If you are in the laundry aisle you may be curious as to why there are so many different types of bleach. Why is some chlorine free? Why are some color safe and some not? If they created bleach that is color safe why would anyone buy one that is not color safe? What is oxygen bleach? At the end of the day you just want to clean your clothes.
The key difference between all the bleach options is the original bleach, that is only safe on whites, contains chlorine and the color safe bleach or chlorine free bleach contains peroxide as the active cleaning agent.
Chlorine Bleach – is the bleach people are most familiar with. It comes in liquid form and is usually sold by the gallon. Chlorine Bleach has a strong chlorine smell and is used for cleaning and disinfecting. Chlorine is really strong and when used in bleach it is usually diluted to about 5 percent. It cleans appropriate items very well. Out of all cleaners it is the best at whitening whites. However, because it is very strong it can damage items if it is used incorrectly. It will remove colors from clothes. It is vital that all the chlorine is removed from your wash before you wash clothes with colors. Also, because it is so strong it will start to break down fibers of all types shortening the life span of your white clothes. Due to the fact that chlorine bleach damages fibers, you cannot soak items in chlorine bleach or they get ruined. Another negative for chlorine bleach, is that it is not environmentally safe. It will not break down over time and is harmful in waterways. If your home is not connected to the sewer system, it also kills the good bacteria in your septic. Although chlorine bleach is effective on whites, it does have significant drawbacks and must be used correctly and with caution for your safety as well as for the environment.
Color Safe Bleach – Is a bleach that is safe for colors. Rather than chlorine, it has peroxide in it. The peroxide is safer than chlorine. It is not as effective as chlorine on whites but, because it is not as harmful as chlorine you can allow items to soak in this mixture. Soaking will help minimize the difference in effectiveness on whites. It is also generally safe to even let other clothing soak in oxygen bleach to help brighten all colors. Fabrics that are soaked will not deteriorate like they will in chlorine bleach. Using oxygen bleach will not damage colors or shorten the life of your clothes while still effectively bringing their color back.
Unlike chlorine bleach oxygen bleach comes in a powdered form and is more concentrated then chlorine. It cleans by repelling stains away from the fabric by agitation caused by the bubbling that will start when the powder is introduced to the water. The powder will react to the oxygen molecules in the water, which is how it got its name- oxygen bleach. Over time oxygen bleach does break down and will not be harmful to the environment.
Oxygen Cleaners – are similar to Color Safe Bleach accept, it also has a detergent to help clean while whitening. In a powdered form the detergent is usually mixed at a stronger ratio maximizing the cleaning efficiency. It is also safe on colors and fabrics as well as the environment. Liquid oxygen cleaners tend to be less effective and have much shorter life cycles than powdered form, especially once opened and introduced to oxygen. The downside to oxygen bleach with cleaners is the detergent that is added may affect people with sensitive skin.
Overall all three products serve a purpose, however, Oxygen Cleaners tend to be the preferred middle ground. It improves brightness on whites. It is not as effective on whites as chlorine but, with the added detergent it is more effective then non-chlorine bleach. Where it falls behind on chlorine bleach effectiveness it makes up for it by having the ability to soak and not damage items, colors, or fabrics as well as being environmentally safe.