No matter how hard you try to carefully eat ribs, ice cream, or other messy favorites, you're bound to end up with stains on your clothes eventually. Some people automatically reach for bleach, but many other stain-removal methods involve gentler products that can be effective. Starting with those gentler options and working up to bleach if necessary is ideal.
Using Bleach Safely
Bleach is a common household product that can do many tasks, from killing mold to removing laundry stains. However, it's a corrosive chemical that can burn your skin, cause irritation, and damage your lungs, so using it safely is essential.
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Always use bleach by itself. Combining it with other cleaners, especially ammonia or vinegar, can produce a toxic gas. If you've already tried vinegar on your stains, it's best to skip the bleach to avoid a potentially dangerous reaction since remnants of the vinegar might still be in the fabric. Use bleach in a well-ventilated area, ideally with the windows open, and avoid breathing in the bleach fumes. Wearing disposable gloves while working with bleach can protect your skin.
Types of Bleach
The bleach that makes your whites whiter is regular chlorine bleach. This type is only safe to use on white clothes. It will discolor or fade dyed fabrics anywhere the liquid touches. If you have a stain on colored fabric, you need oxygen or nonchlorine bleach. Confirm that your bleach is safe for colors before you proceed unless you're working with all-white fabric.
Check the Fabric and Stain
Choosing the right type of bleach based on the fabric color is only the first part of making sure bleach is an option. Refer to the clothing item's care tag to ensure bleach is safe for it. Some care labels specifically say not to use bleach on the item. Certain types of fabric, such as spandex, wool, silk, and mohair, aren't compatible with bleach.
Most stains respond well to bleach, but some aren't as responsive. Oily, greasy food stains aren't ideal for bleach initially. Grease-fighting dish soap is a better option to pretreat a grease stain on clothes.
Bleaching Stained Clothes
Never put undiluted bleach on clothes whether you're using chlorine or oxygen bleach. Both types are too strong for fabric without being diluted. Follow these steps for bleaching stained clothes:
- Dilute 1/4 cup of bleach with 1 gallon of water. If you use a concentrated bleach formula, use 2 to 3 tablespoons of bleach in 1 gallon of water.
- Dip the stained portion of the clothing into the diluted bleach. Blot the stain.
- Soak the entire garment in the bleach solution as an alternative to spot cleaning. Wait five minutes to give the bleach time to work.
- Check the stain to see if it's gone. Repeat the bleach treatment if it's not.
- Rinse the shirt in fresh water and let it air-dry. Check for stains again.
- Wash the stained clothing in your washing machine like normal if the stain appears to be gone, referring to the care instructions on the label.
- Let the garment air-dry and verify that the stain is gone. If you place it in the dryer and the stain isn't completely gone, the heat from the dryer will set the stain, and it will be much more difficult to remove.