Adding Bleach to a Wash Cycle

Advice from Dr. Laundry
Q.

Why is it best to add the bleach after the wash cycle begins?  Wouldn’t it be better to add before the wash cycle to let the clothes soak?

A.

For a typical load of whites, such as lightly soiled undershirts, socks, dress shirts, tablecloths, sheets,  and any colored items that are bleach safe, delaying the addition of bleach helps a good detergent work better.  Waiting to add bleach allows time for enzymes in the detergent to break up enzyme-sensitive stains and for the fluorescent whitening agents in the detergent to deposit onto the fabric.  These whitening agents are colorless dyes that absorb non-visible light and reflect it in the visible spectrum.  Therefore, delaying the addition of Clorox® Regular Bleach2 to the wash cycle gives you the best results.

However, not every load you might wash will contain only lightly soiled items.  There is a wide range of laundry, and people who give it some thought will get the best results no matter the situation!  I have listed some scenarios where a good bleach soak is the best way to go:

  • Heavily soiled work clothes
  • Ground in dirt on kid’s pants
  • White items that picked up dye from a colored article accidentally thrown into a white load
  • A dress shirt that had a ball point pen burst in the pocket

To pre-soak, we recommend a solution of ¼ cup Clorox® Regular Bleach2 per gallon of water.  Fully submerge the item for five minutes, then drain.  Wash immediately with detergent and ¾ cup bleach in the hottest water recommended on the item’s care label.