Bleach 101

Bleach Expiration Dates
  • The best way to identify the age of a bottle is to use the production code stamped on the neck of the bottle, which typically looks like this:
A8116010
5813-CA3
  • The top line provides the information on when it was produced, which would be A8-1-160-10 (if you added dashes). Only the first 6 digits are important. Below breaks down how the code should be read.
  • Plant number — Last digit of year made — Day of the year made
    • A8 1 160
  • The bleach in this example was made in 2011 on June 9th, the 160th day of the year
Bleach has a relatively short lifespan, around 9 months from opening or 1 year from the manufacturer date. Over time it loses its disinfecting properties, and overall effectiveness. It will become cloudy and milky looking in texture once it starts, or has gone bad.
Keep in mind that splash-less, scented, and color safe bleach do NOT disinfect.
Why Splash-less, Scented, Crystal or Color Safe bleach do not disinfect
For bleach to disinfect, it must have at least 5.25% Sodium Hypochlorite in it. Splash-less and scented bleaches contain less than 3%. Clorox regular concentrated bleach has 8.25% Sodium Hypochlorite.
Splash-less, scented, & crystal bleaches are strictly for whitening and deodorizing. They do not disinfect, unfortunately.
If you notice on Clorox regular concentrated bleach it says directly on the label that it kills 99.9% of common household germs, cold & flu viruses, whitens, disinfects, and deodorizes.
On a splash-less bottle, for example, it states it only whitens and deodorizes. Splash-less, scented, & crystal bleaches bleaches also are not registered disinfectants with the EPA.
Here is a label comparison of splash-less & regular disinfecting bleach:

Does hot water deactivate bleach?
No. Bleach bleaches (whitens) in any temperature water. It also disinfects in any temperature water. However, diluting bleach in general causes it to break down quickly (24 hrs max). Heat speeds this up a lot more.
If you truly need to sanitize fabric, you need 30 minutes of contact time with the proper concentration of bleach. During this period, hot water can cause the bleach to break down quickly enough that the Sodium Hypochlorite is no longer at the proper sanitizing concentration by the end, but it does not deactivate it. That’s why for sanitizing fabric, you need a 30-minute cold soak to be at the proper concentration of bleach to sanitize.
Using Bleach in a Washing Machine
  • If bleach is diluted properly, it will not leave bleach marks no matter the color of the items in question.
Regular Top Loader
  • Add the water and ½ cup of regular bleach to the water as it fills up.
    • You may want to add less bleach, depending on what you are using bleach on and the size of your load. Please look up further recommendations for your specific needs prior to using bleach.
  • Then add the clothing, bedding, or towels.
HE Top/Front Loader
  • You will have to use the bleach dispenser.
  • Not all machines have a great dispenser though, and the only way to know is to try it.
    • It is best to try it first with towels or another laundry that you do not care for. This way, if the dispenser fails, you won’t have ruined any of your good laundry.
  • *Most* HE washers pre-dilute bleach before it hits your clothes, but HE washers typically can only hold ½ cup of undiluted bleach in the dispenser. If you add more than that, or water with it, it will spillover inside the machine forcing its way into the water before the machine dilutes it, which then causes bleach marks.
Bleach and Iron Rich Water
  • If you have iron in your water supply, it is best not to use bleach in your laundry. It can make the iron worse, and it can result in yellow/orange stains.
  • If you used bleach and it caused staining due to the iron, try these steps:
    • If the whites are already yellowed, restore discolored white clothes by first trying a vinegar and water solution.
    • Soak clothes in a solution of 2 cups white vinegar to one-gallon hot tap water in a plastic container for 15 minutes. Then launder.
    • If this doesn’t work, you may need to use a commercial rust remover recommended for fabrics, such as Iron Out. Be sure to follow the package instructions so that it will be most effective.
      • For example, on the Iron Out instructions there is a warning, “Do not use with bleach or peroxide.” This warning is intended to alert the consumer not to mix Iron Out with chlorine bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or any detergent containing non-chlorine bleach (products with perborate, sodium percarbonate, or hydrogen peroxide listed in the ingredients.)

Make sure you use a new bottle of regular concentrated disinfecting bleach OR one that has been opened within the last 9 months.
Bleach has a relatively short lifespan (1 year from the manufacture date). It loses its disinfecting properties and overall effectiveness over a period of time. This is why it is best if used within 9 months from opening.
It will become cloudy, and milky looking in texture once it starts, or has gone bad.
*Splash-less, scented, bleach crystals and color safe bleach do NOT disinfect.*

By Lexi Watts