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More About Bleach: Specifically, Reducing Bleaches (Part 1)

Some are mild, others more aggressive, but they brighten white clothing to match a bright smile

CONCORD, N.C. — The word BLEACH scares most cleaners. It shouldn’t.

Find joy in its uses. Your bleaches are just another chemical tool to impress your clientele or get yourself out of a jam (claim).


Reducing bleaches, also called “dye strippers,” can give you spectacular results. Any bleach should be a last resort. Reducing bleaches have the potential to offer a greater impact than oxidizing bleaches.


There is a time and place for this more aggressive tool. When you are faced with fugitive dye and all other methods fail, there is no better choice than one of these chemical tools.


Sodium Bisulfite is the mildest choice of all the reducing bleaches. It is used on a regular basis in laundry operations to neutralize chlorine bleach. It is the anti-chlor. This is important to you as a cleaner.


If the customer has been doing whites at home using chlorine bleach, double-layered areas may look dull and off-white due to retaining chlorine after the rinse cycle. A quick soak in bisulfite dissolved in water that is body temperature will neutralize the chlorine and restore the whiteness. You are a hero and validate your professionalism.


To use bisulfite at the spotting board dissolve a teaspoon of the white powder into a few ounces of water at around body temperature. It will need to be “made-up” each time you use it.


On larger areas you can apply directly from a spare spotting bottle, while smaller areas my be addressed by using a cotton swab dipped in the bisulfite solution or even a wooden toothpick for pinpoint accuracy.


To use bisulfite in a soak, dissolve a tablespoon of the white powder for each gallon of warm water (95 F to 120 F). You can make it more aggressive by adding just a little acetic acid, no more than 1/4 ounce.


There is only minimal additional risk to reducing the water temperature and leaving out the acetic acid, to deal with any fiber and pastel colors. But test first. Bisulfite is my go-to chemical tool for stubborn berry stains, most medicines and wine.


Sodium Hydrosulfite  is the more aggressive “cousin” of bisulfite. I often think of it as grabbing a bigger hammer. It has many of the same characteristics, but, with a more aggressive result.


Use the same formula at the spotting board of a teaspoon to four ounces of water, with the water being no warmer than body temperature. When testing on an inside seam, you should add a drop of acetic acid to speed up the reaction. I do not recommend doing this when spotting, since the reaction can “get away” from you quickly and cause a claim.


For greatest effectiveness when spotting, bisulfite and hydrosulfite should be made up only as needed. This chemical is especially effective on the color red; and like bisulfite, it will usually enhance the “whiteness” of a dull white garment. Do not use on or around metallic fibers, the area may take on a charcoal or black appearance.


Hydrosulfite is used in a bath the same way as bisulfite, keeping in mind that your are dealing with a more aggressive tool. You should use one tablespoon of powder for each two gallons of water in the container. I use more hydrosulfite than bisulfite, but each have a place in the plant. Hydrosulfite is available under various trade names, from various manufacturers; most with slightly different brand specific formulations.


Check back Thursday for the conclusion.

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected].