Tried chlorine bleach for first time... blech!

sshrivastavaAugust 28, 2011

Yesterday I broke into a stash of old towels and washcloths that looked quite dingy. I read many posts on the internet that LCB (liquid chlorine bleach) is the best way to whiten fabrics once they become dingy. So yesterday I ran my first load ever using LCB...


After my Extra White cycle was finished, my towels smelled like they were soaking in the swimming pool all day long. The stench of chlorine was ridiculously overpowering. I had filled the LCB container to the line as indicated in my washer manual and ran the load through 4 rinses and at a high spin speed. PEE YOO!

Not only did my towels reek of chlorine, but the LCB did absolutely nothing to whiten them! They came out as dingy as they went in, except with that lovely swimming pool smell! So I re-ran the load with Persil and a strong dose of sodium percarbonate (3 TBSP just percarbonate) and everything came out DAZZLING WHITE!

Unbelievable. The sodium percarbonate whitened far better than the LCB, and of course it's natural and leaves no residual chemical smell. I will never use LCB again. I can't believe people use this nasty stuff on their laundry!

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Wow. I use LCB all the time for white underwear and there's a little smell at the end but not that much. I also use a little fabric softener and it easily covers up the smell. It's gone by the time they get out of the dryer.

On another topic:
Just curious why people think LCB is not "natural". It's Chlorine, one of the elements and about as natural as it gets.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 3:46PM
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Yes, chlorine is a naturally occurring element... but so is Uranium, and I wouldn't want to use that on my clothes! Perhaps I should have been more clear by saying that it's more "environmentally friendly" to use percarbonate vs LCB. The former is a relatively innocuous, harmless powder while the latter is a dangerous chemical that can cause bodily injury if not handled properly.

What surprised me was that percarbonate was much better than LCB at whitening after just one treatment. Not having used LCB in the past, is it something that has a cumulative effect over time? I thought it was supposed to whiten after one use - maybe my expectations were unrealistic. But if percarbonate can whiten significantly after just one use, shouldn't LCB?

I use an unscented fabric softener to allow the light detergent scent to come through. In this case, it allowed the nasty chlorine smell to come through and knock me out!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 5:21PM
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I haven't used LCB in years for whitening laundry. Always use percarbonate.

The other problem with LCB over time, it will yellow whites and cause fabrics to deteriorate.

LCB will def damage synthetic fabrics.

From the "Net" re: percarbonate:

"Oxygen bleach is "safe for all fabrics" or "all fabric bleach". However, if garment Care Label says "No Bleach", oxygen bleach should not be used. This type of bleach is most effective when used consistently. It is not strong enough to restore whiteness to garments that have become gray and dingy or to be considered a "stain remover". It may be added in the recommended amount along with the detergent when loading the washer. Follow Product Label instructions."

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 8:08PM
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Why do your old towels look dingy in the first place if what you are using restores and maintains whiteness?

For a full load of soiled white cottons in my extra large front load machine, 1/4 to 1/3 cup of bleach does the job in addition to Tide HE.

In addition to keeping the whites white; the bleach sanitizes the laundry and the machine. A slight chlorine scent is there when you open the washer at the end of the cycle. Otherwise the clothes don't have a residual odor.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2011 at 8:15PM
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It's possible that the dispensing point of the LCB in your machine's washing program may be poorly timed. And the exposure to the LCB was therefore too short or too diluted to do any good against the generalized dinginess. It may work more effectively against dingness when used on a regular basis.

Not that I want to promote the routine use of LCB, but it has its place in my laundry world.

If I have something that I particularly want to whiten with LCB I find it's very useful. Most recent example was a white canvas grocery shopping bag that I had inadvertently left a plum in while unloading. Days later I noticed a swarm of fruit flies and had rotten plum-muck, and mildew stains from the mess. I washed the bag first with hot water, sodium percarbonate and Cheer. The plum stain disappeared but the mildew stain was left. A day or two in the sun didn't improve it enough for me so I gave it a soak in a 20:1 solution of hot water and LCB in a basin. Within 10 minutes I could see the mildew spots fading and after about 20 minutes it was bleached enough that I rinsed it and then rewashed in the machine. It had no smell of LCB after the wash. I rarely use LCB in the machine except for sick-bed disinfection purposes; for shifting stains with LCB I pre-treat in a basin (wearing gloves) and pretty much watching the process so I can interrupt (or prolong) it as necessary.

IMO, routine (not for medical sanitization) use of LCB in general wash is hard on fabrics, the environment (including septic tanks which loom large any rural house like mine), and reportedly hard on the stainless steel in some machines. As noted it can cause yellowing (mostly I think because of the disturbance of OBA's, at least on cottons) and it permanently sets any iron or rust stains. And of course, it's very damaging to some elastics, most colors and wool fabrics.

Properly dosed, and thoroughly rinsed there should be only a trace of odor after washing, rinsing and drying. Commercial laundries use some specific neutralizers ("Anti-chlor"-type products), but I've never troubled to go that far.


    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 1:03AM
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The one thing I do use is the Clorox Bleach Pen. I think it's a brilliant thing. I don't want to subject an entire item to LCB but for small stains on white items it works really well.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bleach Pen

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 9:58AM
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I'm curious.. when you say you are using "percarbonate".. exactly what are you talking about? Is it what is in Oxy-Clean?.. I have never seen anything just labeled percarbonate on a shelf. Can you only use it on whites or is it ok to use on colored fabrics?... thanks...

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 11:03AM
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I have used both chlorine bleach and Oxyclean to whiten or brighten laundry. The chlorine is great for bluish stains and the Oxyclean better for yellows in my experience. One thing I found though. Clorine bleach works much better in the old top loaders with plenty of hot water and long wash times. With front loaders the amount of water is so small that it is hard to figure out the safe dose. Also I think the manufacturers delay adding the dose so that the bleach does not have time to cause damage. Possibly adding a small dose to the dispenser and running the sanitize cycle would work. That runs for well over an hour and heats the water too. The only problem is I'm not sure the bleach dispenser works in Sanitize mode.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 12:51PM
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i dont use LCB in my miele either. it is very difficult to remove all the odor no matter how good the rinsing. rinsing is not only a function of the machine. there are some detergents that are impossible to remove the smell as well

at the OPs suggestion i use the purer form of oxiclean available at whole foods (and other places). better whites, safer for clothes, machine and you

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 2:58PM
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@ dbfirewife

I use 100% pure sodium percarbonate. You can purchase this online in bulk from The Chemistry Store, or you can find it available as Ecover Non-Chlorine Bleach Powder. This is the same active ingredient that is in OxyClean and most other powdered "oxy" type products. However, brands such as OxyClean are only about 30%-50% sodium percarbonate (active ingredient) and the remaining stuff is either washing soda or filler. As a laundry additive, you don't need it to contain washing soda - you are already using detergent. Filler is just bad. Why not use 100% pure active ingredient for the best results?

Due to the natural properties of sodium percarbonate, I don't recommend using it at cold temps. Percarb works best at higher temperatures, so for whitening you will need to go to 120F-140F for best results. If you want to use oxygen bleach at colder temperatures, you will need to buy a "cold water" type of product that has ingredients which will activate at lower temps.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 10:47PM
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I will sometimes allow items to soak in my laundry sink with sodium percarbonate and water. This really helps to whiten items like dirty white socks. I then wash them on hot with a good detergent like Persil Universal. Most people comment on how I keep socks so white (even my two small boys).

I use percarbonate for other things around the house and it's truly amazing (clean the coffee pot, white cast iron sink, toilets, etc ...). I could not be without the stuff.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2011 at 11:29PM
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Thank you for the explantation.. I will definately check it out.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 10:15AM
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See..different strokes, for different folks! I LOVE, LOVE the smell of Chlorine Bleach on my white towels, sheets and t shirts. To me, it smells clean, fresh and I know they are super 'de-germed'. I know, I is bad for me, but I do not care LOL I love bleach. I do however, do not use it as often as I would like, since I honestly know it is not the healthiest. It's like Chocolate cake. I love it, I indulge...just not all the time!

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 1:50PM
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@larsi, I'm shocked! As a German you would love LCB so much.

FWIW, Excerpted from Seventh Generation's Information Bulletin, "Facts about Chlorine."

Should I worry about chlorine in household cleaners? In a word: Yes.

Whether found alone or in a mixture of other chemicals, household products that contain chlorine pose a number of serious health risks. Products of special concern include: automatic dishwashing detergents, chlorine bleach, chlorinated disinfectant cleaners, mildew removers, and toilet bowl cleaners.
Many household cleaners contain chlorine, though it often masquerades behind aliases such as "sodium hypochlorite" or "hypochlorite."
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. Chlorine is also a highly corrosive substance, capable of damaging skin, eyes, and other membranes. Chlorine was listed as a hazardous air pollutant in the 1990 Clean Air Act, and exposure to chlorine in the workplace is regulated by federal standards.

Using detergents that contain chlorine in the dishwasher or clothes washer can pollute the air in your home. The water in the machines, which contains chlorine from the detergents, transfers the chlorine to the air through a process called "volatilization." We then breathe the contaminated air. Choose instead cleaning products made without chlorine.

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 2:42PM
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@ larsi

That is just so disgusting...

    Bookmark   August 30, 2011 at 10:09PM
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I know, I know. I will even pour a small amount of LCB down sink drains, and splash a little in the toilet bowls...and let it sit. The whole house smells disinfected and clean (but my partner from Sweden thinks it smells like a public pool house...but clean though, kind of). LOL

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 9:30AM
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@ larsi

So funny... I was carrying my bleached load the other day while simultaneously gagging and thinking the nuclear reactor down the road had leaked. I remember thinking to myself, this is how all of my towels will smell once the pool in the backyard is finished! LOL

When it comes to my house smelling clean, I'm much more of a pine oil guy.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 12:22PM
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You guys are so funny ;-)

Personally, I think that chlorine bleach is evil and I avoid using it unless I really, really have to. I never use it for laundry, although I have to say that I recently used it for Clean Tub cycle in my machine and it worked very well. I keep a bottle of it on the highest shelf in my laundry room and every time I take it down (which is not often) I feel like I should be wearing a haz mat suit ;-) I am terrified of spilling or splashing it and ruining my clothes, towels or rugs.

Regular hot washes with good detergent and oxy bleach keep my whites nice and bright. No need for LCB.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2011 at 1:37PM
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We converted our swimming pool to a salt water pool. It generates pool salt to a gentler form of chlorine. NO more burning eyes, dried out skin, green hair (I am a platinum/white blonde...gotta love us Germans & Swedes LOL), smelly skin, faded swim clothes and smelly towels.

It is much better for the enviornment, less money each month with chemicals, and the water and your skin feel silky after swimming. I cannot recommend it enough!!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 9:23AM
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ditto the salt water pool

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 10:02AM
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Salt Water pools may not be that good for you too:

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 11:15AM
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I had to look to see if I even have bleach in my cabinet (I only use it to clean the outside water fountain). I use Charlie's Soap exclusively, along with Oxyclean and my whites are as white as anyone would want. Occasionally I mix Oxyclean with hot water and and some Charlie's Soap to soak items such as dish cloths that have become dingy over time. If there is a stain on some items, I soak the same way. The need for bleach is something passed on by old family members. It was a good thing before we learned differently.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2011 at 7:55PM
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The first time I used bleach in my LG I had the same problem with the smell. It turns out that the bleach is dispensed with the last rinse. When i added an extra rinse, that took care of the problem.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 6:11PM
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Bleach in the Miele W4842 is dispensed during the last 10 minutes of the main wash portion of the cycle.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2011 at 9:32PM
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The sodium percarbonate whitened far better than the LCB, and of course it's natural

It's about as natural as chlorine bleash. Sodium percarbonate is produced industrially by combining sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide, followed by crystallization. Alternatively, dry sodium carbonate may be reacted directly with concentrated hydrogen peroxide solution.

The whitening is from the hydrogen peroxide it releases in water.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 10:03AM
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@ lazygardens

Sodium percarbonate is certainly far less dangerous. It is also the predominant bleaching agent for natural brands. I don't know any green or natural laundry brand that has chlorine bleach in its lineup.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2011 at 3:39PM
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