How to Use 21 Laundry Products from Bleach to Water Conditioners

Shopping for Detergent
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When you go down the laundry product aisle at the market, there are hundreds of different products. Every single one is trying to get your attention and make you believe that it is essential for you to have clean laundry. But what does each product really do? Do you need them all?

What Laundry Products Do I Really Need?

With just six different products, you can handle most types of laundry problems:

  1. Heavy Duty Detergent: Choose a liquid detergent with enough enzymes to tackle stains and heavy soil. It can be used as a stain remover to pretreat almost all stains. The best option is a detergent free of fragrances and dyes that can irritate sensitive skin, especially if you have young children. 
  2. Gentle Detergent:  A gentle detergent can be used for delicate fabrics and for hand washing wool sweaters.
  3. Oxygen Bleach: Oxygen bleach is an excellent stain remover and also whitens and brightens fabrics. It is safe to use on all fabrics except wool, silk, and leather and can be used for both white and colored fabrics. 
  4. Chlorine Bleach or Pine-Based Disinfectant:  A disinfectant is necessary for some laundry that is loaded with bacteria (sick bed linens, athlete's foot laundry). Chlorine bleach works fine for white, cotton fabrics but other disinfectant products can be used for all types of fabrics and colored items. 
  1. Baking Soda: Baking soda helps control offensive odors. 
  2. White Distilled Vinegar: Added to the rinse cycle, white distilled vinegar leaves clothes feeling soft to the touch. 

A well-stocked laundry room will also have a few other products to handle specific types fabrics and hard to remove stains:

  • Dry Cleaning Solvent: Keep on hand to treat small stains on dry clean only garments can save money and a trip to the cleaners.
  • Rust Remover: Rust stains are difficult to remove and usually require a specifically formulated product. 
  • Hydrogen Peroxide: An excellent stain remover for white garments and works exceptionally well in removing yellow underarm stains
  • Borax: If you have children in diapers, borax will help control odors and lift stains by boosting the cleaning power of your detergent. 

21 Laundry Products and What They Do

  1. Bluing: Bluing products improve the whiteness level of fabrics by adding a blue pigment counteracting the natural yellowing that occurs during regular laundering. The eye perceives the nearly undetectable amount of blue and sees the fabric as whiter. Commercial bluing products are highly concentrated and must be diluted before using to prevent permanent staining and streaking. Bluing directions must be followed carefully for good results.
  2. Borax: A naturally occurring mineral composed of sodium, boron, oxygen, and water, it has no toxic fumes and is safe for the environment. It is used as an ingredient in homemade laundry detergent, a detergent booster, deodorizer, and disinfectant.
  3. Chlorine Bleach: Laundry chlorine bleach is a 5.25% solution of sodium hypochlorite. It acts as a disinfectant for bacteria and viruses and generally whitens cotton, linen. and natural fabrics.
  1. Color Remover: A form of bleach, laundry color removers are a combination of sodium hydrosulfite and sodium carbonate anhydrous. It can be toxic and should be used carefully and only when all other methods fail.
  2. Detergent: General purpose laundry detergents are available in liquid, powder, or single dose form. The key to selecting the best detergent for your laundry needs is to look at the list of ingredients and find the product that meets your laundry needs.
  3. Detergent Booster: Most boosters contain oxygen bleach, enzymes, and surfactants to improve the cleaning power of laundry detergents. If you are satisfied with the cleaning performance of your current product, a booster is not needed. They are beneficial if laundry loads are heavily soiled.
  4. Disinfectant: There are four types of fabric disinfectants (pine oil, phenolic disinfectants, liquid chlorine (sodium hypochlorite), and quaternary disinfectants) that can be used to remove bacteria and fungus from fabrics. 
  1. Dry Cleaning Solvent: Not all fabrics can tolerate water and not all stains respond to water-based products. Dry cleaning solvent is a type of petroleum-based fluid available in liquid, spray, and powder. 
  2. Dryer Sheets: Dryer sheets are a non-woven synthetic or cellulose fabric treated with a heat-activated lubricant that leaves a coating on fabrics to make them feel softer and to reduce static. 
  3. Enzyme Presoak: Laundry enzyme presoaks are a stain removal treatment used to break down protein stains like grass, blood, and baby formula so they can be more efficiently removed during the regular wash cycle.
  4. Fabric Dye: Fabric dyes are used to boost or change the colors of fabric. They can be powdered or liquid, synthetic, or made from plants. Using fabric dyes successfully requires knowledge of the fabric's fiber content and following directions carefully.
  5. Fabric Freshener: Also known as odor removers, fabric fresheners work by trapping odor molecules and suspending them away from the fabric until they can be washed away. Some are made for topical use only and others can be added to the wash cycle. 
  6. Fabric softener/Fabric conditioner: Most commercial fabric softeners and fabric conditioners work by leaving a lubricating coating on fabrics to make them feel softer to our touch. The main product ingredient is often a silicone that binds to the fibers. 
  7. Oxygen Bleach: Sold in liquid and powdered formulas, oxygen-based or all-fabric bleach contains sodium perborate, sodium percarbonate, or hydrogen peroxide. When this bleach is introduced to wash water, the chemical ingredient oxidizes to help remove soil and organic matter helping to remove stains and brighten the fabric. It works much more slowly than chlorine bleach but is much more gentle on fabrics.
  8. Rust Remover: Commercial rust remover products generally contain oxalic or hydrofluoric acid and are formulated to remove rust on fabrics.
  9. Scent Enhancer: Available in pellet and powdered packets, scent enhancers contain a dissolving agent and perfume. They offer no cleaning or odor control properties, they simply add perfume to the wash water.
  1. Sizing: Laundry sizing is a resinous solution that adds body to fabric, creates soil resistance, eases of stain removal in the wash, and makes ironing easier. It is available in both aerosol and trigger spray bottles.
  2. Stain Remover: Used to pretreat stains before laundering, stain removers are available as aerosols, pump sprays, sticks, pens, and liquids. Most are solvent-based often made with petroleum distillates and work particularly well in removing oil-based stains from synthetic fibers such as polyester, acrylic, and olefins. 
  3. Starch: A natural product produced from plants, usually corn, starch is used to coat natural fabric fibers to add stiffness and increase stain resistance. Laundry starch is available in powdered, liquid, and aerosol form.
  4. Washing Soda: Washing soda or soda ash, is a chemical compound that can be used to remove stubborn stains from laundry and is an essential component in most homemade laundry detergent. Washing soda should not be confused with baking soda, although the two compounds are closely related.
  5. Water Conditioner/Water Softener: These terms are used interchangeably on some laundry products but there is a difference. Water conditioner is a term for an equipment system that changes the qualities of the water in your home. A water softener is a product that reduces water hardness one grain per gallon or less. Softening water allows detergents to do a better job in cleaning clothes and is more gentle on clothing fibers.