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The Difference Between Chlorine and Non-Chlorine Bleach

Advice from Dr. Laundry

What is the difference between chlorine and non-chlorine bleach? Can you only use each on certain things? What’s best for cleaning and for laundry use. If the bleach doesn’t specify which kind it is, does that mean it’s always chlorine unless otherwise specified?


Yours is a very timely question, and if you go to my blog ( I just posted a response to a similar question on August 20th.

To clarify a couple of your questions below:

  • Generally, the best cleaning, stain/soil removal and whitening is accomplished with the strongest bleach, which would be Clorox® Regular Bleach2. It also is the only disinfecting bleach and can be used around the house to clean and disinfect a wide variety of surfaces and problems. These (chlorine) bleaches have sodium hypochlorite as the active ingredient.
  • The non-chlorine or oxygen bleaches like our Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster were developed to be safely used on colored clothing.
  • Some colored items are bleachable. If you’re not sure, I recommend consumers do the quick Bleachability Test (add 2 tspn Clorox® Regular Bleach2 in 1/4 cup water; apply a drop on a hidden colored 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. Any color change could also show you the amount of change in color that likely will occur if you proceed with the liquid bleach usage. You can see a demo on my blog ( in the video Laundry 101.
  • As you can see, this nomenclature is not universal and probably won’t be on the on the label. You can always check the ingredient or “Contains” statement on the back label for the active type.