Never Fear Cleaning With Bleach Again

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For most of us, bleach is kind of a mystery. It's even a little scary, too. Sometimes we're just not 100% positive we've got the right water-to-solution ratio. And, what fabrics are okay to wash with it, anyway? To get the answers to these pressing questions, we went to Mary Gagliardi (a.k.a Dr. Laundry), a stain and laundry expert at Clorox, for the 411 on when to use it and how much per load.

Turns out we've been skittish for no reason. The key to washing with bleach safely is all about reading labels and knowing how much you should use. Read ahead for tips that will have your tees really excited for a white summer to come.

What exactly is household bleach, anyway?
In the concentrated kind you buy at the grocery store (like Clorox Regular), the main ingredients are water, sodium hypochlorite (an active ingredient to kill germs), sodium chloride (also known as table salt), sodium carbonate (removes grease), sodium chlorate (a substance resulting from sodium hypochlorite), sodium hydroxide (also known as lye), and sodium polyacrylate (prevents soils from depositing on fabrics). For more on these sodiums and what they do, you can read up them here.

How much should go in each load?
Gagliardi recommends using a half cup of Clorox bleach along with your normal detergent in a wash cycle. Simply pour the solution into the marked container in your top- or front-loader machine. Since some bleach brands are formulated differently, it's important to always check the label.

Can you use bleach with every wash?
It's completely fine to use it every time you run a load. Gagliardi says tests have shown using the solution regularly does not affect the natural deterioration of clothing.
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Can you treat other fabrics than cotton?
As long as you dilute properly — polyester, nylon, acrylic, and vinyl are all fine to treat. The ones to stay away from are wool, silk, mohair, leather, and spandex. When in doubt, check the label. If there's a black triangle crossed out, it's a no-go. A white triangle means it's totally fine to use bleach.

What about items with a little color on them?
Any standard bleach (or Clorox Regular) should only be used on all-white items. However, any item with a little bit of color printed on the outside is a good candidate for Clorox's new Smart Seek bleach, a solution specifically curated to treat "mostly whites" gently. Gagliardi says, "White T-shirts with a screen print on the front are a great example. Also, items with only a few stripes (or narrow stripes) of color and colored embroidery on a white background are considered mostly white." Kitchen dish towels, sheets, and towels are always usually fine as well.

If we don't have a washing machine, how do we soak an item at home?
Take a plastic dishpan and one gallon of cool water with three tablespoons of Clorox (again, check the label for your brand). After mixing the solution, fully submerge your clothing item and weigh it down, if necessary. After letting it soak for five minutes, thoroughly rinse the piece, squeeze out the excess water, and let it air-dry. Gagliardi says, "It's also my go-to method for removing dye transfer from a white bleach-able item that picked up color accidentally (for instance, if a blue T-shirt snuck into a load of white athletic socks)."