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How to bleach clothes in a washing machine

Updated April 17, 2017

Bleach contains a chemical called sodium hypochlorite. This chemical will permanently lighten clothes when it comes in contact with them. Oftentimes, the longer the clothes are in contact with bleach, the lighter in colour the clothing will get. If you'd like to lighten your clothes using bleach, you can do so in your washing machine. This method for bleaching your clothes will turn the articles of clothing very light in colour if not completely white.

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  1. Put the articles of clothing that you wish to bleach in the washing machine. If possible, do not place the clothes on top of each other. This will ensure that the bleach is evenly distributed onto each piece of clothing.

  2. Fill your washing machine with just enough water to completely cover the clothes. You can achieve this by putting your washing machine on its lowest water setting and turning it on. Once you fill the washer to the desired level, turn the machine off. The water level should be about an inch above the clothing.

  3. Pour 1 cup of bleach into the washing machine. When pouring it in, pour it all around the washing machine and not just in one spot.

  4. Let the articles of clothing sit in the bleach water for 1 hour. This will give the bleach time to lighten the clothes.

  5. Use the tongs to pick the clothing up out of the water and inspect them to make sure they are lightened enough. If they are not, let them sit for an additional 30 minutes.

  6. Rinse the clothes by placing the machine on the rinse cycle. This will remove the bleach from the clothing and allow you to finish laundering them.

  7. Wash the clothes with washing powder and dry them in the dryer or on the clothesline when they are finished washing. Once they are dry, the bleaching project is complete and you can put the clothes away or wear them.

  8. Tip

    Some types of clothing, like silk or leather, may not successfully be bleached and will be ruined if they come in contact with it. When inspecting the clothes by picking them up with tongs, make sure you hold the clothes over the water in the washing machine to keep the bleach water from dripping on you or any nearby items.


    Do not leave the clothes in the bleach water for more than 90 minutes. If you do so, you risk the bleach damaging the clothing.

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Things You'll Need

  • Washing machine
  • Bleach
  • Tongs
  • Washing powder
  • Water
  • Measuring cup
  • Watch

About the Author

Stormy Lee has been writing professionally since 1997. Many of her articles appear online at various websites. Lee specializes in writing education-related articles and has experience in proofreading and writing reviews for schools in Palm Beach County. Lee holds a master's degree in education from Florida Atlantic University.

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