Is Bleach or Baking Soda Better for White Clothes?

bleach and baking soda for clothing whitening

The Spruce / Letícia Almeida

No matter how careful you are with white clothes, stains happen. They may be the result of spills, yellowing from age or perspiration, or accidentally washing whites in with dark blues. Bleach and baking soda both are valuable in the laundry and are particularly useful with white clothes, but they perform different tasks. Where bleach is all about whiteness, baking soda is about freshness.

Chlorine Bleach

Bleach has been the gold standard for getting ​white clothes back to pristine white condition for years. When used properly, bleach excels at removing stains and grime from white clothing and sanitizing your garments.

If you have a washing machine without a bleach dispenser, pour 1/2 cup of bleach into the wash water after adding the detergent but before adding the clothes. In machines that have a bleach dispenser, just fill the dispenser to the fill line without measuring. In extra-large machines use 1 cup of bleach added to the water after the detergent is added and before adding the clothes.

Most white fabrics and some colored garments can be bleached.


However, don't bleach with wool, silk spandex, leather, or mohair. If you aren't sure if your garment can be bleached, mix 1.5 teaspoons bleach in 1/4 cup of water. Apply one drop of the mixture to a hidden area of the garment. Wait a minute and then blot with a towel. If you don't see a color change, you can bleach the garment.

Baking Soda

While baking soda is more often known for its odor control qualities, it does have natural whitening capabilities that are appreciated by people who would rather not turn to bleach. Adding baking soda to the laundry gently cleans your clothes and removes tough smells and stains. It also softens clothes and boosts the detergent's power. It even keeps the washing machine clean.

To use baking soda in the laundry, add the detergent and clothes to the water as usual. Then add 1/2 cup of baking soda to the filled washing machine.

Baking soda is a natural stain remover that can be used on most types of fabric. Mix baking soda with water to form a thick paste then apply the paste to the stain. After it dries, wash it off with water. This mixture works to remove stains caused by food, oil, grease, and dirt.

The Best of Both Worlds: Bleach and Baking Soda Together

The best thing about baking soda in the laundry is its ability to act as a natural boosting agent for bleach. You can use 1/2 cup of bleach and 1/2 cup of baking soda together for white loads. The baking soda masks some of the bleach smell and makes the bleach even more effective. The white laundry comes out whiter and fresher as a result.