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Which bleaches are best?

Whether chlorine-based or peroxide-based, bleach is one of the most versatile household chemicals you can keep on hand for everything from stain removal to sanitation. Many other cleaning products include bleach in their formulas because manufacturers know how powerful it is.

As helpful as bleach can be, it must be handled with care to avoid any potential damage to dyed clothing or delicate materials. Undiluted bleach, especially chlorine-based brands, can be very caustic and should be treated like any other household chemical.

We’ve taken a fresh look at our shortlist of favorite bleaches, and our updated list contains a familiar alternative bleach in the top spot, as well as a new form of an old favorite. Rounding out our picks is a liquid alternative bleach favored by many professional cleaners.

What to know before you buy bleach

In chemistry terms, all bleaches are considered oxidizers, meaning they introduce oxygen to the cleaning process. This oxygenation is what causes stains to disappear and white clothing to appear whiter. Bleach is also alkaline, which means it does not have a corrosive effect on surfaces like an acid-based solvent can.

There are essentially two forms of household bleach: those with chlorine and those without. Chlorine bleach contains sodium hypochlorite, a powerful base. When many people think of laundry bleach, they envision a strong-smelling liquid poured over white clothing, or added to a bucket of mop water before mopping. Chlorine bleach has become a familiar chemical in most households, but it isn’t always the safest choice for every cleaning chore.

Other bleaches use hydrogen peroxide for oxygenation, and the result is often promoted as a bleach alternative. Hydrogen peroxide is not as caustic as sodium hypochlorite and generally does not contain a strong chemical odor. It’s effective as a stain remover, and the hydrogen peroxide doesn’t affect the dyes used in colored clothing. However, bleach alternatives are often criticized for not being as effective as traditional chlorine-based bleaches.

The form of bleach product can also vary widely from brand to brand. In general, bleach can be purchased in the same forms as laundry detergent. Liquid bleach is often diluted and packaged in gallon-sized plastic containers. Powdered bleach may be in a box or packaged in single-use pouches. There are also bleach pods for use in washing machines and crystals designed to dissolve in water to reduce splashing.

The price of household bleach depends largely on the formulation and the packaging. Standard liquid chlorine bleach can cost as little as $4 a bottle, while bleach alternatives are often a little more expensive. Liquids are usually less expensive than powders or gels, while pods are the most expensive form per ounce.

Bleach FAQ

Do all bleach products kill germs?

A. Disinfection is certainly one reason why people choose to add bleach to their laundry or housecleaning arsenal, but not all bleach products are promoted as disinfectants. Read the product label carefully to determine if a particular product is formulated to kill germs or disinfect surfaces.

Can I use diluted bleach to sanitize my stainless-steel countertops and metal cookware?

A. Chlorine bleach is corrosive by nature, and it will cause almost all metals to oxidize (form rust). It reacts with the chromium and steel in a stainless-steel countertop, refrigerator door, or stainless-steel cookware. Only use cleaning products specifically approved for use on metal surfaces.

What are the best bleaches to buy?

Top bleach

OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover Powder

OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover Powder

What we like: Works on multiple household surfaces. Powder mixes easily with water for general stain removal. Effective as a pre-laundry stain lifter. Affordable price point.

What we dislike: Not entirely color-safe, some fading reported. Very strong fragrance.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top bleach for the money

Clorox Zero Splash Bleach Crystals

Clorox Zero Splash Bleach Crystals

What we like: Crystal formula doesn’t splash until mixed with liquid. Works well as a water treatment. Kills bacteria, mold, and viruses on contact. Lighter than liquid bleach.

What we dislike: Crystals may not dissolve completely, some lingering residue reported.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

The Laundress All-Purpose Bleach Alternative

The Laundress All-Purpose Bleach Alternative

What we like: Non-chlorine formula is nontoxic, fragrance-free, and biodegradable. Good alternative for users with bleach allergies. Can also be used for general cleaning purposes.

What we dislike: Whitening effect is variable from load to load. Liquid can splash on clothing.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Michael Pollick writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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