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The Right Way to Clean With Bleach in Your Home

Plastic toys, gym clothes, bathroom tiles — we’re coming for you.

woman cleaning bleach
Photography by: Topalov/Getty

When it came to cleaning supplies, your grandmother kept things pretty streamlined. Chances are, she had a scrub brush, a bucket, and a gallon of bleach—make that two gallons of bleach.

 

It can be easy to forget when the local bigbox has an entire aisle of specialty cleaning products, but good old-fashioned bleach can get down and dirty with pretty much everything, even the garden.

 

“Bleach isn’t just for the washing machine,” says Mary Gagliardi, whose official title at Clorox is “Dr. Laundry.” “It can be used to clean the entire home, and it’s very economical.”

 

Ready to get back to basics? We asked the Doc for a refresher course on bleach’s many uses, from shower curtains to patio furniture.

 

In The Laundry Room

While it’s commonly used for brightening whites, bleach is also handy when you have laundry that could benefit from sanitizing (for example, baby clothes or gym gear). To get a deep clean, you’ll want to add a little more bleach than usual: 2/3 cup for a standard washer, or 1/3 cup for a high-efficiency machine.

 

But what most people don’t know is that, depending on how the dye was applied, many colored garments can be safely laundered with standard bleach, as well. Before washing, Gagliardi recommends testing a small, discreet portion of the fabric (the inside of a hem, for example) with bleach: mix 2 teaspoons of bleach with ¼ cup of water, then apply a small dot and let sit for a minute before blotting dry. If this doesn’t stain, you’re good to go.

 

In The Kitchen

Bad news for your collection of kitchen cleaners: bleach can do it all if you don’t mind mixing up your own solution. For a basic, use-everywhere formula, Gagliardi recommends mixing ½ cup of bleach with a gallon of water—you can use this as a disinfectant for countertops, sinks, tiles, floors, your refrigerator, stainless steel appliances, and other hard, non-porous surfaces.

 

For disinfecting plastic trash cans, you’ll want a slightly stronger solution: mix ½ cup of bleach with ¾ gallon of water. For plastic cutting boards, a more diluted solution will do the trick: mix 2 teaspoons of bleach with 1 gallon of water.

 

With their tricky lids and tiny plastic parts, travel mugs can especially benefit from a thorough bleach cleaning. Mix up 2 teaspoons of bleach with 1 gallon of water, soak the container and lid for two minutes, then rinse well.

 

In The Bathroom

From floor to ceiling, bleach has all your deep-cleaning, bacteria-busting bathroom needs covered. For standard surfaces such as toilets and tiles go here. But for slightly trickier applications, Gagliardi shared some secrets.

 

Want to save that mildewed plastic shower curtain from the landfill? Toss it in the washing machine with detergent and 2/3 cup of bleach to get clean and prevent new mold.

 

That bin of plastic bath toys? To disinfect, mix ½ cup of bleach with 1 gallon of water, let toys soak for five minutes, then rinse well.

 

Mold and mildew on your tiles? Mix ¾ cup of bleach with 1 gallon of warm water, wipe down the surface, then let sit for 10 minutes before rinsing with warm water. 

 

On The Patio

It’s hard to believe now, but grilling season will return in a few months. To clean plastic patio furniture, Gagliardi recommends mixing up ¾ cup of bleach with 1 gallon of warm water; wipe down, wait 10 minutes, then rinse with warm water. (Be careful to avoid any runoff near your garden!)

 

Bleach can also come in handy with your planters. To avoid introducing mold or diseases to new plants, clean last year’s pots with a solution of ½ cup of bleach and 1 gallon of water. After letting soak for five minutes, rinse and air dry.

 

[MARTHA'S SECRETS: To Make Cleaning Your Kitchen A Cinch]