To Bleach Or Not To Bleach

My readers tell me to write more technical stuff, which I try to do every other month. Frankly I find writing about drycleaning and laundry events more fascinating, but chemicals (especially bleaches) are equally important. So try not to snooze thru this article if ya please.

“Doris I Miss Ya Darlin’ ”

Much has been written about bleaches and there are so many to use. It gets very confusing. It took me years to sort it all out in my mind. Even after several courses over the years, I still struggled. Practice makes perfect though and I finally got it all straight when I was in my thirties and “thought” I was the drycleaning world’s foremost spotter. Oops, Stain Removal Expert. Sorry Doris Easley. I miss ya darling!

Such an important stain removing tool and mistake fixer form of our many chemicals that bleach alone deserves a year study/practice in my opinion. Sadly, many drycleaners/stain removal experts have abandoned the use of bleaches. They say they are “too risky”. I am reminded of the old adage that goes “don’t throw out the baby with the bath water”. Think about it. Why would you want to avoid the use of the many types of bleaches we have – just because Jimmy the spotter (or so he likes to call himself) poured Clorox all over a garment to correct a mistake or the Emmy award winning spotter who thinks bleach is an all around great spotting chemical to be used on every stain and every fabric/color under the sun. Poor choices folks. These people need training and lots of it.

“There Are Many Sources To Purchase Bleaches”

The list of bleaches is long and only about ten are commonly used in today’s spotting and wetcleaning department. Where would we be without the wonders of sodium perborate? Most likely the widest used bleach of them all. To my knowledge, there has not been a commercial chemical brand/trade name for sodium perborate in many years. It comes generic in many sizes but usually by the pound. There are some small market companies that have branded sodium perborate, but most cleaners use the commercial pure grade from their jobber. There is a technical grade and laundry grade.

The uses of sodium perborate are so many that there is not enough space in one article to list them all. Suffice to say that if your cleaner guy or gal is not using it on the board or in a bath, you are most definitely sending out garments with stains that would surely come out if the knowledge of using chemicals were there. There aren’t too many hard rules on its usage but it works best in body temperature water and it takes time. It is aided by a good neutral detergent and accelerated by ammonia. This is true on the board or in a bath. It is best if you neutralize this bleach after use on the board or a bath.

“Jeff Schwarz Will Tell You How Many Stain Tickets Are Sold Every Year”

To bleach or not to bleach as suggested in my title this month. I would say yes, you should and the second most useful bleach is its namesake-good old chlorine bleach. Sadly, many operators will not allow it on their spotting board for fear of their cleaner wrecking something. As I said at the start of this article, that is foolish. Would it not be better to invest in an education of bleaches instead? To quote my friend Jeff Schwarz of A.L. Wilson Chemical Co., “thousands of stain tickets are sold every year to companies who don’t know how to use chemicals”. These leading companies have branded products that will act as does sodium perborate, sodium bi-sulphite or sodium hydrosulphite. All whitening agents under brand names. Ask your favorite chemical company representative. Their products can clear up stains, chemical reversal problems and general whitening properties for all garments.

Chlorine itself can be purchased at the store at 5.25% but it is also available in full strength from your jobber and it can be mixed down to a safe strength. At 5.25%, it is strong enough to do the job but can or maybe should (according to color and material) be used on the board or in a bath. Chlorine can be reduced in strength and actually used on colored fabrics. It is all in how you test and use it. Don’t be afraid of it. Learn about it!

“Don’t Substitute Bleaches For A Safe Spotting Agent”

To bleach or not to bleach? I say bleach when necessary unless you want to be among the ranks of bad spotters who call themselves cleaning specialists. But don’t substitute using a bleach when a good safe spotting agent will do the job. Bleaching is a last resort or when your experience tells you that nothing else will work. I realize there are many tricks my readers could suggest that are useful and that we could talk about them in using bleaches but you will learn them all as you practice. Experiment on clothes that are already ruined and learn how to use these two bleaches. The other eight bleaches require more print than I have space for.

But suffice it to say that perborate and chlorine are the most widely used and successful stain removal agents. One of my personal favorites is hydrogen peroxide bleach and it has so many useful aspects. More on that bleach at another time.

I’m headin’ to the wagon now, these boots are killin’ me!

About Kenney Slatten

Kenney Slatten Training Company is a Dry Cleaning and Laundry Consulting Firm Specializing in Environmental Training and Certification. Kenney Slatten Training Company, or KSTC, is based in Texas with offices in Arizona and California. Kenney Slatten is a certified instructor/trainer for the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute (DLI), is actively involved in the San Diego Drycleaners Association, the California Cleaners Association, is an Allied Trade board member of DLI, the Executive Director of Western States Drycleaners & Launderers Association, a member of the International Drycleaners Congress, and a columnist for American Drycleaner and Western Cleaner and Launderer magazines. The Kenney Slatten Training Company provides the only complete environmental training and inspection process. Started in 1987, Kenny became the first instructor for California E.P.A, OSHA, and state regulations. Kenney publishes a 36 point plant requirement every year in trade publications which is his guide for plant training and certification. We are the only company that provides dry cleaning and laundry specific environmental training. Kenney Slatten is a third generation drycleaner/laundryman from Houston, Texas. His company, KSTC, can teach you the skills you need to have a successful plant. His wagon is found all over the country parked under a tree just waiting for the next call to come to your plant. He can be reached at (800) 429-3990; e-mail: or go to: www.

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