Washing Cotton Briefs in Bleach

Advice from Dr. Laundry
Q.

Will Clorox® Regular Bleach2 damage the elastic in my cotton briefs?  After several washes the white cotton starts turning yellow.  How much Clorox should be used in an average white wash?

A.

We’ve looked into the effects of bleach usage on fabric over time and found that even after 50 wash/dry cycles, Clorox® Regular Bleach2 does not wear down fabric any more than using detergent alone, when used as directed.  As for the amount of bleach to use, we recommend three addition methods for normally soiled loads in standard washers:

  1. Add ¾ cup bleach (or fill the dispenser to the max fill line if you have a HE washer) using the washer’s bleach dispenser.
  2. Add ¾ cup bleach along with the detergent to the wash water as the machine is filling, before the clothes are added.
  3. Dilute ¾ cup bleach in 1 quart water and add to the wash 5 minutes after the wash cycle has begun.

If the fabric is yellowing, then you are probably using too much bleach.  If it’s just the elastic, then it might have a chlorine retentive component that is yellowing (most elastics can be safely bleached).   Underwear, especially white underwear, should be bleachable to ensure good cleaning and disinfecting.  As long as the yellowing on your briefs is not a permanent shift in the color of the cotton (typical with undiluted or too concentrated bleach contact) you might be able to reverse it with RIT Color Remover, which you can find at drug stores.