How to use bleach in washing machine

Are your whites looking dull and dingy? Is that stubborn stain just refusing to come out no matter how hard you scrub? If you’re facing laundry woes, it might be time to enlist the help of a powerful ally – bleach. When used correctly, bleach can be a game-changer for your washing machine, restoring brightness to your fabrics and eliminating even the toughest stains. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of using bleach in your washing machine, ensuring you get the best results while keeping your clothes (and washing machine) safe.

bleach in washing machine

Bleach: What is it, and How Does it Work?

Bleach, also known as sodium hypochlorite, is a chemical compound that acts as a powerful oxidizing agent. When added to your washing machine, it breaks down the chemical bonds that hold stains and discoloration together, effectively lifting them from the fabric fibers. Bleach is particularly effective at removing stubborn stains caused by food, grass, dirt, and even those pesky underarm stains on white shirts.

Types of Bleach: Chlorine vs. Non-Chlorine

When it comes to bleach, you’ll typically find two main varieties on store shelves: chlorine bleach and non-chlorine bleach.

  1. Chlorine Bleach: This is the most common and widely available type of bleach. It’s highly effective at removing stains and brightening whites, but it can also be harsh on certain fabrics and cause color fading if not used properly. Popular chlorine bleach products include:
    • Clorox Liquid Bleach: A household staple, Clorox Liquid Bleach is a concentrated chlorine bleach that can be used for laundry, household cleaning, and disinfecting.
    • Purex Liquid Bleach: Another well-known chlorine bleach brand, Purex Liquid Bleach is formulated to remove tough stains and whiten fabrics.
  2. Non-Chlorine Bleach: Also known as oxygen-based bleach or color-safe bleach, this type of bleach is gentler on fabrics and safer for colored garments. It’s not as powerful as chlorine bleach but can still effectively remove some stains and brighten whites. Popular non-chlorine bleach products include:
    • OxiClean White Revive: This oxygen-based bleach is designed to safely whiten and brighten white and light-colored fabrics without damaging them.
    • Seventh Generation Chlorine-Free Bleach: A plant-based, chlorine-free bleach alternative that is gentle on fabrics and the environment.

Determining the Right Amount of Bleach

Using the correct amount of bleach is crucial to ensure your clothes come out clean and bright without being damaged. The general rule of thumb is to use 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of bleach per standard load of laundry. However, it’s always best to consult the instructions on your bleach bottle, as well as your washing machine’s manual, for specific guidelines.

Here’s a handy table to help you determine the appropriate amount of bleach to use based on the size of your laundry load:

Load SizeChlorine BleachNon-Chlorine Bleach
Small1/4 cup1/4 cup
Medium1/3 cup1/3 cup
Large1/2 cup1/2 cup

Remember, these are general guidelines, and you should always defer to the specific instructions provided by the bleach and washing machine manufacturers.

Adding Bleach to Your Washing Machine

Once you’ve determined the appropriate amount of bleach, it’s time to add it to your washing machine. Here’s how:

  1. Sort Your Laundry: Separate your whites from your colored garments, as bleach should only be used on white and colorfast fabrics.
  2. Load the Washing Machine: Place your white or colorfast items in the washing machine drum.
  3. Add Detergent: Add your regular laundry detergent to the designated compartment or directly into the drum.
  4. Add Bleach: Carefully pour the measured amount of bleach into the bleach dispenser or directly into the drum, depending on your washing machine’s design. Some washing machines have a dedicated bleach dispenser, while others may require you to add the bleach directly to the drum.
    • If your washing machine has a bleach dispenser, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on when to add the bleach during the cycle.
    • If adding directly to the drum, it’s generally recommended to pour the bleach into the drum before adding your laundry to allow for better distribution.
  5. Start the Cycle: Select the appropriate wash cycle for your load, and let the machine do its magic.

Tips for Effective Bleach Use

  • Pre-treat Tough Stains: For heavily soiled or stained items, consider pre-treating the affected areas with a stain remover or a small amount of bleach before washing.
  • Rotate Bleach Use: Alternate between using bleach and other whitening agents, such as oxygen-based cleaners or baking soda, to prevent fabric damage from prolonged exposure to bleach.
  • Check Fabric Care Labels: Always check the care labels on your garments before using bleach to ensure they are suitable for bleaching.

Safety Precautions When Using Bleach

While bleach is an effective cleaning agent, it’s essential to handle it with care and follow proper safety precautions to avoid potential hazards:

  1. Read Labels: Always read the instructions and safety information on the bleach bottle before use.
  2. Ventilate: Ensure proper ventilation in the laundry room to prevent the buildup of fumes.
  3. Avoid Mixing: Never mix bleach with other household cleaners, as it can create toxic fumes. For example, mixing bleach with ammonia or acid-based cleaners can produce dangerous chloramine and chlorine gases, respectively.
  4. Protect Your Skin: Wear gloves and long sleeves to avoid direct contact with bleach, as it can cause skin irritation or burns.
  5. Store Safely: Keep bleach out of reach of children and pets, and store it in a cool, dry place away from heat sources.
  6. First Aid: In case of accidental ingestion, inhalation, or contact with eyes, immediately rinse with water and seek medical attention if necessary.

Alternatives to Bleach: Eco-Friendly Options

If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of using bleach or prefer a more natural approach, there are several eco-friendly alternatives to consider:

  1. Baking Soda: Baking soda is a gentle yet effective whitening agent that can help brighten whites and remove stains. Simply add 1/2 cup of baking soda to your washing machine along with your regular detergent.
  2. Lemon Juice: The natural acidity in lemon juice can help lift stains and whiten fabrics. Add 1/2 cup of lemon juice to your wash cycle or pre-treat stains with undiluted lemon juice before washing.
  3. Vinegar: White vinegar is a versatile cleaning agent that can help remove stubborn stains and deodorize laundry. Add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle or use it as a pre-treatment for tough stains.
  4. Oxygen-Based Cleaners: Oxygen-based cleaners, like hydrogen peroxide or sodium percarbonate, are gentle on fabrics and effective at removing stains and brightening whites. Look for products like OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover or Nellie’s All-Natural Oxygen Brightener.
  5. Borax: Borax is a natural mineral compound that can help whiten and deodorize laundry. Add 1/2 cup of borax to your wash cycle along with your regular detergent.

Maintaining Your Washing Machine

Using bleach in your washing machine can be an effective way to keep your clothes looking their best, but it’s also essential to maintain your washing machine to ensure optimal performance and longevity. Here are some tips for proper washing machine maintenance:

  1. Clean the Dispenser: Regularly clean the bleach and detergent dispensers to prevent buildup and ensure proper distribution of cleaning agents. Most dispensers can be easily removed and soaked in a vinegar solution or washed with hot water and a brush.
  2. Inspect Gaskets and Seals: Check the gaskets and seals around the door and drum for cracks or wear, as these can lead to leaks and allow bleach to seep out. Replace any damaged gaskets or seals according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Run a Cleaning Cycle: Periodically run a washing machine cleaning cycle with a dedicated washing machine cleaner, like Affresh Washing Machine Cleaner or Tide Washing Machine Cleaner, or use a combination of baking soda and vinegar to remove residue and prevent odors.
  4. Follow Manufacturer’s Instructions: Consult your washing machine’s manual for specific maintenance guidelines and recommendations from the manufacturer, as different models may have unique requirements.
  5. Descale Regularly: If you live in an area with hard water, descale your washing machine regularly to prevent mineral buildup, which can affect performance and lead to potential breakdowns. Use a washing machine descaler product, like LG Tub Clean or Whirlpool Washing Machine Cleaner, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

By following these tips and using bleach responsibly, you can ensure your washing machine remains in top condition and your clothes come out looking fresh, bright, and stain-free.


Bleach can be a powerful ally in your laundry room, helping to restore the brightness and cleanliness of your whites and tackle even the toughest stains. By understanding the different types of bleach, determining the correct amount to use, and following proper safety precautions, you can harness the power of bleach without putting your clothes or washing machine at risk. Remember, if you’re unsure about using bleach or prefer a more eco-friendly approach, there are always alternative options available. With the right techniques and a little care, you can keep your laundry looking its best, load after load.

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As the founder of Clean It Spotless, I am Melissa Walker, a leading expert in removing tough stains from fabrics, carpets, and upholstery. With over 10 years of experience in the cleaning industry, I have developed my own natural, non-toxic stain-fighting formulas that lift stains while preserving the integrity of the underlying material. My stain removal tutorials are widely read online, and I have appeared on local TV segments demonstrating my techniques. I also present popular stain removal workshops at community centers and schools.