OxiClean is a popular laundry detergent additive marketed by Church & Dwight that is known for its stain-fighting and whitening properties. However, some users have reported that OxiClean can cause white fabrics to develop a yellowish tinge over time with repeated use. In this article, we’ll examine whether OxiClean really does turn things yellow, the reasons why this discoloration may occur, and steps you can take to prevent yellowing when using OxiClean.
What Is OxiClean?
OxiClean is a versatile cleaning product that contains sodium percarbonate as its primary active ingredient. When dissolved in water, sodium percarbonate breaks down into hydrogen peroxide and soda ash (sodium carbonate). This reaction releases oxygen bubbles and acts as a bleaching agent to lift stains and whiten fabrics.
Some key facts about OxiClean:
|Reaction in water
|Sodium percarbonate → hydrogen peroxide + soda ash
|Bleaching agent that releases oxygen bubbles
In addition to sodium percarbonate, OxiClean also contains builders, surfactants, and enzymes that further help to break down and remove stains. It is used as a laundry presoak, added to the wash cycle, or used for spot treatment to boost cleaning power.
Does OxiClean Cause Yellowing?
Some people who use OxiClean, especially over long periods of time, have noticed their white clothes take on a yellowish discoloration. There are a few reasons why OxiClean can potentially lead to yellowing:
Bleaching effects: The hydrogen peroxide released by OxiClean is a powerful bleaching agent. Over time, this can degrade fabric dyes and cause white fabrics to become yellowed. Bleach-sensitive dyes like those used in some white cotton fabrics are more prone to fading and discoloration.
Alkalinity: OxiClean formulations have an alkaline pH around 10. Repeated exposure to high alkalinity can accelerate the yellowing of fabrics over time.
Optical brighteners: Many laundry detergents contain fluorescent whitening agents, also known as optical brighteners. These additives stick to fabrics and emit a blue glow under UV light to make clothes appear brighter and whiter. As optical brighteners degrade over time, clothes can start to look more yellow.
Fabric imperfections: Natural cotton fabrics often contain some impurities that lead to slight off-white or yellowish areas. The cleaning action of OxiClean may cause these imperfections to become more visible.
So in summary, the bleaching action, alkalinity, effects on optical brighteners, and exposure of existing fabric imperfections can all contribute to potential yellowing with ongoing use of OxiClean.
Evidence of OxiClean Causing Yellowing
Theanecdotal reports of OxiClean leading to yellowing are supported by several pieces of evidence:
- Consumer complaints – Many people have posted complaints on forums, review sites and directly to Church & Dwight describing yellowing issues with OxiClean.
- Class action lawsuit – In 2015, a class action lawsuit was filed against Church & Dwight claiming that OxiClean damages and discolors fabrics over time with use.
- OxiClean marketing – Interestingly, when OxiClean was first launched in 1997, its TV commercials actually promoted its ability to remove yellow stains and discoloration.
- Hydrogen peroxide effects – As a bleach, hydrogen peroxide is well-documented to potentially cause color loss and yellowing with repeated exposure.
While the evidence clearly suggests OxiClean can contribute to yellowing, it’s important to note that results can vary based on the fabric, dyes used, age of the garment, wash temperature, detergent formulation, and other factors. But the number of consumer complaints indicates it is a real issue for some users.
How to Prevent Yellowing From OxiClean
If you notice your whites starting to look more yellow after using OxiClean, there are some steps you can take to troubleshoot and prevent further discoloration:
1. Wash in cold water – Hot water accelerates bleaching and color loss. Wash whites in the coolest water temperature possible.
2. Reduce OxiClean amount – Use less OxiClean or cut back frequency to limit bleach exposure.
3. Add vinegar to rinse – The acid in vinegar helps neutralize and remove excess alkalinity left by OxiClean.
4. Air dry in sunlight – The UV rays in sunlight help naturally whiten and brighten laundry.
5. Treat stains only – Rather than adding OxiClean to the entire load, just use it for targeted stain removal as needed.
6. Skip fabric softener – Fabric softeners can make yellowing worse by depositing a coating on fibers.
Following these tips should help minimize potential yellowing issues when cleaning with OxiClean. But if you continue to see discoloration, you may want to switch to another laundry whitening product or stain remover.
Alternative Whitening Products
If OxiClean causes yellowing on your clothes no matter what, you have some alternative options to keep your whites bright:
- Hydrogen peroxide – Directly applying drugstore hydrogen peroxide as a pretreatment is an effective (and more budget-friendly) alternative to OxiClean.
- Borax – This natural mineral salt acts as a whitening booster that can be added to laundry loads.
- White vinegar – The acidic white vinegar helps remove dingy buildup on fabrics.
- Lemi Shine – This additive helps prevent mineral buildup on clothes that lead to graying.
- Sodium percarbonate – This is OxiClean’s key bleaching ingredient, available on its own as a versatile bleach powder.
Testing out these alternative whitening products can help determine if OxiClean itself is the culprit behind yellowing. Just be sure to follow the same precautions (cold wash, air dry, etc.) when using other bleaching agents.
When to Use OxiClean Safely
OxiClean is a powerful stain remover, so you may not want to remove it from your laundry routine entirely. Here are some safe ways to use OxiClean that should avoid yellowing issues:
- As a stain pretreatment only – Target just stained areas instead of adding it to the full wash.
- For sheets/towels – Use normally on white linens which are less prone to dye issues.
- As laundry booster once a month – Occasional use likely won’t cause major color loss.
- For bleach-safe fabrics – OxiClean is less risky on whites labeled suitable for bleach.
- Lower temperature wash – Cool water helps preserve dyes and prevent excess bleaching.
So you can still take advantage of the cleaning power of OxiClean by using it more selectively and reducing frequency to maintain your whites.
Will OxiClean Remove Yellow Stains?
While OxiClean may potentially cause yellowing over time, it’s also highly effective at removing yellow stains on fabric when used properly. Reasons why OxiClean can eliminate yellow discoloration:
- Bleaching action – The oxygen-based whitening effect helps overwrite and lift away yellowed areas.
- Strong cleaning agents – Surfactants penetrate and loosen stained material.
- Alkaline pH – Helps dissolve and detach stubborn stains.
- Enzymes – Break down and degrade protein-based stains.
For old, set-in yellow stains, pretreat the area with an OxiClean paste or solution. Allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes before washing to fully lift the stain. Avoid using excess heat when cleaning yellowed items. With OxiClean, even longtime yellow stains like those from sweat, food, or age have met their match.
OxiClean is a powerful laundry additive that can cause white fabrics to pick up a yellowish tinge over time with repeated use. The likely culprits include its bleaching effects, alkaline pH, impact on optical brighteners, and potential to expose existing fabric imperfections. However, by following some simple precautions like washing in cool water, reducing frequency of use, and avoiding fabric softener, you can still enjoy the cleaning benefits of OxiClean without unwanted discoloration. Alternatives like hydrogen peroxide, borax, and white vinegar can also help keep whites bright when used properly. Overall, OxiClean remains a strong stain-fighting tool, but judicious use is required to prevent your favorite clothes from turning yellow.