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OxiClean vs. Bleach: 6 Key Differences

What’s the difference between OxiClean and bleach? Is one safer or more effective? Are there times when one is better to use than the other?

In this comparison of OxiClean vs. bleach, you’ll learn how these products differ in ingredients, performance, uses, safety, and much more.

By the end, you’ll know which product to reach for based on the task.

Use the links below to navigate the comparison:

OxiClean vs. Bleach: Comparison Chart

If you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick comparison of OxiClean vs. bleach:

IngredientsSodium percarbonate, sodium carbonate, surfactants, and polymerWater and sodium hypochlorite
How It WorksBreaks down stains and emulsifies oilsBreaks color bonds of stains
UsesFights stains on laundry, linens, carpets, disinfects hard surfacesFights stains on laundry, brightens white fabrics, disinfects hard surfaces
How to UseAdd to laundry or apply to stainAdd to water or bleach dispenser before washing clothes
SafetyDo not ingest, avoid eyes and mouthDo not ingest, inhale, or allow contact with skin
Other ProductsCleaning spray, laundry detergent, detergent packs, disinfectant, laundry sanitizerCleaning spray, laundry detergent, detergent packs, disinfectant, toilet cleaner, sanitizing wipes

Difference 1: Ingredients

Although OxiClean and bleach offer cleansing and whitening properties, they feature very different ingredients.

Bleach (chlorine) is a chemical mixture of water and sodium hypochlorite — a solution formed when chlorine and sodium hydroxide react. However, the exact formula can vary by brand.

Bleach ingredients
Chlorine bleach ingredients

OxiClean, also referred to as oxygen bleach or non-chlorine bleach, contains several ingredients. While inactive ingredients vary by product, the core makeup of the stain-removing powder is sodium percarbonate, sodium carbonate, surfactants, and polymer.

Unlike chlorine-based bleach, oxygen bleach:

  • Is color-safe on most fabrics
  • Doesn’t have a harsh smell
  • Is usually in powder form
  • Is not caustic on skin or fabric
  • Is a stable formula with a long shelf life
  • Is mainly used for laundry

OxiClean breaks down into hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate when mixed with water. Together, they work to clean fabrics and hard surfaces.

Chlorine bleach should not be used at full strength. You’ll need to mix it with water to dilute it, but it is still a powerful disinfectant. The water does not diminish its cleaning power.

Difference 2: How It Works

OxiClean emulsifies oils, lifting them from textile surfaces and preventing the redistribution of dirt and oils as they cycle in the washing machine.

The real power of OxiClean happens once it’s mixed with water. It breaks down into hydrogen peroxide and sodium carbonate.

The hydrogen peroxide acts as an oxidizing agent, breaking down stains. The sodium carbonate makes the water more alkaline, which helps dissolve grease and release the acid in stains.

When using OxiClean as a disinfectant for hard surfaces, mix the powder with water as directed on the package label. Apply the liquid OxiClean to the surface and let it sit before rinsing it thoroughly with clean water.

Chlorine bleach has two main functions. It works as a stain remover and a disinfectant.

When used as a laundry aid to remove stains, bleach breaks the stain’s color bonds. Once the color bonds are broken, their ability to absorb light disappears, and the stain becomes invisible.

Don’t use bleach on colored clothes to remove stains. It will break the dye’s color bonds and alter the appearance of your clothing. Depending on the fabric’s original color, bleach can turn clothes white or give them a yellow or orange hue.

As a disinfectant, the sodium hypochlorite in bleach oxidizes viruses, bacteria, mold, and other germs. It renders them useless, therefore destroying their ability to replicate and infect people.

Difference 3: Uses

OxiClean is primarily used to clean fabrics. It fights tough stains from wine, coffee, food, and pet messes. You can use it for washing laundry, carpets, and fabric upholstery.

OxiClean uses displayed on the back of the container
OxiClean uses displayed on the back of the container

The powder forms bubbles when it hits the water, aiding in stain removal. The blue crystals in the powder help to soften water to boost the detergent’s effectiveness.

OxiClean is also a disinfectant for laundry and hard surfaces.

For laundry, you can use it as a presoak and during the wash cycle.

To release its sanitizing power, add one scoop (134.7 grams) of OxiClean powder to one gallon of water. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle and saturate the laundry, allowing it to sit for 15 minutes to eliminate bacteria and 30 minutes to kill viruses.

Or, simply add OxiClean to your washer drum before adding clothes or detergent in regular or high-efficiency machines. It acts as a laundry detergent booster, cleaner, and sanitizer.

It’s a versatile stain remover because you can use it on clothes, certain hard surfaces, and water-washable carpet and furniture.

Chlorine bleach is also great at sanitizing certain hard and non-porous surfaces. However, you can’t use it on metal, wood, and many types of stone.

If you want to brighten whites, bleach is the preferred product. If you want to remove stains on all types of laundry and upholstery without damaging colors, go with OxiClean because it’s safe for most fabrics.

And just in case you’re wondering, don’t use OxiClean or chlorine bleach on:

  • Metals: OxiClean powder isn’t a good option for most metals, but rinse it immediately if you decide to use it. Don’t use bleach on metal; it will oxidize stainless steel and cause it to rust.
  • Rust: Neither OxiClean nor bleach will remove rust. Oxygen is part of what causes rust, and since both have oxidizing agents, it won’t work.
  • Special Fabrics: Fabrics and garments made with silk, wool, cashmere, argyle, leather, suede, or any other specialty fabric are not safe to clean with OxiClean or bleach. Check clothing labels to ensure they are bleach-safe before laundering. The “do not bleach” symbol looks like a crossed-out triangle. Check out what symbols on fabrics mean.
  • Finished Wood or Wicker: Never use OxiClean or chlorine bleach on finished wood or woven material like wicker. Don’t use bleach on hardwood floors. It will degrade the finish and cause irreversible damage to the wood. However, you can use OxiClean on unfinished wood decks.
  • Food or Food Prep Tools: Don’t use OxiClean or bleach to wash produce, meat, or any food. Avoid using both products to clean food prep tools such as knives or kitchen shears.

Difference 4: How to Use

You can use OxiClean’s powder stain-fighting formula and chlorine bleach to clean around the house, but they each require different methods and applications. In some cases, you’ll want to reach for one product over the other.

In this section, you’ll learn how to use both effectively.

OxiClean’s package states that it has over 101 uses. The OxiClean website offers detailed answers for product use depending on the OxiClean product you choose.

For now, let’s focus on OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover Powder.

OxiClean Stain Remover
OxiClean Stain Remover

To use it properly, follow the package instructions. In general, you’ll use it in these ways:

  • As a powder: You can add OxiClean in powder form directly to your washing machine drum. It acts as a laundry detergent booster, whitener, odor and stain-fighter, and sanitizer. Check the package for measuring instructions.
  • As a presoak: You can mix one full scoop per gallon of water and soak clothing for 3-6 hours. Always wash OxiClean-soaked clothes before adding them to a dryer.
  • As a paste: Some scenarios, like cleaning grout, may require a thicker OxiClean solution. Use just enough water to make a paste and apply it to the surface you want to clean. Rinse the area completely with clean water.
  • As a spray solution: You can mix OxiClean with water, add it to a spray bottle and use it for targeting cleaning. But, never leave the solution stored in a spray bottle. Pressure can build up and cause the bottle to burst.

Bleach doesn’t have as many uses as OxiClean, but it is an effective laundry aid, odor destroyer, disinfectant, and stain fighter.

You can use chlorine bleach:

  • As a liquid: Simply pour a measured amount of liquid into laundry water in a standard washing machine before adding clothes. Or pour it into a bleach dispenser on a high-efficiency washing machine. You can also pour it into a bucket of water to create a disinfectant solution.
  • As a presoak: Unlike OxiClean, you cannot use chlorine bleach for several hours in a presoak solution. You’ll want to limit exposure. Clorox recommends 5-10 minutes for a presoak before laundering fabrics.

It’s essential to use bleach according to its label’s instructions. Disregarding them could ruin fabrics or surfaces and pose a health risk.

Difference 5: Safety

While both OxiClean and bleach are safe to use when you follow the directions, there are some health risks to consider.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a consumer product safety nonprofit, gave OxiClean’s Versatile Stain Remover Free powder a B grade.

Safety warning on OxiClean bottle
Safety warning on OxiClean bottle

It cited low environmental concerns but moderate concern for the following ingredients:

  • Alcohol ethoxylates: The ingredient has a long list of concerns, such as being cancerous and toxic to aquatic life or causing skin irritation, vision damage, and issues with multiple systems in the body.
  • Polyacrylic acid: There is moderate concern about how it breaks down in the environment, as well as how it impacts organs, systems, and DNA.

To handle OxiClean safely, only use it as directed on the label or OxiClean.com. Do not mix it with anything other than water (never mix OxiClean and bleach).

You need to be extremely careful when using chlorine bleach. EWG gave chlorine bleach an F because it’s harmful if swallowed, inhaled, or if it gets into the eyes or on the skin. Bleach is caustic, meaning it is a chemical that can burn through or corrode substances.

Safety warning on bleach bottle
Safety warning on bleach bottle

To handle bleach safely, you must:

  • Use the right amount: Follow measuring instructions on the label for laundry and other uses. According to Clorox, use ½ cup in a standard washing machine to sanitize clothes (¼ cup for high-efficiency washers) and between ⅓ – ⅔ cup for whitening and stain removal (or fill to the max line of a bleach dispenser in a high-efficiency washing machine).
  • Only use it with water: Never mix bleach with other chemicals because it can create dangerous fumes. Water is the only safe element to mix with bleach. It serves as a carrier and a diluting agent.
  • Always dilute: Full-strength bleach is potent. Refrain from pouring bleach directly on clothes or surfaces.
  • Check care labels: Labels will state if you can use bleach. You can also test for colorfastness in a hidden area of the garment.
  • Use in a well-ventilated area: Bleach has a strong odor. To avoid respiratory discomfort, use it in an area where you can open windows or use fans to direct airflow.

Put on gloves when handling OxiClean or bleach. Use both products according to the labels for best results and store them in a cool, dry place.

Difference 6: Other Products

OxiClean features more than two dozen products. They are available in powders, liquids, gel sticks, sprays, foams, and laundry packs.

OxiClean stain remover spray
OxiClean stain remover spray

Some of the top-selling products include (view all products on Amazon or OxiClean.com):

  • OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover
  • OxiClean Laundry and Home Sanitizer
  • OxiClean Odor Blasters Versatile Stain & Odor Remover
  • OxiClean White Revive Laundry Whitener + Stain Remover
  • OxiClean Max Force Spray
  • OxiClean Laundry Stain Remover Spray
  • OxiClean Daily Clean Multi-Purpose Disinfectant

Bleach comes in many forms, but the most common is pure liquid bleach. Clorox is the most popular brand of bleach, and it offers nearly two dozen products that contain bleach.

Clorox chlorine bleach
Clorox chlorine bleach

Its most popular items include Clorox Precision Pour Bleach Gel, Clorox Zero Splash Bleach Packs, and Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner – with Bleach.

FAQs About OxiClean and Bleach

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about OxiClean and bleach.

Does OxiClean stain remover contain bleach?

OxiClean is considered “oxygen bleach,” but it doesn’t contain chlorine bleach. Unlike chlorine bleach, oxygen bleach is safe to use on colored fabrics.

Can you mix OxiClean and bleach?

No, it is extremely dangerous to mix them. It could cause an explosion. Check out this article to learn more about why you should never mix OxiClean and bleach.

What is the pH of OxiClean and bleach?

The pH scale runs from 0-14, where zero represents highly acidic, and 14 is highly alkaline or base. The pH level of OxiClean, when diluted, can be up to 11. Chlorine bleach’s pH is 11-13 since the numbers can fluctuate depending on the brand.

What water temperature does OxiClean or bleach work best in?

OxiClean works best in warm to hot water. Bleach is most effective in hot water.

Does OxiClean or bleach kill viruses and bacteria?

OxiClean and Clorox kill 99.9% of bacteria and viruses when used as directed.

When OxiClean is mixed with water, it breaks down into hydrogen peroxide, a highly effective disinfectant. OxiClean also makes products specifically for disinfecting, such as its Daily Clean Multi-Purpose Disinfectant spray and the Laundry and Home Sanitizer powder.

In general, chlorine bleach kills viruses and bacteria, but you must give the solution time to work. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), it takes 10-60 minutes of contact with diluted chlorine bleach to kill germs.

Are OxiClean and bleach safe on colors?

OxiClean is generally safe on colors, but chlorine bleach is not color-safe. If you are unsure about color safety, test OxiClean on a small hidden area of the clothing.

Are OxiClean and bleach safe for baby clothes?

OxiClean Baby Stain Remover is safe for use on baby clothes. Don’t use chlorine bleach on baby clothes.

Both OxiClean and bleach are toxic if ingested and should be kept out of reach from babies.

Are OxiClean and bleach safe for dogs?

OxiClean and bleach should be kept away from dogs or other pets. It can be harmful if ingested or inhaled.

Are OxiClean and bleach safe to use with septic systems?

Yes, OxiClean and bleach are safe for septic systems when used as directed. Always dilute chlorine bleach before pouring it down a drain.

What is the shelf life of OxiClean and bleach?

As long as it is kept dry and cool, OxiClean has no expiration date. Chlorine bleach has a one-year shelf life.

Bottom Line: Which is Better, OxiClean or Bleach?

OxiClean and chlorine bleach are both effective at removing stains, brightening clothes, and disinfecting. Yet, they have some distinct differences.

When it comes to OxiClean vs. bleach, they differ in:

  • Ingredients: Chlorine bleach contains water and sodium hypochlorite. OxiClean contains sodium percarbonate, sodium carbonate, surfactants, and polymer.
  • How They Work: OxiClean releases its power when you mix it with water. Bleach is powerful on its own — adding water dilutes it for different uses. Both break down stains, but bleach isn’t ideal for cleaning colored clothes because it will remove stains and dye from the fabric. OxiClean removes stains while protecting colored fabric.
  • Uses: For brightening whites, bleach is the best option. To remove stains from colored fabric, go with OxiClean. OxiClean is versatile. Unlike bleach, you can use it on carpet and upholstery.
  • How to Use the Products: Both products are effective in cleaning scenarios around the house, from sanitizing surfaces to laundry, but they require different methods of use. For example, you can soak clothes in OxiClean for several hours. With chlorine bleach, you can only soak white clothes for 5-10 minutes.
  • Safety: Bleach is caustic. It’s a chemical that can corrode or burn through substances. It has a strong odor, so use it in well-ventilated areas. OxiClean has a milder formula but still requires careful use. Do not ingest, inhale, or expose your skin to either formula.
  • Product Offerings: OxiClean and bleach have multiple products to address different cleaning needs. OxiClean offers powders, sprays, and detergents. Bleach is in dozens of products, including disinfecting sprays, detergents, bathroom cleaners, wipes, etc.

Bottom line — OxiClean and bleach are both effective but suited for different cleaning scenarios.

OxiClean is the better choice if you need a multi-tasking stain remover on laundry day for all clothes (whites and colors). Its proven, concentrated power can remove a wide variety of stains without damaging or discoloring most fabrics.

You can find OxiClean at most grocery and big-box stores or online on Amazon and Walmart.com.

Need a straightforward disinfectant or a laundry aid to brighten whites? Go with chlorine bleach.

It’s the better choice because it oxidizes chemical bonds, breaking up molecules so they can’t reflect color. It works in the same way on germs by breaking down cell walls to destroy viruses and bacteria. 

Bleach is also available at grocery stores and online (Amazon, Walmart.com).

There is room for both in your home, but which do you prefer? Let me know in the comments.

Andrew Palermo Founder of Prudent Reviews

Andrew Palermo - About the Author

Andrew is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prudent Reviews. He began his career in marketing, managing campaigns for dozens of Fortune 500 brands. In 2018, Andrew founded Prudent Reviews and has since reviewed 600+ products. When he’s not testing the latest cookware, kitchen knives, and appliances, he’s spending time with his family, cooking, and doing house projects. Connect with Andrew via emailLinkedIn, or the Prudent Reviews YouTube channel.

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