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How to Use Bleach to Keep Towels and Sheets White

Towels On Bed In Hotel Room

White towels and bed linens are dirtier than you think! Using proper technique and the right laundry products make it easy to keep them clean and white, wash after wash.

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By Mary Gagliardi

Towels and bed sheets work hard to keep you dry, clean and comfortable. In the process they pick up stains, dirt and unseen “body soil” made up of body oils, dead skin flakes and sweat. Washing with detergent alone is not enough to keep sheets and towels truly clean.

That’s why good laundry habits combined with Clorox® Bleach makes all the difference. Clorox® Bleach breaks up stains, dirt, soils and organic matter, making it easier for your detergent to do its job. And Clorox® Bleach is EPA registered, so your sheets and towels aren’t just cleaner and whiter, they’re also germ free.

Here are Clorox’s tried and true tips for washing white sheets and towels for optimum cleaning and whitening:

Wash with hot water

The hotter the water, the better the cleaning. This makes a difference not just after one cycle, but

Use the right detergent

If you have a High-Efficiency (HE) washer (either a front loader or top loader), make sure you are using an HE detergent. Check the ingredient list and make sure it has enzymes and an optical whitener in addition to the cleaning agents.

Always avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair, leather and spandex.

Add the right amount of detergent

Using too much detergent can cause over-sudsing in the clothes washer, which cushions the load and reduces cleaning performance. This also makes it harder for the detergent to be completely rinsed from the load. Using too little detergent means you won’t have enough cleaning agents to remove dirt and soil. Always measure, and follow the instructions on the detergent package.

Don’t overload the washer

It’s very important that the laundry rotates or tumbles through the wash water freely. This is a challenge for large items like bedding and towels. Packing these items in too tightly means they won’t agitate properly or get as clean. Also, try to put in an even number of towels or sheets so the load balances properly in the spin cycle. Properly balanced loads can spin at higher rpms, extracting more wash water from the machine for more thorough rinsing.

loading sheets into a washing machine

Add bleach every time you wash towels and bedding

Add Clorox® Bleach along with the detergent to get your sheets and towels as clean as possible. The difference in performance adds up over time, when sheets and towels washed with bleach are noticeably cleaner and whiter not just after one cycle, but all of the time.

  • For best results in a standard washer, dilute 2/3 cup bleach with 1 quart of water and add it 5 minutes after the machine has begun agitating.
  • If you have an HE washer, use the bleach dispenser to add the bleach and fill it to the “max-fill” line.

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Skip the liquid fabric softener, especially for towels

Fabric softener leaves a coating on the fabric that may help control static cling, but also reduces absorbency. If you must use softener, stick to dryer sheets.

Frequently asked questions

Can I bleach sheets and towels labeled “Do Not Bleach”?

100% white cotton, and even polyester or poly/cotton sheets should be labeled “Any Bleach When Needed.” Know that some textile manufacturers cut costs by putting the most restrictive care instructions on everything regardless of how best to wash it, so they only have to make one type of care label.

This isn’t fair to consumers, who rely on accurate information to know how best to care for a garment or textile. So go ahead and bleach your white cotton sheets and towels!