How to use bleach in laundry – expert tips for the whitest whites

These expert tips on how to use bleach in laundry will get your whites gleaming

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(Image credit: Martin Moore)

Learning how to use bleach in laundry will help to get your whites white and eradicate hard-to-shift stains. 

Stains absorb light, and that is what gives them their color. Chlorine bleach contains sodium hypochlorite and is an oxidizing agent. It interacts with the compounds in stains that make them visible, breaking many of their bonds, rendering them 'invisible' and allowing detergent to wash them away. 

You can also use chlorine-free bleach, which is generally milder and a color-safe alternative to regular household bleach. Discovering how to use bleach is one of the best laundry room ideas for efficient results.

'Bleach is a tried and true laundry additive because it’s very effective at removing stains and whitening while disinfecting,' says Sabrina Fierman, of high-end cleaning company New York's Little Elves. 'It’s an all powerful one-two-three punch!'

How to use bleach in laundry - expert tips on safe and effective stain removal

Sabrina Fierman reveals her top tips for keeping your laundry stain-free and whiter than white below.

1. Always read product labels

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(Image credit: Rejuvenation)

'Always, always, always read the labels on both the items you are laundering and on the bleach product label,' advises Sabrina, talking about the laundry symbols that should be on your laundry's labels.

'Follow manufacturers’ instructions carefully. Liquid bleach may not be recommended for your item. If it is not safe to use on your garment, you may consider an oxygen-based bleach (non-chlorine bleach) or a stain remover.'

Wondering if washing towels the right way precludes the use of bleach? Our recommendation is to use a non-chlorine version.

2. Carry out a spot test

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Whatever stain removing method you end up with, it’s always best to do a spot test, advises Sabrina.

'With liquid bleach this is doubly true!' she states. 'To test use a few drops of bleach diluted in water and apply a small amount in a hidden area. You can use a Q-tip for this. 

'In general, liquid bleach is safe for whites, but not for all fabric types, so spot testing is still recommended. 

'It’s better to be safe than sorry! If you are treating colored garments, skip the liquid bleach and try a color-safe stain remover instead.'

If you determine it is safe to use bleach, you can then either spot treat or soak the stain.

3. How to soak laundry with bleach

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(Image credit: Norsu Home)

If you decide to spot treat your laundry with bleach before putting it in the washing machine, don't forget to dilute it.

Sabrina suggests: 'Dilute bleach in a gallon of water following the directions on the bleach label. 

'Then submerge the garment in the solution and wait the recommended time (usually around five minutes) before rinsing thoroughly and laundering.'

4. How to spot treat laundry with bleach

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(Image credit: Kathleen Walsh Interiors)

For spot treating with bleach, it's a good idea to create a mix first.

'Make a solution by diluting bleach in a cup of water following the bleach label instructions once again for the correct ratio,' advises Sabrina.

'Wearing gloves, isolate only the layer of the garment you are treating, lay it flat, and be sure to protect the surface you are working on so that bleach solution does not damage it. 

'Using a clean rag, gently dab the stain with the solution. When the stain has faded, rinse well or launder it on its own in the washing machine.'

5. Do not mix bleach with ammonia

It's very Important to remember not to mix bleach with acidic products.

Sabrina warns: 'Never, ever mix bleach with ammonia or acidic products, like vinegar. For safety, always read and follow label instructions for all cleaning products.'

Is it okay to use bleach in the washing machine?

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(Image credit: Courtney Sempliner / Kyle Caldwell)

Bleach is absolutely safe in the washing machine if used properly, and could be useful if you need to get rid of shower curtain mold and mildew if yours is made from plastic.

It's very important to always follow washing machine manufacturer guidelines for using any laundry product and especially bleach. 

'Every washing machine is different,' says Sabrina. 'If using a top loader, you will usually add to the drum after it is filled with water. 

Then add your laundry after the bleach is diluted in the water. You must also read the bleach label for the correct amount to use, as this can vary as well.'

Contributing Editor

Ruth Doherty is an experienced digital writer and editor specializing in interiors, travel and lifestyle. With 20 years of writing for national sites under her belt, she’s worked for the likes of, Standard, Ideal Home, Stylist and Marie Claire as well as Homes & Gardens.