What Is the Difference Between Regular Bleach and Color-Safe Bleach?

The difference between color-safe bleach and regular bleach is the active ingredients used in each formula. Regular bleach uses sodium hypochlorite, while color-safe bleach uses hydrogen peroxide, which is less aggressive.

Regular bleach is more aggressive, but it can still be safely used on a variety of fabrics, according to Clorox. This includes polyester, cotton, nylon and acyrlic. Some fabrics that regular bleach should never be used on are leather, spandex, wool, silk, mohair and nonfast colors. Nonfast colors refer to fabrics that can become discolored by sodium hypochlorite.

While there are a small amount of colored fabrics that can be safely washed in regular bleach, many colored fabrics can be washed with color-safe bleach. In a study conducted by Clorox on its own color-safe bleach, Clorox2, more than 600 colored fabrics were washed with color-safe bleach, and just over 98 percent of them didn't lose their color. All the colored fabrics were labeled with the warning, “Do not bleach.”

Despite the successful study conducted with Clorox2, Clorox recommends that people wash their colored clothing only with detergent. Since there is at least a 2 percent chance that its color-safe bleach can still remove color from fabrics, Clorox recommends that customers don't wash any colored clothing with color-safe bleach if they are worried about the color being removed.