Can You Mix Laundry Detergent and Bleach? (Important)

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Clothes become stained and dingy over time, especially whites and bright colored items. Laundry detergent alone may not be enough to get the items clean. So, can you actually mix detergent with bleach? In this article, you will learn what happens when you mix laundry detergent and bleach. 

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Can you mix laundry detergent and bleach?

Although laundry detergent can be used alone, you can mix bleach and detergent to enhance the cleaning power. Bleach whitens whites, disinfects, helps remove tough stains, and converts soils into colorless, soluble particles which are easily removed by the detergent, then carried away in the wash water.

You can combine bleach and laundry detergent to wash a number of items. White and light colored fabrics, as well as colorfast fabrics, for example, can be washed with bleach and detergent.

Other items such as dish towels, T-shirts, white socks, bath towels, bed linens, and tablecloths are just some of the items you can wash in bleach and detergent combined. If you want to be sure, it's always best to check the label on the item to see if bleach is acceptable for that fabric type.

When mixed together, bleach and laundry detergent combine to get your clothes clean. These two products work as a team; the bleach breaks down the stains and grime so the detergent can clean them away.

What happens when you mix bleach and laundry detergent?

When mixed together, bleach and laundry detergent combine to get your clothes clean.  Laundry detergent — powdered or otherwise — is formulated to be mixed with bleach, so it shouldn’t cause any adverse reactions. The only caveat is to dilute the bleach in water before combining with detergent.

For best results, it is recommended to mix the recommended amount of bleach in a quart of water and wait 5 minutes into the wash cycle. The reason is because bleach will react with several key detergent ingredients, like enzymes and fluorescent whitening agents, and decrease the detergent’s effectiveness.

Two types of bleach

There are only two main types of bleach to choose from when you are deciding which bleach to use on your laundry: chlorine bleach and oxygen bleach. Both have a whitening and brightening effect on white clothing.

1. Chlorine bleach

Chlorine bleach, also known as sodium hypochlorite bleach, is the more powerful type of laundry bleach. It comes in a liquid form, but it can occasionally be found in a powdered form.

This type of bleach is very powerful. It disinfects laundry, as well as clean and whiten. It works on many whites and colorfast washables, but it isn't safe for many fabric types, particularly colored clothing or clothing with patterns. Chlorine bleach should also not be used on wools and silks.

For chlorine bleach, read the label and dilute as directed. For best results, add 5 minutes after the wash cycle has begun to agitate in order to avoid destroying enzymes and fluorescent whiteners in the detergent.

2. Oxygen bleach

Oxygen bleach, also known as color-safe bleach, is more gentle than chlorine bleach. It works safely on all washable fabrics, but it works best for maintaining whiteness, not restoring the bright color.

For oxygen bleach, add directly to the wash water before the clothes are added. Do not pour powdered bleach directly on wet clothes. Oxygen bleaches are most effective in warm-to-hot water.

How to add bleach to laundry

There are several ways to add bleach to your wash load, depending on whether you are using a top-load washer or a front-load washer. Here are the steps on how to add bleach to laundry based on the washer:

1. Adding bleach to a top-load washer

Before anything else, set the top-load washer to the appropriate temperature setting for whatever it is you are washing. Often, items that can be bleached can be washed in hot water.

Start filling the washer with water and while it's filling, add no more than 1 cup of liquid bleach. Refer to the label for specific measurements for the load size you are washing. Once the washer is almost full with water, add the recommended amount of detergent, then add your laundry.

2. Adding bleach to a front-load washer

Front-loading washers are equipped with detergent and bleach dispensers. Fill the detergent dispenser with the appropriate amount of detergent, then the bleach dispenser with the right amount of bleach.

Most dispensers have a max. fill line for both detergents and bleach. Adjust the amounts you are using according to the load size and label instructions. Don't use more than ½ cup bleach in a front-load washer.

Insert the laundry, set it to the appropriate wash and temperature settings and let the washer run through a complete cycle. The washer automatically dispenses the detergent and bleach at the appropriate times.

Things to look out for when using bleach in laundry

Not all fabric types and colors can safely be bleached. Test the fabric first to check for color changes or damage. Mix ¼ cup water with 2 tsp. of bleach. Put a small drop to an inconspicuous part of the fabric.

Wait about one minute, then blot the area with a towel. If there are no changes in color or damage, bleach is safe to use. Silk, leather, spandex, wool and mohair are some fabrics that should never be exposed to chlorine bleach. Always run the laundry through a rinse cycle so the bleach doesn't weaken the fabric.

Bottom line

Now you know what happens when you mix bleach and laundry detergent together. As it turns out, combining the two can enhance the cleaning performance. As long as you use bleach and detergent together in the right way, your clothes will come out clean and white without damaging the fabric.

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