National Clothesline
National Clothesline
Effective use of sodium hypochlorite effectively
Many drycleaners stay clear of this bleach, mostly out of fear that it is damaging to all fabrics.
Sodium hypochlorite is a very strong oxidizing bleach but can be used effectively to whiten some fabrics and remove difficult staining. Sodium hypochlorite or chlorine bleach is the most effective bleach for removing mildew and purifying germ-infested fabrics.
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Chlorine bleach in strong concentrations can break down and degrade many fabrics. Chlorine bleach can also build up in fabrics after repeated washing, causing a deteriorated fabric.
Chlorine bleach does not rinse out of a fabric but has to be removed chemically. That is why home washing processes will weaken fabrics when chlorine bleach is used. Commercial laundries can also have similar problems if not used properly or if the fabrics are not soured effectively.
My laboratory can check for oxycellulose using Fehling’s solution. When applied to a sample it turns red. Another test for chlorine retention is orthotolidine.
Drycleaners can check for oxycellulose using my Spectralight or other UV light. The areas with oxycellulose will show up black.
Facts about chlorine bleach
Strong oxidizing bleach.
Very alkaline in nature.
All acids accelerate it. This means applying an acid directly to the bleach makes it stronger and more aggressive.
Chlorine bleach does not rinse out of a fabric. It must be removed by neutralizing with a reducing bleach or accelerating it with an acid.
Reducing bleach neutralizes the effects of chlorine bleach. If yellowing or a discoloration occurs, use a reducing bleach such as sodium hydrosulphite.
Acids are also used to remove the last traces of chlorine bleach because it accelerates it. When accelerated, the chlorine is reduced to a neutral state.
Bath bleaches
To effectively use sodium hypochlorite, you must first dilute the bleach concentration down to one percent.
You can purchase sodium hypochlorite at the supermarket under the brand name of Clorox or any other brand. The concentration of the bleach that you purchased is usually 6 percent. This means that you would put one part of the bleach in a bottle and then add five parts water to get a one percent concentration. This mixture is now used in the bath method.
Removing residue of chlorine bleach
Acceleration. Acids accelerate chlorine bleach, making it neutral. After rinsing, use an acid bath and rinse again. Add any acid in the concentration of one to two ounces per gallon of water and rinse again. Acetic acid (28%) and oxalic acid can be used.
Reducing bleach. Sodium hydrosulphite is a very effective method for neutralizing chlorine bleach. Add one ounce of sodium hydrosulphite per gallon of water. Rinse thoroughly.
Bath method soaking
Add warm water to a plastic pail and one-half ounce of one percent chlorine bleach per gallon of water.
Add a few ounces of neutral lubricant.
Place the garment in a pail and cover garment with a towel so it is submerged and not exposed to air.
Soak no more than 15 minutes.
Rinse in warm water.
Rinse again in water with any agent that can remove last traces. This can be an acid or reducing bleach.
Rinse again.
Spot bleaching
Instead of mixing chlorine bleach in a bottle, purchase the Clorox bleach stick at the supermarket. This is safer because the bleach can be applied in a thick form which will not spread. The concentration is also geared for spot bleaching.
Apply bleach stick to stain.
Heat with steam gun.
Flush with steam.
Re-apply bleach.
Add acid to accelerate it.
Heat with steam gun.
Add acid or reducing bleach to remove last traces.
Flush again.
Never add ammonia or alkali to chlorine bleach. It breaks it down causing chlorine gas to be released.
Reaction to fabrics using chlorine bleach
Colored fabrics have to be tested. Some vat-dyed cottons can withstand a mild application.
Rayons, cottons and linens. White fabrics are generally safe to bleaching in safe concentrations.
Acetate. White acetate will yellow and needs to be neutralized with sodium hydrosulphite.
Silks and wools are very sensitive to chlorine bleach. Very mild or diluted bleach may be used on white fabrics but testing is necessary. If yellowing occurs, it must be neutralized with sodium hydrosulphite.
Correcting of yellowing produced by sodium hypochlorite
Board method
Dissolve one tablespoon of sodium hydrosulphite and one-half tablespoon of synthetic detergent to an eight ounce spotting bottle.
Apply to stain.
Heat with steam gun.
Bath method
Add one ounce of sodium hydrosulphite and one-half ounce of synthetic detergent per gallon of water.
Soak 15 minutes or longer.
Rinse thoroughly.

Dan Eisen is the former chief garment analyst for the Neighborh