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How to Use Bleach in Laundry to Clean, Whiten, Remove Stains and Sanitize

woman putting clothes in washing machine

You can add bleach to every load of bleach-safe laundry along with your regular detergent to clean, whiten, remove stains and sanitize your clothes. Detergent alone is not enough.

More from Clorox experts
By Mary Gagliardi

Clorox® Bleach keeps white clothes their whitest and kills 99.9% of germs in your laundry. It works better than detergent alone on hard-to-remove stains including berries, juice, mud/dirt, ketchup, grass, coffee, red wine and tea.

Bleach is environmentally friendly

While they are sometimes referred to as “chlorine bleach,” there is no elemental or free chlorine in our bleach products. The sodium hypochlorite bleach active in Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach oxidizes soils and stains, and in the process breaks down almost entirely into salt and water. This makes it quite environmentally friendly. Since it’s even effective in cold water, you can save energy and still get great laundry results compared to detergent alone.

Remember to always check care labels to confirm fiber content before washing; avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair, leather, spandex and non-fast colors.

woman putting clothes in washing machine
Sanitize brighten and whiten laundry with Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach

How much bleach to add to laundry

ObjectiveStandard
Washing
Machine
High Efficiency
Washing Machine
Sanitization1/2 cup1/4 cup
Whitening and Stain
Removal (Normal Soil)
1/3 cupMax line in dispenser
Whitening and Stain
Removal (Heavy Soil)
2/3 cupMax line in dispenser

Gather your supplies

Before you begin, always check care labels to confirm fiber content before washing; avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair, leather, spandex and non-fast colors. Also, test for colorfastness to ensure the fabric doesn’t become discolored.

Standard deep-fill clothes washer

  1. 1

    Sort Laundry

    Select bleach-safe fabrics that are white or colorfast.

    laundry baskets
  2. 2

    Select cycle

    A heavy-duty cycle with hot water and an extra rinse will give you the best performance.

     

    washing machine knob
  3. 3

    Start washer

    The empty washer will begin filling with water. When the washer is about half full with water, add detergent and bleach.

    washing machine start button
  4. 4

    Add laundry

    Don’t overload the washer; clothing should circulate easily through the water.

    washing machine dispenser

High efficiency clothes washer

  1. 1

    Sort laundry

    Select bleach-safe fabrics that are white or colorfast.

    laundry baskets
  2. 2

    Select cycle

    A heavy-duty cycle with hot water and an extra rinse will give you the best performance.

    washing machine controls on front load washer
  3. 3

    Add laundry

    Add clothing loosely. Avoid packing laundry as this will overload the washer. Items should have room to tumble freely through the wash water.

    front load washing machine
  4. 4

    Fill dispensers

    Add bleach and detergent to appropriate dispenser compartments. These are usually labeled on the dispensers, but you can also check the user’s guide for directions.

    washing machine dispenser
  5. 5

    Start washer

    Once the cycle starts, the door is locked for your safety.

    washing machine start button

To hand wash, pretreat stains and clean visible soils, rinse to remove loose soil and fully soak each garment for 5 minutes in a solution of 1/4 cup bleach added to 1 gallon of cool water. Rinse and perform a regular wash following the laundry use directions.

For best results in a standard washer, dilute the measured amount of bleach in 1 quart of water. Add to wash 5 minutes after the wash cycle begins.

To sanitize, ensure that the laundry contacts the bleach solution for 10 minutes.

Frequently asked questions

Can I use more than ¼ cup in the wash cycle for really dirty laundry?

Yes! It’s always a good idea to adjust the amount of bleach to the soil level of your laundry. Just be careful not to overfill your dispenser, which can cause it to dispense bleach too early.

Check the User’s Guide for your clothes washer to see if it lists the volume of the bleach dispenser. If it doesn’t, you can use a measuring cup to see how much it holds when filled to the max-fill line. If you have a lot of heavily soiled laundry, consider dividing it into multiple loads.

Can I pretreat laundry stains with full-strength bleach?

No! Never use bleach full strength to treat any soft or hard surface. Bleach should always be diluted with water before it contacts fabric. Bleach dispensers do this automatically; you can do this yourself by adding the bleach to the water in a standard washer as it’s filling, before you add the clothes.

To pretreat stains before washing with bleach, use a ratio of ¼ cup bleach to 1 gallon of water, and make sure you soak the entire item for up to 5 minutes before machine washing.

Can I use lemon scented regular bleach to sanitize my laundry?

No. Only non-fragranced EPA-registered bleach products can be used to sanitize laundry. Check the label of your bottle and make sure it includes a specific germ kill claim.

Can I use Clorox® Splash-Less® Bleach to sanitize my laundry?

Yes, now you can! Check your bottle and make sure it was recently purchased and the label includes a germ kill claim. This product is used differently than our regular bleach products listed above, and you can learn more about it here.

I bought my bleach at warehouse store and it has a different name. Can I use it instead?

Yes. Depending on where you buy your bleach, you could also use any of the following: Clorox® Bleach1, Clorox® Regular Bleach3, Clorox® Performance Bleach2 and Clorox® Germicidal Bleach4.