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Laundry bleach: Friend or foe?

October 28, 2013
by Kathleen Mears
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It’s October and the days are getting chillier. The other morning I had an aide look in my closet for warmer clothing. When she got out a pair of berry-colored pants, I was chagrined to find a bleach stain on the back of one leg. Unfortunately, this happens from time to time.

Luckily, I still can wear those pants because the bleach stain is on the back and cannot be seen. If it were on the front, however, I would have to decide whether to wear those pants only here at the facility or throw them away. A few months ago I found a T-shirt with a bleach stain on the front and had to throw it away.

Bleach stains have been phenomenon since I have lived in nursing homes. It is a great disinfectant but, if not used properly can ruin clothing. A previous facility had commercial washers. The bleach was dispensed by the machine not by the person doing the laundry. Bleach stains were less prevalent, but they still occurred occasionally.

I realize there is a lot of laundry to do here and that detergent is expensive. But I would think there is a way to control bleach so that it does not damage clothing.

Perhaps low-cost dry bleach or color-safe bleach could be used for whitening. Designating certain washers for whites would also keep bleach off colored clothing.

Many residents have limited resources and therefore not much clothing. Some residents don’t have any family to give them clothing when they need it. To help out, the facility buys clothing from thrift shops. While buying thrift shop clothing may be relatively inexpensive, it is still a shame to have usable clothing ruined with bleach.

Growing up, I was taught to use liquid bleach only on whites to brighten and disinfect.  After bleaching a load of laundry, I ran the washer through the warm-water rinse cycle or wiped it with a damp cloth to ensure no bleach residue remained. We could not afford to buy new clothing if one of us ruined ours with bleach. I learned to take care of clothing as if I would have it forever.

I realize our culture is changing and my 65 years on Earth are beginning to show. Today's philosophy in this disposable society may be if a resident's clothing is ruined with bleach, it can be replaced by clothing bought at the thrift store.



Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...