Will baking soda bleach clothes? Laundry experts have their say

Baking soda is a must-have for your cleaning basket, but does it really belong in your laundry?

A container of baking soda beside a pile of towels
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Baking soda is a common cleaning agent in our homes nowadays, but could it be ruining your clothes? Lots of us use it when doing laundry to lift stains and brighten up dulled fabrics.

As a natural whitening agent, cleaning with baking soda is a useful, eco-friendly trick to have up your sleeve. 

Now, laundry experts are assuring us that this simple cleaning tip is safe to try and reveal when to avoid using this simple pantry staple.

Will baking soda bleach clothes?  

In short, no – adding baking soda to your wash load will not bleach your clothes as harsh chemical cleaners will. What this pantry staple will do, however, is enhance bright whites and bring out the clarity of color in colored garments for a truly refreshed closet collection.

A container of baking soda beside a brush and a lemon

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Penny Nicholas, a laundry and cleaning expert at Sparkling Penny says it is a common misconception that because baking soda makes whites white, it will strip the color out of dark and colored garments, but this could not be farther from the truth.

‘When used in your laundry, baking soda helps to regulate the pH level in the washing water by keeping it from being too acidic,’ she explains. ‘Stains and odors are often acidic, so baking soda makes an effective stain remover and deodorizer. Baking soda also has a softening effect on water, which means you can use less detergent, and save money on your laundry.

‘Baking soda will not bleach or lighten your clothes,’ she reiterates, ‘but it may have the effect of brightening colors and whites.’ For whitening, Penny recommends using an oxygen-based bleaching agent, such as Oxiclean, available at Walmart, or sticking to carefully using bleach in laundry

Penny Nicholas
Penny Nicholas

Penny Nicholas is the professional cleaner behind cleaning blog Sparkling Penny. She aims to be a a go-to source for all things cleaning around the home after learning top cleaning tricks and hacks running her own holiday cottage for over ten years. 

A container of baking soda beside a scrubbing brush

(Image credit: Getty Images)

All in all, baking soda is generally safe to use in all laundry with a few small caveats, adds Beth McCallum, cleaning expert at Oh So Spotless. 

‘It’s important to note that baking soda can also fade colors in natural, protein-based fibers like silk, wool, and cashmere. These fabrics are pH sensitive meaning it is easy for a pH cleaner like baking soda to pull out the dye,’ she warns. ‘Always try to avoid using baking soda on protein-based fibers like silk, cashmere, wool, or other clothing made with pH sensitive-dye.’

Beth McCallum

Beth McCallum firmly believes that a tidy house is a tidy mind. She is always looking for new ways to sustainably clean and tidy her house, that’s kind on the environment but effective in the house, too!

Instead of using baking soda in your washing machine, you may wish to use it to directly target stains, from chocolate stains to coffee stains. Like using lemon juice in laundry, baking soda is great at lifting stains out of clothing fibers naturally, so keeping a container on your kitchen counter or in your laundry room will make treating stains before they have the chance to dry easier. 

It might also be a good idea to keep a spray bottle of equal parts vinegar and water nearby too, as using white vinegar in laundry alongside baking soda will make light work of even the toughest of stains. 


Will baking soda damage colored clothes?

Baking soda is unlikely to damage your colored clothes, so long as they are not made out of a delicate fiber such as wool or silk. Everyday materials such as polyester or cotton hold their color better than delicates, making them easier to wash with baking soda and water. 

Delicates, on the other hand, will more easily release their dyes, meaning special laundry products should be used for every wash, following the laundry symbols on the care tag as well as you can.  

Is it ok to put baking soda in the washing machine?

Baking soda, at Walmart is perfectly safe to use in a washing machine both to help with laundry and to help clean a washing machine. The gentle abrasive is ideal for deodorizing the pipes and fittings in the washing machine without harsh chemicals and scrubbing, while also helping to remove odors from your clothing at the same time.

In conclusion, baking soda, despite being a handy whitening agent for household cleaning, is not powerful enough to cause any lasting bleach damage to your clothing or linens around the home. This eco-friendly cleaner is perfect for breaking down stains on clothing while leaving the natural dyes untouched.  

Chiana Dickson
Content Editor

Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for two years, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.