Most bleaches, such as chlorine bleach, oxygen bleach, and hydrogen peroxide, break up stains through a chemical action called oxidation. Detergents remove stains while bleaches turn stains colourless by chemically altering their molecules.
Use chlorine bleach only for whites and bleach-able colours. Before using check for "non-chlorine bleach only" labels. To use bleach, start your washer and add 3/4 cup chlorine bleach to the wash water with your regular detergent, then add your load of laundry.
Non-chlorine bleaches, such as oxygen bleach and hydrogen peroxide, are also good at whitening. These products are gentler and less toxic than chlorine bleach, making them safe for most fabrics and dyes.
Hydrogen peroxide will whiten and brighten clothes, disinfect laundry, and remove stains. Pour it directly on stains such as blood. Add 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide to whites in the washing machine to brighten them. Add one cup to a load of diapers to whiten, deodorise, and disinfect. Take care when using the product on darker colours; test it on a swatch of fabric before using.
Warning: Chlorine bleach can produce dangerous fumes when combined with vinegar, ammonia products, or other household chemicals. The combination can be hazardous to your respiratory system.
White distilled vinegar
An excellent fabric softener and deodoriser, distilled white vinegar works in the rinse cycle. Pour 1/4 cup into your washing machine during the last rinse cycle. Continue the cycle as usual. White vinegar can also be used to eliminate soap residue. Add 1 cup to the washer's final rinse cycle for that purpose.
Warning: Never combine vinegar with chlorine bleach as this will result in harmful fumes. Do not use vinegar on silk, acetate, or rayon clothing.
Lemon juice is a natural laundry whitener and freshener. Add 1 cup to your washing machine water along with your detergent. Add your laundry and wash as usual. Only use lemon juice on whites as it can bleach certain colours.
Sodium borate (borax)
A naturally occurring mineral, borax helps remove stains, and it deodorises and brightens clothes. Borax also breaks down the minerals in the water so detergent can work better. Add 1/2 cup of borax at the beginning of the wash cycle. As a pre-soak, add 1/2 cup of borax and a small amount of detergent to soak away coffee or perspiration stains.
Enzyme pre-soaks are great for getting out tough protein stains. But they are also helpful with whitening and brightening because they remove stains that cause yellowing. Add them to the wash cycle to help laundry detergent do its job better.