I had heard that bleach should be used before adding detergent because detergent neutralizes the actions of bleach, but the Clorox instructions direct users to add at the same time. Should I separate these phases?
There are several ways to add bleach to your washload. Our standard directions are to add bleach WITH the detergent as the wash water is filling and BEFORE the clothes are added. The reason is you want to dilute the bleach concentration before you add the clothes. (NEVER pour full-strength Clorox® Regular-Bleach₂ with CLOROMAX® directly on fabrics).
Another way to add bleach is to add it to the bleach dispenser on the washer. This delays the addition like the approach above and on new HE machines is the ONLY way you can add bleach.
Finally, on the label you will see “For best results” where we recommend mixing the recommended amount of bleach in a quart of water and waiting 5 minutes into the wash cycle. There are several reasons for these recommendations: bleach will react with several key detergent ingredients like enzymes and fluorescent whitening agents and decrease the detergent’s effectiveness (not the other way around).
So, in summary, you have lots of choices to get the great bleach benefits you are seeking.