Bleaching helps to remove tough stains from clothes, especially those caused by soil and certain types of foods. Bleach converts the stains into water-soluble particles that can be washed away using detergent. It's a myth that bleaching clothes is harmful and will eventually damage clothes. If used in the right amount, not too often, and as per the instructions, bleach is safe to use on most garments. There are two types of bleaches, chlorine bleach and oxygen bleach. Chlorine bleach contains sodium hypochlorite, approximately 5%, and is a lot more powerful as compared to oxygen bleach, and usually comes in liquid form. Oxygen bleach, which is available in both the powdered and liquid forms, contains hydrogen peroxide or sodium percarbonate. Bleaching not only removes stains from clothes, but also disinfects them, as bleaches usually have bactericidal properties.
Read the Labels on the Garments Carefully
■ Bleach can be used on almost all cotton and synthetic clothes. However, it is advisable that you read the manufacturer's instructions before actually using the bleach. Even though manufacturers print these labels, you may need to use bleach if the garment gets a deep-seated stain. If the instructions say do not bleach, test a small patch in a hidden area like the seam or the hemline to see what effect the bleach has. In such a case, try out the bleach test using only color-safe bleach, and use only on cotton and synthetic garments.
■ As a rule, it is recommended not to bleach garments made of wool, silk, mohair, spandex, and any flame-retardant clothes, especially with chlorine bleach.
Choose the Right Type of Bleach
■ Generally, it is better to use non-chlorine bleach for colored fabrics. For whites which are heavily soiled, you can use chlorine bleach. Oxygen bleaches give the best results when used with hot water. Stores are flooded with a variety of bleaches, so read all ingredients carefully and then make a decision on what type of bleach you want to buy.
■ Buy a bleach pen, it comes in handy when you need to remove a small, stubborn stain, without actually bleaching the entire garment. But make sure it does not leave an obvious spot on the dress; in such a case it is preferable to bleach the entire garment.
■ If you are uncertain about what type of bleach should be used, opt for non-chlorine bleach, especially if you want to wash kids' clothing or garments with non-fast colors.
Use Bleach the Right Way
■ If your washing machine has a bleach dispenser, pour the bleach in it, till the maximum fill line. If it does not, start the wash cycle, add the bleach, and mix it well. You can add ¾ cup of bleach to a standard-size washing machine, and one cup to a larger machine. Then add the clothes. Do not first add the clothes and then the bleach. If you forget to add bleach before adding the clothes, dilute the bleach before adding it to the washing machine, and add it after the wash cycle has begun and the clothes have been spinning for 5 minutes.
■ If you have only whites, you can soak them in the diluted bleach for fifteen minutes before starting the wash cycle. This will ensure they come out sparkling clean.
■ If you do not have a washing machine, add 1 tbsp of bleach to a gallon of warm water, mix it well and then add the clothes. Wear gloves while washing clothes in bleach and rinse them thoroughly, especially if you hand-wash clothes. Work in a well-ventilated area especially if you are using chlorine bleach.
■ Never mix bleach and ammonia together. It can create toxic fumes which are very harmful if inhaled.
So remember that bleaching does not spoil clothes. It actually disinfects them in a way detergent alone can't. A few things to keep in mind are not to use bleach too often, always dilute the bleach before using it, never to add bleach directly on the garments, and rinsing the clothes well after they have been bleached. Frequent bleaching can lead to weaker fibers and eventually the garment will get spoiled.