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Will Hydrogen Peroxide Bleach Clothing?

Hydrogen peroxide is a safe, effective way to brighten and whiten laundry.

To those wondering will hydrogen peroxide bleach clothing, the simplest answer (if a bit too simple) is yes. Hydrogen peroxide is a safe, inexpensive, and effective way to bleach or brighten fabrics, and it’s an effective stain remover, too! In fact, many color-safe bleaches contain cleaning agents that release hydrogen peroxide in water, including my homemade oxygen bleach.

But if you really want to understand the bleaching effects of hydrogen peroxide and how to take advantage of them, the simple answer won’t get you very far! In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know about whether hydrogen peroxide can bleach fabric, and how to use it in your laundry for bright colors, white whites, and stain-free clothes.

Note: Nearly all of the references to hydrogen peroxide throughout this post refer to the standard 3% peroxide solution available in retail stores. Any mentions of other solutions of hydrogen peroxide include their specific percentages.

Hydrogen peroxide is the absolute best way to remove blood stains.

Using Peroxide To Brighten Clothes And Remove Stains

Hydrogen peroxide is an excellent stain fighter for a number of tricky stains. I’ve written whole posts about using it to remove blood stains, oil stains, and even yellow armpit stains on shirts. 

When you can mix hydrogen peroxide with other cleaning agents in your laundry, such as washing soda or baking soda, but you’ll get better results from adding them to your washer individually than by combining them ahead of time.

My Ultimate Stain remover contains hydrogen peroxide and Dawn.

The same goes for hydrogen peroxide and lemon oil — add both separately before starting your washer. (One notable exception to this rule is my Ultimate Stain Removal Spray, which I make ahead in advance and store in a dark-colored bottle to protect the peroxide.)

Note that even when stored properly, hydrogen peroxide doesn’t last indefinitely. To check if your peroxide is still active (and hasn’t degraded into plain water), just pour a small amount of it into a dish. If it bubbles, it’s still active; if not, it’s time to get a new bottle.

3% hydrogen peroxide is the safest way to bleach clothes.

Will Hydrogen Peroxide Bleach Colored Clothes?

There are a couple of ways to answer this question that depend on your definition of “bleach.” If you’re asking whether hydrogen peroxide can whiten whites in a similar fashion to bleach, the answer is yes! If you’re asking whether hydrogen peroxide can cause unwanted bleaching or bleach stains on your clothing, the answer is a little more complicated.

While I have personally used hydrogen peroxide on clothes of almost every color of the rainbow without experiencing unwanted bleaching or bleach stains, hydrogen peroxide can have an bleaching effect on dyed fabrics that aren’t colorfast. “Colorfast” refers to the degree to which dye clings to a fabric — non-colorfast fabrics often leach dye in the wash, or transfer dye to skin or other clothing.

Another thing worth noting is that higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide, such as 10% and 12% hydrogen peroxide, are more likely to bleach clothes in a manner to similar chlorine bleach. I recommend sticking with the more versatile (and less risky) 3% solution to avoid any issues.

Test for colorfastness before using hydrogen peroxide to bleach clothes.

How To Test Clothes For Colorfastness

To find out if a garment is colorfast and thus safe to use with hydrogen peroxide, check the laundry care label — instructions like “wash separately” and “wash with like colors” may indicate that a fabric is not particularly colorfast. You can also perform a simple colorfastness test by rubbing a damp white cloth on an interior seam or hem. If any color comes off onto the cloth, the fabric is not colorfast.

Another option is to moisten a cotton swab with peroxide and dab it on an inside seam or other inconspicuous area of the fabric. Wait about half an hour, then check to see whether the color has changed. If not, you’re good to go!

Hydrogen peroxide is a great alternative to chlorine bleach.

How To Use Hydrogen Peroxide As An Alternative To Bleach

To whiten whites with peroxide, use the normal amount of detergent and add 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide to the bleach dispenser before starting the wash load. If your machine doesn’t have a bleach dispenser, dilute one cup of peroxide in a cup or two of water and add it to the wash drum. If the clothes are heavily soiled, soak them for 10 minutes or so before starting agitation.

I prefer to use hydrogen peroxide instead of chlorine bleach even to whiten laundry. For one thing, there are many stains, including blood stains, that chlorine bleach will make worse. So as an alternative to chlorine bleach, the use of hydrogen peroxide for laundry is a great choice.

To brighten colors or white clothes, add about 1/2 cup of washing soda and the same amount of hydrogen peroxide to your washing machine. You can also bleach your clothes by soaking them overnight — use the same 1:1 ratio of peroxide and washing soda in the wash cycle, then pause the cycle after about 10 minutes and let it soak overnight for noticeably brighter, whiter clothes by morning!

Hydrogen peroxide is also a great way to sanitize surfaces in your home.

Using Hydrogen Peroxide Safely

Hydrogen peroxide is safe to use around the house, whether as a bleach or brightener for white or colored clothes, for stain removal, and as a disinfectant for household surfaces. Avoid ingesting hydrogen peroxide, as it can lead to vomiting (or worse in larger doses). 

Have you tried using hydrogen peroxide to bleach clothes?

Jill Nystul Photo

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

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