Got a pesky stain on a colourful top that just won’t budge? You’re probably thinking about bleaching the item as a last resort. But should you use bleach on coloured clothes?
It is generally safe to use colour-safe oxygen bleach on coloured clothes. However, you shouldn’t use chlorine bleach on coloured clothes.
Before you bleach any item of clothing you must always check to see what material your item is made from, whether it is bleach safe, and whether it is colourfast.
You should only use oxygen bleach on coloured clothes if you know for sure that the material can withstand this type of treatment. For example, if the item’s care label says you can use bleach on the material, and you know for sure that the colour of your garment won’t be affected by the oxygen bleach.
If you have any doubts about using oxygen bleach to treat your coloured clothes, you should avoid using it on your items.
Learn more about oxygen bleach below.
What Is Oxygen Bleach?
Oxygen bleach, or sodium percarbonate, is a much gentler type of bleach in comparison to chlorine bleach.
The ingredients in oxygen bleach are activated when the powder makes contact with water, and in turn, the bleach is able to remove dirt from clothes, treat stains, deodorise stinky garments, and brighten laundry.
Oxygen bleach is a far less aggressive form of bleach, which is why it can be used on colourfast clothing and white items.
It’s not uncommon for some cleaning products to contain oxygen-based bleaching agents, like Persil Handwash Washing Powder. So, always read the packaging on your chosen detergent to find out if it contains any bleaching ingredients.
Other names for oxygen bleach include:
- Non-chlorine bleach
- Coloursafe bleach
- Sodium percarbonate
You can buy oxygen bleach in powder form online from places like the Ethical Superstore and Big Green Smile. You can also find it in supermarkets including Asda, Tesco, Waitrose, and Lidl.
What Is Chlorine Bleach?
In contrast to oxygen bleach, you’ve got chlorine bleach. This bleach is essentially liquid sodium hypochlorite and it’s much more aggressive in nature.
It is great at removing bad stains and disinfecting garments. But chlorine bleach can only really be used on white items that are made from a hard-wearing material that can, in turn, withstand the side effects of bleach.
Chlorine bleach shouldn’t be used on coloured clothes because it is likely to discolour and ruin them. And you should definitely keep this type of bleach away from delicate materials, like wool and silk.
Other names for chlorine bleach include:
- Liquid sodium hypochlorite
How to Tell If You Can Use Oxygen Bleach on Your Clothes
Oxygen bleach should always be used with care, even if it can be used on coloursafe clothing. So, follow the steps below to safely use oxygen bleach on your colourful laundry.
Before you use oxygen bleach to treat an item of clothing, you should read the item’s care label to see what material the garment is made from.
While you’re reading the label, you should also take note of whether or not the garment in question can be bleached.
You can usually bleach coloursafe items that are made from cotton, nylon, acrylic and polyester. But not all materials, particularly delicate ones like silk, wool and leather, can be bleached. So, if you’ve got an item made from a delicate material, avoid bleaching it!
In addition to the above, if you read the clothes tag on your item and you see ‘Do not bleach’, or a triangle with a giant cross going through it, you shouldn’t bleach the item. The item in question probably isn’t colourfast, which means any kind of bleach would likely discolour the garment.
If you see a blank triangle, you can bleach the item with any type of bleach. And if you see a triangle with two diagonal lines going through it, you can only use oxygen bleach on the garment.
Once you’ve checked the tag and you know the material can withstand being bleached, you can carry out a patch test on your item before you treat it officially with oxygen bleach.
All you need to do is pop a bit of diluted bleach on an inner seam and leave it overnight. By the next morning you’ll be able to see the results of your test.
You’ll be able to see quite quickly if the bleach has damaged your item because it will have discoloured the test area. But if your item still has its colour, you can consider the garment coloursafe, and you continue to use the oxygen bleach.
It’s also worth pointing out that before you work with bleach, you must make sure that it is diluted in water.
In the case of oxygen bleach, when the bleach makes contact with water, oxygen and soda ash gets released because of a chemical reaction, and it is this oxygen and the bubbles that break down stains and dirt.
How to Use Oxygen Bleach Coloured Clothes
Below you’ll learn how to use oxygen bleach on your clothes. For some extra dirty items of clothing, you might need to hand wash them in a water-bleach solution before they get cleaned in a washer. Or you could use the hand wash method below as a pre-treatment for extra stained clothes!
Steps to follow:
- Read the care label on your item of clothing.
- Pop some gloves on and keep pets and kids out of the treatment area.
- Do a patch test to check for colour fastness.
- In a large, clean bucket mix one part oxygen bleach to ten parts cold water (see packaging for exact doses).
- Pop one item of clothing into the bucket.
- Wait thirty minutes.
- Remove and rinse the item under plenty of cold water once the time has passed.
- Wash your item as normal in the washing machine/by hand.
Steps to follow:
- Make sure you separate all your coloured clothes from your white clothes – they’ll need to be treated and washed separately.
- Remove any coins, tissue and papers from your items of clothing.
- Pop some gloves on and make sure your treatment area is clear (no kids and pets).
- Hold one item of clothing up at a time and inspect it.
- If you see any bad stains, you can pre-treat them before laundering the garment in the washer.
- To pre-treat items, mix a dose of oxygen bleach in a large bucket of cold water and pop the garment in the water for thirty minutes at a time – if need be, you can dab some diluted oxygen bleach onto the stained patch itself, and rinse the item under cold water.
- After you’ve pre-treated your items, you can wash them in the washing machine.
- Choose a suitable setting for the garments you’re cleaning. Pick the right cycle, water temperature and spin speed.
- Remember to add detergent to the machine.
- Start the cycle.
- Once water has started to fill the washer, you can add a dose of oxygen bleach to the automatic dispenser in the washer’s drawer.
- The bleach will be released into the water and will be diluted immediately. You shouldn’t pour raw oxygen bleach directly onto your laundry as this could damage it.
- Continue the washing cycle.
- Run a second rinse cycle to remove any excess oxygen bleach from your clothes.
- Remove the laundry from the washer and dry it as normal.
Does Bleach Ruin Coloured Clothes?
Bleach can potentially ruin coloured clothes, especially if you use the wrong kind of bleach.
But if used correctly and under the right circumstance, bleach can remove stains from coloured clothes very well.
You need to make sure that your coloured items are bleach-friendly, are colourfast, and are made from a hard-wearing material before you treat them with such a chemical.
Above all else, you should use oxygen bleach and not chlorine bleach to treat your coloured garments.
As long as you take the right measures beforehand, and you know that the bleach won’t have any negative effects on your clothing, there shouldn’t be a problem using it.
Issues pop up when you don’t prepare in advance, you use the wrong bleach, and you don’t dilute the bleach properly.
Can You Use Normal Bleach on Clothes?
It is possible to use ‘normal bleach’, also known as chlorine bleach, on clothes. And it is particularly good at disinfecting materials and eradicating stains. However, it’s crucial to note that the clothes in question should be white, and made from a sturdy material.
You shouldn’t use normal bleach/chlorine bleach on coloured clothes, as it will discolour and damage them. To clean coloured clothes with bleach you need to use an oxygen bleach, which is a different product and far gentler on laundry.
Can You Use Straight Bleach on Clothes?
No, you shouldn’t pour straight bleach, of any kind, directly onto your clothes. This could discolour or cause irreparable damage to your items. You must always dilute bleach in water before you use it.
Bethan has a passion for exploring, reading, cooking and gardening! When she’s not creating culinary delights for her family, she’s concocting potions to keep her house clean!