Can You Bleach Cotton? How to Bleach Cotton Without Ruining It

Getting whites whiter is the main goal when using bleach. This harsh chemical is devastating to colors so it is best used on white fabrics and save the colors for less harsh forms of bleach. But bleach can be tricky as it can damage fibers when you are not looking.

Can you bleach cotton? Yes, you can bleach cotton and the best way to protect your cotton items is to check the care label. If it says do not bleach, then do not bleach. This is a hard and fast rule when it comes to bleaching any fabric.

Not all cotton material is made the same so make sure before you add the chemical to your laundry.

To find out more about bleaching cotton just continue to read our article. It has the information you need to know about. Handling bleach is tricky at times and knowing what to do is vital to not ruining your clothes

Does Bleach Weaken Cotton?


If your cotton clothing is lightweight, thin, and not that strong, it is best not to use chlorine bleach. This harsh chemical can weaken those fibers and make the clothing lose their strength as well as shorten its lifespan.

That is chlorine bleach though. A lesser harsh bleach, like the oxygen version, should be easier on your cotton sheets and clothing. It is made from hydrogen peroxide and it does not have the strength that chlorine bleach has.

Then there are natural foods that can do the work of bleach without harming your cotton fabrics. As long as you follow the directions your cotton should be safe from harm and not lose any of its strength.

Getting stains out can be tricky work as not all stains respond to the same cleaning solutions you can use. Bleaching may seem easier but it has its risks. The best thing to do is find the right chlorine bleach substitute that works for you and go with that.

With the number of differences in fabrics, there is no one size fits all answer that bleaches away stains while not harming the cotton fibers.

Does Bleach Stain Cotton?

It can and you never know when this will appear. Some people say that different cotton fabrics stain at different times. For example, some cotton materials only stain after several bleaching episodes. While others will go yellow the first time they come n contact with bleach.

This is especially so when you live in a region of the country that has hard water for drinking and other activities like washing, etc. Hard water has iron in it which reacts when it comes in contact with bleach. When that chemical reaction happens your cotton may yellow quickly.

If this happens to you, there are cleaning products that will lift the iron out of the fabric and get rid of that yellow stain. You will just have to find one that works best with the water supply you have in your home.

Of course, you can avoid using chlorine bleach on cotton materials and use one of the many alternatives. This will help you avoid bleach staining your fabrics and still get them nice and clean.

Will Bleach Damage Cotton?

The answer to this question will depend a lot on your personal experience. The Clorox company on its website said that they did test washes, up to 50, and saw no significant damage done by their bleach products. Not to doubt them but those tests may be done under ideal conditions and not the same ones you face.

Some chlorine bleach will leave a yellow stain and that is just much damage as ruining the fibers by using too much of a good thing. There are safer alternatives you can use if you are worried about damaging new cotton items, including towels and sheets.

After all, chlorine bleach is made strong so that it works and works quickly. One way to avoid damaging your cotton items is to dilute the bleach a lot. Making the bleach weaker is one way to protect your fabrics even though that low of a solution does not get the clothes as clean as it did before.

Working with bleach is a trial and error type relationship. What works for one fabric, may not work that well for cotton or other materials you own.

Will Hydrogen Peroxide Bleach Cotton?


It can as this solution is about the only real bleaching aid that protein fibers have. It also works on cellulose fibers like cotton and there are some quirks you need to know about when using this solution to bleach cotton.

The main quirk is that the ph balance of hydrogen peroxide must be at 7 or below. It does become more unstable when the alkalinity levels rise. That is why companies that make this solution tend to make it higher on the acid level side because it needs to be stored while waiting for sales.

Another quirk is that if the ph levels are too low, no hydroxyl ions will be released and the solution does not bleach anything. A third but important quirk is that it is almost impossible to adjust the ph levels using alkali only.

There are other quirks to this solution but those are the main ones. It is tricky to use hydrogen peroxide as the stability of the solution is very important. But when all the conditions are just right, it is a good solution to use to bleach cotton.

What Happens When You Bleach Cotton

The ideal and the objective of using bleach on cotton is to get the clothing, bedding, etc., nice and clean and without stains. It is always nice to have an ideal to shoot for. If you do it right you can use bleach very effectively.

The key would be to know what type of stain you are trying to remove. Bleach may not work on all of them, that includes protein stains, and only makes the stain worse. So if you use chlorine bleach on protein stains do not expect to reach the ideal.

Sometimes the bleach will yellow the fabric or weaken its fibers. These are the risks you take when you want your white sheets nice and white. Oxyclean type bleaches or oxygen bleach works better although it is not as powerful as chlorine bleach.

These versions work slower as well and you may not see perfect results when you switch out the chlorine and use the oxygen bleach. The same should apply to those natural bleach alternatives you can use.

Do some trial and error to see which works best for you and use old clothing, sheets, or towels when you do.

Can You Bleach Cotton-Polyester Blend?

It is possible to do this and the Clorox company has stated on its website that it is okay to use regular bleach 2 to safely accomplish this objective. That should be good news for those who like to use beach and not wanting to ruin their nice clothing.

Like cotton, if you use too much bleach or use it on a regular basis you could damage the polyester fibers and end up with a messy pile of nothing when you are done. If the cotton and poly blend is white only, then you should be able to use chlorine bleach safely and not harm those clothing items or bedsheets, etc.

One word of warning. Those that have tried to bleach a cotton-poly blended jacket may have ended up with a big mess as the bleach just destroyed the fabric. Then polyesters manufacturing process doe snot always lend itself to allowing you to bleach safely when washing poly-cotton blends.

Do a test first to see what happens to be sure as the amount of bleach, the size of the garment also play a role in this equation, and its results.

How To Bleach Cotton White


One way to bleach cotton safely is to soak it in a bleach and water solution. Usually, you need about 1/4 cup of bleach for every gallon of water you put in your sink or bucket. Once that is done, put your cotton item in the solution and leave it for about 10 minutes or so.

When the cotton is white enough for you, rinse in cool water before you place it in some hydrogen peroxide to neutralize the bleach. Soak the item for 5 minutes before washing the cotton item as normal.

You can also use your washing machine and if it has a soap and bleach dispenser then add the soap and the bleach as the machine is filling up with hot water. Be careful here as hot water will help the bleach release more chlorine fumes.

Then add the clothing you want to make white and run the cycle through. If you have really tough stains, you may need to repeat both methods

How To Bleach Cotton Yarn

One method would be to use hydrogen peroxide but this may be the slower method to use. It is not as powerful as chlorine bleach and works a lot slower although it is the safer method to use. You will need a 50 to 50 water hydrogen peroxide solution to attempt this method.

Or you can try the soaking in the bucket method with 1/4 cup of beach for a gallon of water. If you are just trying to get stains out, then 5 minutes should do the trick. If you want to whiten the yarn, leave it in the solution for an extra 5 minutes.

Then you can use a color remover. This is gentler than using bleach but you still run the risk of harming your yarn. The thing you have to watch out for when using bleach is that it may dissolve the yarn if left in it for too long.

Make sure you do a test to see if the bleach you have is going to harm the yarn or not.

Can You Bleach Cotton Towels?

One of the problems you face when wanting to bleach your towels is the care label. Even white towels have been given a do not bleach stamp which has a lot of people confused as to when they can bleach and what color they can bleach.

There are two theories on this and the first one is that the towels may be damaged by the chlorine bleach and turned yellow. It can happen and it is a real threat to clean towels. The second is that towel makers everywhere just haphazardly slap the same label on all their towels regardless of color.

In other words, you may be able to bleach your white towels like normal and have no problem. The do not bleach label means nothing. Or the manufacturer was trying to save money by not printing new labels.

It is a choice you have to make when you see the same label on white towels as well as colored ones. White micro cotton towels can be bleached using regular Clorox 2 bleach.

How To Bleach Cotton Sheets


The first step is to make sure the bleach will not yellow those nice new sheets. It is a possibility and you should run a test first to make sure your sheets will not yellow when it meets the bleach.

You have 3 cleaning agents you can use and one is regular chlorine bleach but make sure it is diluted properly before adding your sheets to the water. If the stain is protein-based, you can wash the sheets first without bleach, then use bleach on the second go around.

Another detergent you can use would be borax detergent booster as it is all-natural and safer to use than chlorine bleach. Just soak the sheets in this detergent aid and overnight and then launder as usual the next morning. Oxiclean is a good substitute for borax.

Finally, you can use a bluing agent but be careful. You need to follow the instructions exactly or you end up with blue sheets. The little bit of bluing should get rid of the yellow stain and make your sheets look white again.

Bleached vs Unbleached Cotton

This will depend on your preference and if you will want to dye those unbleached cotton items later on. What the term bleached cotton means is that the cotton material has been sent through a process that gets rid of hazardous molds, fungi, bacteria, and other contaminants or in other words, making the cotton pure.

The good news here is that this bleaching process is chlorine-free. This is what you want as unbleached cotton will contain more microbes, does not absorb anything, and will have GMO products in it if it was not organically grown.

Bleached cotton will look purer, whiter, and is safer than unbleached cotton. It will also have no GMO DNA in it so you can wear the material with peace of mind. In other words, you are better off using bleached cotton as it is not bleached in the laundry sense of the word.

Then the solution used to purify bleached cotton is hydrogen peroxide so you know that bleach cotton will not contain harsh chemicals that are not good for your body.

Some Myths About Chlorine Bleach

Not everyone has a clear picture of chlorine bleach so here are some items to help clear up any misconceptions about this cleaning solution:

1. If you smell bleach, you will get sick.

This is not true as the human nose is able to detect the bleach odor when it is still at safe levels. The cause of some people’s ill health when smelling bleach is their preconceived ideas causing their anxiety levels to rise.

2. The more bleach you use, the better your cleaning power.

This is where more is better principle fails to work. Less is more in using bleach and all you need is 1 tbsp of bleach in a gallon of water to kill the myriad of foodborne germs. Bleach is strong when it needs to be.

3. Bleach creates dioxins.

This is totally not true as bleach doe snot form any dioxins when used for disinfectant purposes.

4. Bleach is harmful to the environment.

Chlorine and sodium hydroxide, two ingredients in chlorine bleach, are made by sending electricity through the salty water. As it kills germs the bleach returns to being slaty water.

Some Final Words

It is okay to bleach cotton fabrics. Just be careful when you do it. Sometimes too much bleach does nothing but ruin your fabrics or turns them yellow. Also, watch out for those care labels. Sometimes they are not telling the truth and you are left to guess when they are and when they are not.

Just be cautious when you use bleach at any time. If you can, use an alternative to chlorine bleach. There is less risk involved.

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