To Bleach Or Not To Bleach?

I have a fairly new white cotton tank top I got only one or two months ago and wore about ten times, but the underarms were already going yellow from anti-perspirant stains. The tank top is still good and I didn't want to give up on it so easily, but I didn't know what to do with it since the washing instructions said "Use non-chlorine bleach."

I've tried non-chlorine bleach on white clothes before, and although it left the clothes sparkling white it did nothing for the yellow underarms. With this disappointing experience in mind, I decided that there was no help for it and I needed to use chlorine bleach, but I was still wary of bleaching the entire tank top. The cotton has a touch of spandex in its blend for stretch, and chlorine bleach can seriously weaken spandex, not to mention do a number on cotton. I needed targeted bleaching.

The solution to my problem came in the form of the Clorox Bleach Pen, which set me back about $4. The pen contains concentrated chlorine bleach foam and has a narrow tip and brush tip. You squeeze the pen to dispense the bleaching foam and you can use as much or as little as you need for targetted spot-bleaching. The brush tip lets you work the bleach into the fabric as well. I figured that since I was only bleaching the underarms and not the entire tank top, I was pretty safe.

So I bleached, and I was very pleased with the results. However, the experience left me wondering: Why does so much white cotton clothing today require non-chlorine bleach when chlorine bleach can be so effective?

One of the main reasons is that a lot of cotton tops today are made of a thinner, more delicate cotton than the polyester-cotton blends from several years ago. Consider the average tee from a trendy store; odds are it's almost transparent because it's meant to be layered over another tee or tank. Also, a lot of cottons today are blended cottons, which means they have other materials such as rayon, nylon, or spandex blended into the thread to make the material softer and stretchier and more comfortable. These materials and chlorine bleach definitely don't mix; if you do use chlorine bleach, the fabric could actually go yellow and brittle, losing its softness and elasticity.

I definitely wouldn't bleach my silky RW & Co. white cami, which is made of a nylon-rayon blend. But for cotton with a touch of stretch, the Clorox Bleach Pen can work wonders.

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