Using bleach removes stubborn soil and stains. Two types of bleach commonly used in home laundry are chlorine and oxygen bleach.

Chlorine bleach is the most powerful. The liquid version is most common but a dry, powder form is also available. When used in the wash, chlorine bleach generally whitens most natural-fiber fabrics, like cotton. Chlorine bleach should always be added to water and thoroughly mixed before adding to the washer, including if your washer has a designated dispenser. If using bleach for stain removal, bleach the entire garment to prevent spotting.

Oxygen bleach is often called all-fabric bleach and is safe for most fabrics and colors. Its gentler approach takes longer than chlorine bleach and is most effective when used in a powdered formula mixed with water. Add the powder to the empty washer tub first, then add clothes. Use warm water to ensure that the powder dissolves. If needed, add cold water.

Alternatively, Tide Plus Bleach Alternative Liquid Laundry Detergent provides a brilliant clean while helping your fabrics look brighter and whiter. It also protects your colors by reviving dingy fabrics and preventing the dirty wash water from soaking back into them.

Laundry Warnings for All Types of Bleach

  • Wear rubber or waterproof gloves when handling any bleach product, as direct contact with your skin may cause irritation.
  • Always check the fabric for colorfastness and follow the instructions on the product container before using any type of bleach.
  • Never pour full-strength chlorine bleach into a washer filled with clothes, even if the load is all whites.
  • Before adding any type of bleach to washer water, allow the bleach and water to thoroughly mix before adding clothes.
  • Never mix any type of bleach with ammonia. The mixture will create dangerous, caustic fumes.
  • Read and follow care instructions and warnings on the fabric care label regarding the use of bleach.
  • Do not use chlorine bleach on silk, acetate, wool, spandex, polypropylene foam, flame retardant fabrics or rubber. It will weaken the fibers and cause them to break, damaging your clothes.
  • Oxygen bleach should not be used on wool, dry clean-only silks or leather.
  • Be aware that repeated use of chlorine bleach can weaken cellulosic or cotton, ramie and linen fibers. It also can cause fabrics to yellow by stripping the outer fibers, revealing an inner core.