Bleaches

­ ­This section will outline definitions of bleaches, as well as proper use.

Chlorine. Commonly used to bleach white cotton, linen, and synthetic fabrics, chlorine bleach can also be used as a disinfectant and stain remover. Chlorine bleach is potent and can weaken fibers. If allowed to soak in a bleach solution too long, even cotton and linen will be weakened. Chlorine bleach should not be used on silk, wool, or fabrics exposed to sunlight (curtains, for example). To avoid damaging your fabric, always pretest bleach on a hidden area and rinse all bleached items thoroughly. Caution: Chlorine bleach is poisonous. If it comes in contact with the skin or eyes, it will cause burns and irritation. Read all warnings on the label. Never mix chlorine bleach with other cleaning substances, especially ammonia, as this will release chloramine, a highly toxic substance.

Color Remover. Color removers contain hydrosulfite chemicals and are used both for stain removal and to lighten the color of fabrics before they are redyed a lighter color. They are safe for colorfast fibers, but they fade or remove many dyes. Always pretest color removers on an inconspicuous corner of the article you are treating. If the product causes a distinct color change rather than fading, rinse with water immediately and you may be able to restore the original color. However, if the colors fade when the color remover is applied, the original color cannot be restored. Color remover should not be used or stored in metal containers. Rit Color Remover (Phoenix Brands) is a good product and can be found in drug, grocery, and variety stores. Caution: Color removers are poisonous. Avoid prolonged contact with skin. Observe all precautions on the label.

Hydrogen Peroxide. The 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide sold in drugstores as a mild antiseptic is a good bleach, safe for most surfaces and all fibers (though dyed fabrics should be pretested for colorfastness). Be careful not to purchase the stronger solution sold for bleaching hair. Peroxide should be stored in a cool, dark place. Buy small quantities; it loses strength if stored for a long time. Do not use or store peroxide in metal containers. If you pour out too much peroxide, do not pour the excess back in the bottle as peroxide is easily contaminated.

Sodium Perborate. You can purchase sodium perborate under trade names (such as Oxiclean) or generically at drugstores. Sold in crystal form, sodium perborate is safe for all fabrics and surfaces, although, once again, pretesting is recommended to assure that your fabric is colorfast. This oxygen-type bleach is slower-acting than hydrogen peroxide. When using this bleach, be sure to rinse treated articles thoroughly.

Learn about other stain removal chemicals in the next section.­