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Why Does Bleach Turn White Clothes Yellow?

Did bleach turn your white shirt yellow? Find out why bleach can turn white clothes yellow so you can make sure it doesn't happen again in the future.

More from Clorox experts


I put bleach on a pair of shorts — now they are yellow. How can I get them back to white?


When a garment yellows after just one cycle with bleach, usually that means the product was used incorrectly. There are so many good reasons to add Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach to a load of bleach-safe whites, but you do need to use the product as directed to avoid yellowing, which is unfortunately permanent if it was caused by misuse.  That said, here are some tips that will help you get all the good benefits out of bleach in the future.

  1. Be sure you only wash bleach-safe fabrics in your bleach load, like items made from cotton, polyester, nylon, and acrylic.
  2. Watch out for garments with fiber types that are not safe for bleach–you should never bleach textiles made with wool, silk, mohair, leather, and spandex.  Even a small amount of spandex blended with another fiber can yellow when washed with bleach. Instead, Clorox 2® For Colors Stain Remover and Laundry Additive is a great product for white items with spandex.
  3. Always use the recommended amount of bleach.  We recommend ⅓ cup for a regular size load with an average soil level, and ⅔ cup for an extra-large or heavily soiled load in a standard washer. In a high efficiency washer, fill the dispenser to the max-fill line.  Using too much (either extremely concentrated bleach solutions or undiluted bleach straight out of the bottle) can also cause yellowing.
  4. To presoak with bleach, use ¼ cup Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach per gallon of cool water, and limit the soaking time to just 5 minutes before machine washing.