ICYWW: Here is how to use bleach in laundry, because it gets confusing

To bleach or not to bleach?

Three washing machine images in a row with a basket
(Image credit: Annie Spratt / Unsplash)

If you thought doing laundry was stressful, then figuring out how to use certain detergents is even worse, especially bleach. Many of us experience the so-called "bleach scaries," because we feel we might ruin our favorite garments, which end up looking like '90s tied-dyed sweatshirts when bleach stains take over. 

Utilizing bleach doesn’t have to end in tragedy though. As soon as you have your laundry symbols memorized and are caught up on how bleach works, this helpful laundry closet addition becomes a gift from the universe for your laundry routine. 

No need to fret, because SudShare laundry expert Laurie Fulford gave us her play-by-play on using bleach in the laundry room.

Good to know

Time: About 2 hours (dependent on your chosen laundry cycle)

Difficulty: Easy once you know what you're doing

Helpful hints: Fulford stated that numerous studies have been done regarding what water temperature is best when using bleach. There are many mixed opinions, but the majority of experts seem to agree that hot water is the most effective. It is very important to use the correct measurements of bleach depending on the amount of laundry you are washing. Pay attention to whether you are using chlorinated or non-chlorinated bleach, too. Chlorinated bleach used on colored clothing could cause damage.

Here's what you'll need

How to use bleach in laundry

Step 1: Sort your clothes and choose non-chlorinated or chlorinated bleach

Decide if you want to use chlorinated or non-chlorinated bleach. Chlorine bleach is best for removing stains and odors on white clothing. It also has great sanitizing power. Non-chlorinated bleach can be used on colored clothing and its main job is to brighten colors. Now is a good time to double-check your clothing tags, too. If any of them have a triangle with an X through it, they shouldn't be bleached.

Step 2: Check if your clothing is colorfast

Once you've separated by color, go through your garments and make sure they are white or colorfast, which qualifies them as bleach safe. Colorfast means they won't bleed (and ruin your other clothes). You can do a quick test to find out. Wet a small part of your garment, then take a white rag that you don't care about and rub it on part of the seam. If you find that color got on the cloth you won't want to be tossing this item in with whites or other light-colored clothing.

Step 3: Select your cycle

The best cycle to wash clothes when it comes to using bleach is a heavy-duty cycle with hot water and an additional rinse. 

Step 4: Add the bleach to your washing machine

If you have a machine with a bleach dispenser, you can add your amount of bleach directly to that dispenser as you are starting your load of laundry. The correct measurements for bleach are 1/3 of a cup for a regular-size load and 2/3 of a cup for a large load of laundry. Other areas where you can add your bleach include directly in the detergent tray or the bottom of the washing machine as the water fills before you add clothing. 

WARNING: Bleach should never be added to the fabric softener dispenser if your machine has one. Adding bleach to this dispenser could prevent the bleach from rinsing out properly.

Step 5: Add your clothes and run the cycle

Add your clothes to the washing machine and press start. Don’t overload your washing machine, as clothes should seamlessly circle through the water when washing, especially with bleach.


Why is bleach good for laundry?

Fulford mentions that bleach and laundry detergent can be used together to clean, whiten, remove stains, and sanitize all of your garments. Bleach will make all of your white clothes look whiter than ever and eliminate the majority of germs in your laundry load. This additive is ideal for removing super stubborn stains, such as sauce or ketchup stains, red wine, coffee, grass, and more. 

How do you use bleach in a laundry machine?

In terms of where to incorporate bleach in your washing machine, Fulford says this all depends on the type of machine you own. It can be added directly to your bleach dispenser, your detergent tray, or in the bottom of the washer as it fills with water before you add clothing. She also notes that bleach should not be added to your fabric softener dispenser, as doing this will cause the bleach to not be rinsed effectively, which could damage your clothes.

How do you use bleach in colored laundry?

Fulford says that chlorine bleach should only be used on white clothing. If chlorine bleach is used on colored clothing, it could create holes and leave irreversible faded spots. Instead, you'll want to use unchlorinated bleach for your colorful garments. She recommends paying close attention to the measurements that you use for each load because adding too much bleach to white clothing could cause damage, too.

Aida M. Toro
Freelance Writer

About Me:

Hello! My name is Aida M. Toro and I am a freelance writer that loves cultivating stories about amazing people, fashion, interiors, art, and food. I currently write for Harper’s Bazaar Vietnam, The House Magazine, Hobnob Magazine, The C-Word, and Real Homes. I live in West New York, New Jersey, which is literally a 10-minute ferry ride or 20-minute bus ride away from New York City. Although I was born and raised in West New York, I consider NYC my home, as I believe it to be the place where all dreams come to fruition, and of course, spend most of my time in. When I’m not writing, I love perusing the city streets and taking snaps with my iPhone of street art along with random things, scoping out new restaurants as well as their spaces, shopping at some of my favorite stores, spending time with family and friends, walking my cockapoodle Benji, and working out at Lifetime or DOGPOUND, which are some of the top fitness spaces in Manhattan and overall the U.S.