Bleach is a handy go-to cleaning product for two good reasons: first, it’s an excellent sanitising agent, designed to kill germs and mould before they have time to multiply; second, bleach also has fantastic stain removing properties – especially for white fabrics and some colour-fast clothes.
If you combine both of these factors, it’s easy to think of situations where you might want to wash clothes with bleach. But if you’ve never learned how to bleach clothes properly, you could end up with some scary results!
No one wants a hole in their favourite top, or discoloured blotches on their work trousers, which is why we’ve put together this handy guide to help you learn how to wash clothes with bleach the right way.
Bleaching Clothes Safely
Bleach is a harsh chemical that can be corrosive and will mark clothes and surfaces if used in the wrong way. Here are some safety tips to bear in mind:
- Always be sure to clean up spilt bleach as soon as possible, with a damp cloth.
- Always protect your hands with rubber gloves and your clothes with a plastic apron, so that you don’t rub against any spilt bleach accidentally.
- Make sure the room is well-ventilated.
- Use the right bleach format for the task: liquid for the machine and spray or pen for spot-stains.
- Never use concentrated bleach directly on clothes; dilute it instead, following the directions on the label.
- For whites, use bleach adapted for laundry purposes, rather than the thick domestic version.
- Use colour-safe bleach containing hydrogen peroxide as a stain remover for colours.
- Always be sure to check the care labels of your clothes, before you bleach them (sometimes they’ll contain the phrase: ‘do not bleach’)
- Be sure to test any bleach solutions on an inconspicuous area of the fabric first. If the bleach alters the colour of your clothes, use hydrogen peroxide instead (after testing it first, as well).
- Don’t bleach natural fibres like silk, wool, or leather, or certain manmade fabrics like Lycra – always read the instructions on the care labels first.
- Always follow the safety instructions on the product and contact a health care professional if bleach contacts skin and irritation persists.
How Do You Bleach Clothes in the Washing Machine?
Bleach is perfect for keeping your whites in tip-top condition. It’s also great for sanitising dirty fabrics with dense fibers, like cloth nappies and towels. This is why some manufacturers provide a special bleach dispenser compartment in their washing machines; however, others strongly recommend against using bleach in their machines – always consult your manual before using bleach in your washing machine! Then:
- Set your wash to the highest temperature the care labels of your garments will allow.
- Add the normal amount of detergent.
- According to the instructions on the bottle, add bleach to the dispenser in your machine. Alternatively, wait for the cycle to start and pour in the recommended amount of bleach while the water fills the drum. Try to avoid bleach coming in direct contact with the clothes.
- Run your wash as normal and then check the results.
Delicate garments are best hand-washed first and then soaked for 15 minutes in a very weak bleach solution and then rinsed. Ensure that appropriate rubber gloves and skin protection is worn.
How Do You Remove Stains from Clothes with Bleach?
Bleach is a great stain remover for many types of marks. As with any type of stain, the first thing you should do is make sure it doesn’t dry – as this will set the stain and make it much harder to get out.
- Make a weak bleach solution, dip in a clean white cloth, and blot the stain out (or use a bleach pen to target the stain).
- Alternatively, soak the whole garment in a weak bleach solution.
- Respecting the care labels, wash the garment as normal and then check the results.
- Repeat if necessary.
Some oil-based stains should be spot-cleaned with detergent or a specialist stain remover instead. You can then put the garment straight into the washing machine with added bleach to make sure the stain comes out. Always follow the safety guidelines on the product and avoid contact with skin.
You might also like our articles about how to remove bleach stains and about how to use oxygen bleach.