choice, as anything that reduces tension in the world is a step in the right direction.

Great question, and one I hear a lot. Your instructor is correct regarding the colored sheets/towels. 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 ways to reduce germ counts in (colored) laundry are:

  • 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/handling 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.
  • Check the items for Bleachability. It’s surprising how many things labeled as Do Not Bleach are actually OK to use liquid bleach. Do the quick Bleachability/colorfast test on a hidden part of the colored item (2 tsp Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 in 1/4 cup water; apply a drop on a hidden color section area like inside seam, hemline or cuff; wait 1 minute and then blot with towel); no color change means it is safe to use bleach on the item. If bleachfast, consider a quick bleach soak (1/4 cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 in 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 Clorox® Regular-Bleach1 after these items had been washed. Kind of like a mouthwash for your washer.