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Can You Bleach Polyester?

zipper on jacket

Find out whether or not you can clean polyester with bleach and if so how to bleach polyester to remove stains from 100% polyester shirts and clothing.

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My hubby gets food stains on these shirts, and I have been using “De Solv It” spray.  I have now noticed that his two white shirts have picked up all-over shadowy like stains.  How can I get rid of these?


To restore shirts if they are dingy, there are a few things you could try.  For 100% polyester white shirts, they actually can be washed with Clorox(r) Regular-Bleach, and you can start with a presoak.  Add 3 Tablespoons Clorox Regular Bleach2 to 1 gallon cool water and stir.  Add the shirts, fully submerging them, and let them soak for 5 minutes.  Drain the soaking solution and then wash the shirts in hot water using detergent and 1/2 cup Clorox Regular-Bleach. Finally, let them air dry.  This can be very effective at stripping dingy build up from an item.
 Since so many sport shirts now have a small amount of spandex in them, I also wanted to alert you that even a small amount of spandex shouldn’t be washed with Clorox Regular-Bleach, so double check the care label before trying the above bleach soak.  If the shirts have even a small amount of Spandex (also called Lycra or Elastane) you could instead try an 8-hour presoak using a scoop of powdered Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster. added to 2 gallons hot tap water.  Stir to be sure the Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster. has dissolved completely before adding the shirts to the soaking solution.  Weigh them down with a dishwasher safe dinner plate to make sure they are completely submerged.  Allow them to soak for 8 hours (overnight makes this easy).  Next, drain the soaking solution and wash the shirts in hot water using detergent and more Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster..  Air dry.

Also, with clothes washers that use only a small amount of water, it is absolutely critical that you use a High Efficiency (HE) detergent, one that is specially formulated for a low volume wash system with a recirculating spray like yours.  I’m sure you probably already are, but I wanted to mention it anyway.  HE detergents use different surfactants with little or no foaming compared to regular detergents.  Excessive foaming in a low-volume washer can lower cleaning performance substantially.  With front loaders, the foam cushions the load as it tumbles, reducing performance.  With recirculating spray-wash systems, the suds can lock up the pump.  Often these washers are programmed to recognize this, and in order to protect the machine they bypass the wash and go straight to the rinse to work the suds out, which really hurts cleaning.  Using less of a regular detergent isn’t a good option either, because you won’t be adding enough of the ingredients you need for good cleaning, especially when you consider you’ve got the same amount of soil you are trying to get off the laundry and keep suspended in what little wash water there is before rinsing it away.  Presoaking and pretreating stains are important techniques to use to get good cleaning and stain removal in these washers.  If your washer has a presoak option–something that fills the water with a few gallons of water that a few items can be submerged in just for the soak, and then drains it before the wash cycle, I would definitely give that a try.  In addition to Clorox Regular Bleach2 for soaking white items, Clorox2® Stain Remover and Color Booster. (our color safe bleach) is great for presoaking colored items.  You can also use it for pretreating, so you may want to give it a try.

Learning to work with this type of wash system is challenging, but as you adjust your wash habits, you should see better results.   And then you can feel better about using less water! 

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