Is It Ok To Use Bleach On Coloured Clothes?

Wondering if you can keep your coloured clothes bright and stain-free without ruining them? You might think bleach is off-limits, but this is not always the case. 

Contrary to popular belief, you can actually use bleach on coloured clothes, as long as you’re using oxygen bleach. Oxygen bleach is colour-safe, has a mild formula that is kinder on your clothes, and is gentle enough that it brightens and cleans your fabrics without removing their dyes. 

Of course, you’ll still need to be careful when using oxygen bleach. Not all fabrics are meant to be in contact with bleach, especially delicate materials like silk and wool. 

Let’s have a closer look at how you can use bleach safely for your coloured garments in this article. 

What Type Of Bleach Can You Use On Coloured Fabrics? 

There are two main types of bleach: the traditional one known as chlorine bleach, and its gentler variant called oxygen bleach. For coloured garments, using oxygen bleach is what you need

oxygen bleach

Chlorine bleach is extremely potent, which is what you’ll want for your white clothes. However, using it on your coloured fabrics is too harsh and will strip the colour right off. If faded clothes are not something you want to deal with, put the traditional bleach back in the cupboard. 

We will go over the purpose of the two types of bleach today, starting with the one you’ll use for your coloured clothes.

Purpose Of Oxygen Bleach 

Oxygen bleach is great for several reasons. It’s kind to colours, it helps get rid of nasty stains, and it can make your clothes look brighter and feel fresher. It does all this without the harshness of chlorine bleach, thanks to its special ingredient: hydrogen peroxide. 

When you mix it with water, it will start fizzing and bubbling, breaking down the dirt and grime without attacking the fabric’s colour.

Oxo Brite, No Chlorine Bleach, 3.6 lb
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Oxygen bleach is also called non-chlorine bleach, Sodium percarbonate, sodium carbonate peroxide, or simply, colour safe bleach

How To Use Oxygen Bleach On Your Clothes

Here are the simplest steps you can follow to make use of oxygen bleach for spot-treating stubborn stains, when handwashing, and when using your washing machine: 

Oxygen Bleach For Spot Treatment

Have stains on your coloured garments? Here’s how to fix them:

  1. Check the Fabric’s Care Label
    Always check the garment’s care label to ensure it’s safe to use oxygen bleach. Avoid using it on fabrics that are labelled as bleach-sensitive or non-washable.
  2. Test For Colour Fastness
    Always test for colour fastness to ensure the fabric’s dye won’t run or fade. Apply a solution of oxygen bleach and water to a small, hidden area of the fabric. After applying, let it sit for 1-2 minutes, then rinse. Wait for the test area to dry to see if there’s any colour change.
  3. Prepare The Oxygen Bleach Solution
    Dissolve the oxygen bleach powder in water according to the product’s instructions. For spot treatments, you generally use a stronger solution than for general washing.
    A common ratio is one tablespoon of oxygen bleach to one cup of warm water, but this can vary based on the product, so always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.
  4. Apply The Solution To The Stain
    Apply the oxygen bleach solution directly to the stain. You can use a clean white cloth, a sponge, or a soft-bristled brush for application. Gently dab or rub the solution into the stain, being careful not to spread the stain or damage the fabric.
  5. Let It Sit
    Allow the solution to sit on the stain for 5 to 30 minutes, depending on the seriousness of the stain. 
  6. Rinse Thoroughly
    After the waiting period, rinse the treated area thoroughly with cold water to remove all traces of the oxygen bleach solution.
  7. Wash as Usual
    Wash the garment as usual according to the care label instructions. If the stain remains, you may repeat the spot treatment process before drying, as drying can set the stain permanently.

Oxygen Bleach When Handwashing

Here’s how to use oxygen bleach when you want to wash your fabrics by hand: 

  1. Read Fabric Care Labels
    Before starting, check the fabric care labels on your garments to ensure they are compatible with oxygen bleach. Avoid treating fabrics marked as bleach-sensitive.
  2. Check For Colour Fastness
    To ensure the fabric’s colour won’t fade or run, apply a small amount of diluted oxygen bleach solution to a hidden area of the fabric. After a few minutes, rinse and let it dry to check for any colour changes.
  3. Prepare Your Washing Solution
    Fill a basin or sink with lukewarm water and add oxygen bleach according to the product’s instructions. Usually, you’ll need one to two tablespoons of oxygen bleach for every gallon of water, but this can vary based on the product.
  4. Submerge The Fabric
    Place your coloured fabrics in the solution, ensuring they are completely submerged. Use your hands to gently agitate the water and make sure the oxygen bleach is evenly distributed.
  5. Soak
    Allow the fabrics to soak in the solution for at least one hour. For heavily stained items, you might want to soak them for a longer period, but it’s essential not to exceed the recommended time stated on the oxygen bleach product to avoid potential damage to the fabric.
  6. Agitate Gently
    After soaking, gently agitate the fabrics in the solution by hand to loosen any remaining dirt or stains. Avoid harsh scrubbing, which can damage the fabric fibres.
  7. Rinse Thoroughly
    Drain the basin and rinse the fabrics under cold, running water until all traces of the bleach solution are removed. You might need to change the rinsing water several times to ensure all the bleach is rinsed out.
  8. Dry As Recommended
    Once the fabrics are thoroughly rinsed, gently squeeze out excess water without wringing, which can distort the fabric. Dry the garments according to their care labels, either by laying them flat on a clean towel or hanging them to dry.

Oxygen Bleach When Using The Washing Machine

Here’s how to use oxygen bleach in your washing machine:

  1. Read The Garment Care Labels
    Before you begin, check each garment’s care label to ensure that it is safe to wash with oxygen bleach. Avoid washing fabrics that are labelled as bleach-sensitive or non-washable.
  2. Test For Colour Fastness
    It’s a good idea to test the fabric for colour fastness to ensure the colours won’t bleed or fade. Apply a solution of oxygen bleach and water to a hidden part of the fabric, wait for a few minutes, and then rinse. Check the test area once it’s dry to see that there’s no colour change.
  3. Sort Your Laundry
    Separate your laundry by colour and fabric type. Washing similar colours together helps prevent colour bleeding and ensures that the oxygen bleach is most effective.
  4. Prepare Your Washing Machine
    Set your washing machine to the appropriate cycle for the fabric type you are washing. Use the warm water setting if it’s safe for the fabrics you’re cleaning, as oxygen bleach works best in warm water.
  5. Add Oxygen Bleach
    Add the oxygen bleach to the washing machine. If your machine has a bleach dispenser, use it to ensure that the bleach is evenly distributed during the wash cycle. Follow the product’s instructions for the correct amount, typically one to two scoops for a regular-sized load.
    For machines without a dispenser, dissolve the oxygen bleach in warm water and add it to the wash drum before adding your laundry.
  6. Load The Washing Machine
    Place your sorted laundry into the machine. Be sure not to overload the machine to allow for adequate movement of the fabrics for thorough cleaning.
  7. Start The Wash Cycle
    Start your washing machine. If your machine has a pre-soak option, using it can help the oxygen bleach act more effectively on stains.
  8. Dry Your Laundry
    Once the wash cycle is complete, remove the clothes promptly to reduce wrinkling and the chance of colours running. Dry your garments according to their care labels, either in a tumble dryer on the appropriate setting or by air drying.

Purpose Of Chlorine Bleach 

Although it is not great for coloured garments, there’s no doubt that traditional bleach is extremely useful to many households. Chlorine bleach is also called sodium hypochlorite

Celtic Clean - Thick Strong Bleach - 5 Litre
  • Our Thick Strong Bleach is specially formulated to provide maximum cleaning power. It's perfect for breaking down and removing stubborn stain and grime with ease.
  • Unlike regular bleach, our product boasts a thickened formula, ensuring that it clings to surfaces longer, allowing for better penetration and enhanced cleaning performance.

Chlorine bleach’s primary purpose is to disinfect and whiten white fabrics. It’s highly effective at killing germs, removing tough stains, and whitening whites.

Unfortunately, it is not recommended for coloured fabrics due to its tendency to cause colour fading and fabric damage.

Alternatives To Bleach

It’s no secret that bleach contains a lot of chemicals. If you have kids and pets in your home, have sensitive skin, or just want to use milder products, here are some alternatives: 

Stain Removers

If you have to deal with stubborn stains, try a shop-bought stain remover. They are gentler compared to bleach, and are specially formulated to get rid of even the most nasty stains, like oils, blood, mud, dyes, and more. 

Dr. Beckmann Stain Devils - Cooking Oil & Fat
  • Specfically formulated stain remover
  • Removes tough stains in 3 minutes

Distilled White Vinegar

Vinegar is a natural fabric softener and deodoriser that can also help to brighten clothes. Just add half a cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse cycle, and it will help remove soap residue while keeping your colours vibrant. 

White Vinegar 5L - Food Grade Suitable for Cleaning, Cooking, Baking, Pickling, Marinating, Weed Killer
  • Natural and eco-friendly: Pure Chem's White Vinegar is made from natural ingredients, free from harsh chemicals and additives, and is a safe and eco-friendly alternative to traditional cleaning products.
  • Versatile cleaning agent: This vinegar's acidic properties make it a powerful cleaner, cutting through grease, grime, and stains on a variety of surfaces. It can be used to clean floors, tiles, countertops, and even as a natural fabric softener.

Bicarbonate Of Soda

Adding half a cup of bicarbonate of soda to your laundry can freshen, soften, and even help remove stains from coloured fabrics. It’s a gentle way to clean and deodorise your clothes. Just add it directly to the drum and let it do its job. 

Trade Chemicals Sodium Bicarbonate for Cleaning, Baking, Bath (5kg)
  • Pharmaceutical Grade
  • Sodium bicarbonate is a crucial ingredient in baking, acting as a leavening agent. It reacts with acidic components in recipes, releasing carbon dioxide gas, which helps dough rise and creates a light, airy texture in baked goods.

Tips For Using Bleach Safely

Before we end this article, here are some bonus tips to make your laundry sessions more pleasant, especially when using bleach:

  • Always use oxygen bleach in a well-ventilated area.
  • Do not pour bleach directly on your garments. Always dilute it with water. 
  • Avoid using hot water for fabrics that are prone to shrinking or for items with stains that can set in hot water.
  • Do not mix oxygen bleach with chlorine bleach or other cleaning chemicals, as it can lead to hazardous reactions.
  • For best results, especially with heavily soiled or stained laundry, consider soaking the items in an oxygen bleach solution before washing.

Do you have questions? Ask away!

SEE ALSO: Bleach Vs Oxygen Bleach (what’s the difference & when to use them)

Frequently Asked Questions

Will bleach ruin coloured clothes?

Yes, bleach can ruin coloured clothes, especially if you’re using chlorine bleach, as it is very potent and can strip the colour right off. However, using oxygen bleach, which is milder and colour-safe, will not ruin coloured clothes when used correctly.

What type of bleach is safe for coloured clothes?

The type of bleach that is safe for coloured clothes is oxygen bleach. Oxygen bleach is gentler, won’t strip the colour, and is effective at cleaning and brightening fabrics without damaging their dyes.

How can I lighten fabric without bleach?

To lighten fabric without bleach, you can use natural alternatives like distilled white vinegar or bicarbonate of soda. Adding half a cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse cycle or half a cup of bicarbonate of soda to your laundry can brighten and soften fabrics gently.

What fabrics cannot be bleached?

Fabrics that cannot be bleached include delicate materials such as silk, wool, leather, and any fabric with a “do not bleach” label. These materials are too sensitive for bleach, even milder forms like oxygen bleach, and can be damaged or degraded by the bleaching process.

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