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This Is The Best Way To Brighten Laundry Without Bleach

Making homemade oxygen bleach is easy, and it works just as well as the name brands.

Easy And Effective Homemade Oxygen Bleach

Because oxygen bleach is so great for whitening whites, brightening colors, and removing stains, I wondered whether I could figure out how to make oxygen bleach at home. I had been using a generic oxygen bleach from the dollar store at the time, so cost wasn’t necessarily the issue — I just like being able to make things at home, especially if it could save me a trip to the store down the line!

After some trial-and-error with a few different oxygen bleach recipes that didn’t perform as well as I’d hoped, I eventually pinpointed the problem. I’m happy to report that my homemade oxygen bleach both works like a charm and is very easy to make!

For even more money-saving laundry solutions, be sure to check out my e-book The Homemade Laundry Guide! You can buy it in my shop, or download it for free if you’re an OGT Plus member!

You need washing soda, not baking soda, to make homemade oxygen bleach.

The Best Oxygen Bleach Only Has Two Ingredients

Some of the recipes for homemade oxygen bleach I’d tried called for baking soda, but what they should have called for is washing soda. The differences between baking soda and washing soda are important to understand, particularly when it comes to homemade laundry solutions like this one.

While washing soda and baking soda are both alkaline substances, the higher pH level of washing soda packs more of a punch against oils, fats, and proteins. And since sweat, spilled food, and dirt can all contribute to clothing stains and dinginess, washing soda makes this homemade oxygen bleach more effective at lifting out common stains.

Keep in mind that washing soda goes by a few different names, so you might see it labeled as sodium carbonate, soda ash, or soda crystals. (If all you have on hand is baking soda, use it to make your own washing soda in your oven!)

Hydrogen peroxide is the other ingredient in homemade oxygen bleach.

The other component of this homemade oxygen bleach is hydrogen peroxide, an effective bleaching and brightening agent that goes into many of my favorite DIY cleaning and laundry solutions. (Find out what else you can do with hydrogen peroxide at the link below!)

Related: 30 Uses For Hydrogen Peroxide You’ll Want To Know About

How Does DIY Oxygen Bleach Compare To Store-Bought?

So what is oxygen bleach, exactly? According to The Laundry Alternative, store-bought oxygen bleach consists largely of a substance called sodium percarbonate. When sodium percarbonate is added to water, it breaks down into two substances: hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate (AKA washing soda).

So we’re using the same active ingredients in this homemade version, just in a different format — cool, right? Now that we know what we’re using and why we’re using it, let’s get to how to make (and use) homemade oxygen bleach!

To make homemade oxygen bleach, measure the ingredients and mix them right when you want to use them.

How To Make An Oxygen Bleach Alternative



Place the clothes or linens you want to brighten in your washing machine, then add the washing soda and hydrogen peroxide. Start the wash cycle and allow the machine to agitate the load for 10 minutes or so.

To use your homemade oxygen bleach, put the washing soda and peroxide in a bucket or the washing machine and soak the items before washing.

Then either lift the lid on your washer or pause the cycle to let the load soak, and leave it that way for least a couple of hours, or overnight. After soaking, resume the wash cycle, then dry your laundry as usual

Not Sure How To Soak?

  • The soaking process is pretty straightforward for top-loading washing machines, but it may be a bit trickier for front-loading machines—check your owner’s manual to find instructions on how to soak items in your particular washer.
  • Another option is to soak your clothes with the washing soda and hydrogen peroxide in a bucket or your bathtub, then transfer them to the washer to complete the process!
These before and after photos show how well homemade oxygen bleach worked to whiten this white t-shirt.

The shirt in these photos is one of my son-in-law’s work undershirts, and it definitely needed some TLC. Despite having been washed recently, this once-white shirt had taken on a dingy gray color. I was curious to see if I could make any improvement to this shirt, but as you can see, it came out looking distinctly whiter and brighter!

Even the neckline of this white t-shirt came clean with homemade oxygen bleach.

Here’s a closer look at the collar area, which showed significant improvement! There’s no telling what else you’ll be able to clean with this homemade oxygen bleach recipe. :-)

Related: This Is My “Ultimate Stain Remover” For Good Reason

Don't make homemade oxygen bleach ahead of time -- the reaction will stop after a few hours.

Note: Don’t Make It Ahead Of Time!

One last thing before you run off to the laundry room—because of the way the ingredients break down, you should not mix up this homemade oxygen bleach recipe ahead of time. As soon as the ingredients meet, the chemical reaction that helps to clean fabrics and lift stains will begin, and won’t last more than a few hours.

I like to keep a box of washing soda and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide in my cabinet above the washer so they’re easy to grab when I’m ready to start a load of laundry. (Plus, it’s not like it’s much of a chore to add two things to your washing machine rather than one!)

For even more useful laundry tips and tricks, explore all of my laundry-related posts!

Do you have any tips for brightening dingy laundry?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Homekeeping Tips

  • Hi! I want to try this washing soda and hydrogen peroxide for the laundry, but I have a question. I’ve read it twice and I can’t see where you add the laundry detergent. Do you mean that the washing soda replaces the laundry detergent, or do you add the detergent when you restart the machine?
    Thanks for your help!

    • Anne, you don’t add detergent. If you want to, you could either add it after the soaking period is done or run another cycle with detergent.

  • Hi,
    I see you put it in a bucket. Is it the same amount for a bucket as the washing machine? I live in an apt and cannot soak things in the washer.

  • This is interesting and I may try it sometime. But something seems amiss. The hydrogen peroxide we all have access to at the store is only 3% hydrogen peroxide — not at all full strength. I wonder if your mix is really the same as just buying a pure oxygen bleach like Stain Solver or similar pure versions.

    • Bill you are right, the ratios are off. You can do better with a good quality oxygen bleach product for same or less money. I was a loyal Stainsolver customer for many years but when Tim Carter sold the company a few years ago the quality was lowered and the price was raised. I did some looking around and found pacificsandsinc.com and ordered their Natural Choices Oxy-Boost. I used to buy the Stainsolver in 50lb pail but now order the Oxy-Boost in 40lb boxes. It is a lower quality than the original Stainsolver but same quality as new Stainsolver and much cheaper. Works great, highly recommend (I am not affiliated just a happy customer).

  • I find that just washing soda itself actually works better than oxygen bleach. I often soak dingy or sweat stained fabrics overnight in water and washing soda but I’ve never tried mixing it with hydrogen peroxide. Thanks for the info. Next time!

  • […] also has a solution if your T-shirts, sheets, and towels have taken on a grimy, gray […]

    • For a front loader, put the powder in before clothes, otherwise it may clump since it uses very little water. Can put the peroxide in the soap compartment or into the drum. If the latter, do it only after it’s started to fill if your washer first drains any residue liquids at the start as mine does.

  • You showed the before and after photos of a white shirt. Does it work for colors as well or will it fade or bleach out the color?
    I love your post and blogs!

    • Yes, it’s color safe! Hydrogen peroxide can fade colors when you apply it directly to the fabric, but mixed into the water, it is safe for colors :-)

  • I usually have a full load of whites. Does that recipe work for a full load or do I need to do something different then the ½ cup of each?
    Love your posts. I’ve learned a lot. I keep my notebook in my laundry room with all your laundry posts in there so I can refer to them as needed.

  • May be a silly question, but did I understand from Patricia that peroxide is safe to use on colors? I’ve never used it on clothes, and it seems counterintuitive, as I recall it has been used to bleach hair. Thank you for clarifying this for me! :-)

  • I’m confused on whether or not this is a one time thing just to clean dingy clothes and if you also need to add laundry detergent, or if you are using this to replace your laundry detergent.

  • When you make your laundry soap are you leaving out the oxyclean and washing soda and just adding the hydrogen peroxide and washing soda and nothing else. Sorry but I am a little confused!

    • The laundry soap you’re talking about is a dry detergent, so I can’t use this recipe in it’s place. I still use the regular OxiClean in my detergent. I use the ingredients in this post when my clothes are looking extra dingy and need some love. Does that make sense? :-)

  • Cool. I’ll have to try this on my work shirts.I work in retail and the sleeve bands get all black from the conveyor belt. My go to oxygen bleach has been oxy lean stain remover.Is this remedy safe to use on colored fabrics?

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