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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Well Water and Bleach Usage

By Dr. Laundry August 17, 2010

Q. I have well water and know there is iron in it. So, when I bleach my whites, they turn yellowish. What can I use, either with bleach to prevent this, or instead of bleach? I have a brand new HE front

A. Well water and liquid bleach are just not very compatible. The sodium hypochlorite active in liquid bleach reacts with the iron and changes it to the chemical form as rust. This new yellow/red discoloration then deposits on clothes, and after drying has essentially dyed the clothes.

You may need to start using separate products to treat the wash water supply (some folks use IronOut), since the iron needs to be removed. A water treatment system may be your best long-term solution. For the discolored clothes, a separate product can be used to strip the discoloration away (I’ve been told that Summit Brands White Brite or Rit can be used for this purpose).

Our Clorox® Regular-Bleach actually has an added polymer, polyacrylate, which acts like a sponge to remove and hold the iron keeping it from reacting with the sodium hypochlorite. This may be enough for you if the metal content isn’t too high. Otherwise, you may have to stop using liquid bleach and might try our milder oxygen bleach, Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster, which is based on hydrogen peroxide and is not strong enough to convert the iron to rust. You add this with the detergent dispenser at the beginning of the wash.