If your clothes aren't getting clean, you're probably using the wrong bleach

If your laundry looks dingy, the right bleach will make it bright

Credit: Amazon
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When the laundry looks dingy, we reach for the bleach. But did you know there's more to bleach than just Clorox?

Aside from liquid chlorine bleach in the familiar white jug, there’s the gentler oxygen bleach (OxiClean is the best known brand), usually in powder form. And there’s a newer bleach product on the market, Tide Brights + Whites Rescue, which comes in a pod, and claims to use a unique oxygen bleach technology to get clothes whiter. We tested the cleaning performance of all three bleaches to see which cleaned best, and the results were surprising.

This-is-a-stainstrip
Credit: Reviewed.com / David Kender
I'm holding a stain strip. We use these in our labs to test the cleaning power of washing machines and laundry products.

Types of bleach

Chlorine bleach
You probably have a bottle of Clorox—or a store brand version of it—in your laundry room right now. Liquid chlorine bleach works by breaking dirt and stains into particles that detergent can wash away. You pour this bleach into the washer’s dispenser, it releases at the right time, and your laundry comes out whiter.

One big advantage of chlorine bleach is its powerful disinfectant action. The big disadvantage of chlorine bleach is that you can only use it on white cottons or colorfast fabrics without risking ruin. Chlorine bleach also causes fading and yellowing in the long run, and it ultimately weakens fabrics, leaving holes in your clothes.

Oxygen bleach
Oxygen bleach (like OxiClean) is an alternative to chlorine bleach, and it’s safe for many fabrics. You can use it to remove stains on colors, as well as whites. It doesn’t contain scary chemicals and it won’t ruin most fabrics—though you should avoid using it on silk or leather. The most effective version is powdered—you dissolve it in warm water and you can let the clothes soak in the solution to remove stains.

Tide Brights + Whites Rescue
These laundry booster pods contain oxygen bleach and a small amount of "bleach activator" in liquid form. They break down dirt, whitening whites and brightening colors. They are pricier that other types of bleach, but they claim to get clothes up to three shades whiter.

Scanning-stain-strips
We used a scanner to test for color change on our stain strips after washing them with different types of bleach.

Our tests

To see how well each bleach product cleaned, we used the stain strips we normally test with (to simulate sebum, carbon, cocoa, blood, and red wine) and followed the directions on the back of each package for bleaching a medium-sized load. This amounted to 1/2 cup of bleach, 25 grams (.88 ounces) of OxiClean, and one pod of Tide Rescue.

We washed loads of laundry detergent and each bleach separately in a top-load washing machine, the GE GTW685BSLWS. We also ran a test load with OxiClean and no detergent.

Ge gtw685bslws hero

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Conclusions

We compared the effectiveness of each bleach.

• Tide Brights + Whites Rescue did the best cleaning job overall, cleaning 73% of stains. However it costs 93 cents a load to use these pods, meaning you should probably save them for really dingy, soiled wash loads.

Tide-Rescue-Laundry-Booster
Credit: Reviewed.com / Jonathan Chan
You can see that the Tide Brights + Whites Rescue pods did the best job removing stains. Compare the "before" stain strip (top row) with the strip after we washed it with the Rescue pod (bottom row). The cocoa stain is practically gone, and the sebum stain is much lighter.

• OxiClean contains no chlorine and came in second, cleaning 72% of stains. And at 13 cents a load, it’s a bargain.

OxiClean
Credit: Reviewed.com / Jonathan Chan
OxiClean did a good job bleaching out stains, and it's economical to use. The top strip is the control, and the bottom strip shows stains after they were washed with detergent and OxiClean.

• Chlorine bleach came in last place, cleaning 63% of stains. It also left white spots! OxiClean beat its whitening power, even without adding detergent to the laundry, which is not recommended.

Bleach
Credit: Reviewed.com / Jonathan Chan
Compare the top strip of stained fabric (before washing) to the bottom strip (after washing and bleaching). Chlorine bleach didn't do as well removing stains, and you can see a white mark where bleach spattered on the blood stain.

If you have bleach around the home, save it for disinfecting. You can get safer, better whitening results using bleach alternatives.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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