Bleach This (Conclusion)


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Martin L. Young Jr. |

Be the hero at eradicating tough stains

CONCORD, N.C. — Any time I mention the word “bleach,” it seems someone in the room has all the blood drain from their face. Then they go on the attack about how reckless it is to put such a chemical tool into the hands of an employee.

The term bleach can and does refer to more than chlorine (sodium hypochlorite).

Have an open mind.

It is a lot of little things that separate a good garment-care professional from a great garment-care professional. My goal has always been to help you move from “me, too” to being the go-to cleaner in your market. It is a short trip when you make the effort to gain and apply additional knowledge of supplemental stain removal.


Chlorine bleach does have a place in stain removal.

We all know that it is highly aggressive and that once the damage is done, it is irreversible.

Chlorine bleach can’t be used on protein fiber under any conditions. The chemical burn that results is yellow-orange-brown or any shade between.

But on fabric other than protein, sodium hypochlorite is a good choice for mildew removal. You must dilute the concentration, in the beginning, from the 5% concentration found in the store. It should only be used on white and the lightest of pastel colors.

At the spotting board, I recommend application with a wooden toothpick to control the quantity applied and the point of application; I once saved six golf shirts for a young wife when the red, company-embroidered logo bled on the white fabric.

If you choose to use a bleach bath with sodium hypochlorite, it should be four parts water to one part bleach. Start with cool water and gradually heat the water to achieve the desired results. Do not soak.

Stay with the garment and gradually warm the water while moving the garment around in the container. Sodium hypochlorite can be neutralized with sodium bisulfite or sodium hydrosulfite. When a customer brings in a white shirt that is tan on the double layers of the cuffs and front button flap, it may well be the result of retaining chlorine bleach from past washings.

You can look like a hero by giving the shirt a quick bath in sodium bisulfite or sodium hydrosulfite to neutralize the chlorine, then wash the shirt like normal.


This brings me to the reducing bleaches that are used to remove fugitive dyes. The two mentioned in Part 1, sodium bisulfite and sodium hydrosulfite, are closely related.

Sodium bisulfite is the weaker of the two but no dye stripper is truly mild. Both chemicals come as a white powder and are an excellent choice to remove berry stains in fabric and dyes that will stand their aggressive action. Sodium hydrosulfite is my first choice when I am dealing with a red dye.

Either of them can be used at the spotting board by dissolving 1 teaspoon of the white powder in 4 ounces of warm water, then applying with a cotton swab or wooden toothpick. Flush thoroughly with cold water after the stain is removed.

Either of these bleaches can be used in a bath. For sodium bisulfite, use 1 tablespoon of powder for each gallon of water at 100 F plus a dash of acetic acid to accelerate. For sodium hydrosulfite, use ½ tablespoon of powder for each gallon of water at 100 F.

Another dye remover is titanium sulfate, which comes as a purple liquid. This reducing bleach is my first choice to remove blue dyes such as the last traces of stubborn ink.

Titanium sulfate is used at the spotting board at full strength and is best applied with a cotton swab to control the volume applied. It is used in a bath using 1 ounce of liquid to each gallon of water at 120 F.

With all dye strippers, I recommend using cool water to begin and gradually warm the water until you achieve the desired result.

You should not soak garments in a dye stripper. Stay with the garment and keep it moving while warming the water to remove the dye.

Being familiar with bleaches will give you the choice of an additional chemical tool to do a better job in supplemental stain removal.

To Read Part One, go HERE.

About the author

Martin L. Young Jr.

Industry Consultant and Trainer

Martin L. Young Jr. has been an industry consultant and trainer for 20 years, and a member of various stakeholder groups on environmental issues. He is a past president of the North Carolina Association of Launderers & Cleaners (NCALC). He grew up in his parents’ plant in Concord, N.C., Young Cleaners, which he operates to this day. Contact him by phone at 704-786-3011, or via e-mail at [email protected].


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