In our house we have lots of white laundry - almost all my bedding is white, and I love fresh white crisp tablecloths. As all of you know I'm sure, it's not long before whites can start looking dull and grey and that's when the time comes to bleaching them. There are different methods of bleaching, and different bleaches to use. I'm sure many of you are well informed about bleaching and have your methods that work for you. But for the rest of us (I'm putting my hand up to admit that I know very little about using bleach) I hope to inform us all about bleaching our laundry safely and effectively.
Chlorine Bleach/sodium hypochlorite bleachChlorine bleach is also commonly known as household bleach, and this is what we normally associate bleaching laundry with most commonly found in liquid form. When chlorine bleach is added to the wash, sodium hypochlorite reacts with the soil and organic matter. It can be used on cottons, linens and some synthetics, but do beware that chlorine bleach weakens fabric, and you can end up with holes in fabric if it is used improperly. Chlorine bleach should not be used on protein fibers like wool, silk and mohair nor on the synthetic fibre spandex. The bleaching action of sodium hypochlorite is essentially completed in about 5 minutes, even less time in hot water, but slightly longer in cold.
Chlorine bleach is however also a dangerous substance to have in your home. Annie Bond writes on the Care2 website that breathing in the fumes of cleaners containing a high concentration of chlorine can irritate the lungs. This is particularly dangerous for people suffering from heart conditions or chronic respiratory problems such as asthma or emphysema. And the risks are compounded when the cleaners are used in small, poorly ventilated rooms, such as the bathroom. NEVER ever use chlorine bleach with anything else - it can give off gases that are fatally toxic.
If however you still choose to use chlorine bleach for your laundry, don't let it come into contact with your skin (wear gloves) and only use in a well ventilated room and always use as instructed on the packaging - especially in regards to diluting it. Here is how to use chlorine bleach for laundry (if you must):
For best results, dilute bleach with a quart (0.95 L) of water and add about 5 minutes after the wash cycle has begun. Applying undiluted bleach directly to fabrics may result in color removal and/or weakening of the fabric. Adding bleach at the beginning of the wash cycle with the detergent destroys some detergent ingredients (FWAs, enzymes). This reduces the effectiveness of both detergent and bleach. Adding bleach after 5 to 6 minutes allows the FWAs to attach to fabrics, the enzymes to work on soils and the bleach to have maximum effectiveness.
Oxygen bleach is available in both liquid and dry form.
Liquid oxygen bleaches contain hydrogen peroxide, which supplies the oxidizing agent directly. The hydrogen peroxide reacts with the soil and organic materials in the wash to either decolourise or break them up. Hydrogen peroxide provides a more gentle bleaching action than chlorine bleach. It is however a slower-acting form of bleach. This type of bleach can be used on delicate or gentle care fabrics that allow bleach. Not as effective as brightening whites as chlorine bleach, but can be used successfully for whites on a regular basis.
Water temperature affects the bleaching rate of oxygen bleaches. Hot water accelerates the bleaching action. As water temperature decreases below 130 degrees F, exposure time must be increased substantially.
Powdered oxygen bleach contain extra alkalinity which proves to be more effective as a bleach. Enzymes are also added to powdered oxygen bleach which helps greatly in removing tough protein stains. The great news is that Ecover do a Oxygen bleach - I didn't know! I love Ecover products.
How to Use Oxygen Bleach: Read and follow bleach package directions. Add oxygen bleach to the wash water before clothes are added. Do not pour oxygen bleaches directly on wet colored fabrics without testing for colorfastness first.
Oxygen bleach is safe for most colored washable fabrics. However, if the care label states "No Bleach," do not use any bleach _ not even an oxygen bleach.
Color removers, available as a packaged product. They have the ability to remove most colors, but most prints would probably not be able to be removed. In most cases, color will be reduced or removed enough to permit redyeing to another color. Color removers can also be used to brighten whites and to remove brown rust stains from clothes washed in water that contains iron and manganese. They can also help to remove transferred dye stains from whites washed with colored items. They can be used in the washer or in a stainless steel or enamel container on the stove. Read and follow package directions.
Lemon JuiceThis natural bleaching agent can effectively whiten clothes. To use lemon juice, take a gallon of water that is as hot as you can get it and add 1/2 cup of lemon juice. Soak your whites for at least 30 minutes, or overnight. You can use this bleaching agent on cotton and polyester, but avoid using it on silk. It works wonderfully on white socks and underwear.
Using lemon juice alongside some sunlight is a great way to bleach laundry without the use of chemicals. Add 1/2 cup of lemon juice into the rinse cycle, then hang your clothes to dry in the sun. The acid in the lemon juice provides bleaching power, and the sun will sanitize your clothes. This method can even be used on coloured clothes, and will leave your laundry smelling lovely and fresh.
Hydrogen peroxide can be used for bleaching delicate fabrics, such as items made out of wool or wool blends. Liquid Oxygen bleach contains Hydrogen Peroxide, but used on it's own is a much gentler form of bleaching. Use a solution of one part of three percent hydrogen peroxide to eight parts of cold water. Soak your laundry overnight and then wash as usual.
BluingBluing has been used in laundry since Victorian times. Bluing is made of a very fine blue iron powder suspended in water giving whites the appearance of whites being whiter. I personally have never seen bluing in the UK, but if you are interested in using it take a look at the Mrs Stewart Bluing website to read more about it. Apparently it is non-toxic and safe too. Hmm, might have to look into this myself.
Be sure to fully dilute bluing agent as per instructions since an undiluted drop on your laundry can actually stain it.
Bicarbonate of sodaI know, here I go again with the bicarb, but this stuff is seriously useful. Bicarb can be used as a natural whitener on white laundry and is also used successfully as a paste on stubborn stains and smells on most other laundry.
As a natural laundry whitener, use 2 teaspoons of bicarb soda in half a bucket of cold water. Soak items for 30 minutes then wash as usual. Dissolve two to three tablespoons of bicarb soda in a bucket of warm water to pre-soak cloth nappies and/or items with mould or stubborn stains. Allow to soak, then wash items in warm soapy water and dry in the sun.
Add half a cup to the washing machine for the rinse cycle to keep clothing and linen fresh.
Phew, there we are then. The quest to learn all about home keeping seems never ending, but so interesting too. I've never been into science, but I'm finding myself getting more and more interested in the science of home keeping. This is getting weird!
So that's it again for today. And a big thanks to everyone who so kindly stopped by my Mum's brand new blog Mamma Lalla! See you again at the weekend for another post about cleaning those stairs (I've been meaning to do this one for a while now and I'll be posting photos of the how-to's)
Here are the great reference I have found for this post regarding bleaching laundry...