We reached out to Mary Gagliardi (aka Dr. Laundry), who joined Clorox as a scientist in laundry product research and development more than 10 years ago, for some real answers about using bleach. She's already shared with us three common mistakes made when using bleach, and how to safely use bleach around the house, but what about getting out tricky stains? Dr. Laundry answered a few of our biggest questions:

1. If I have a white shirt with black stripes, how do I wash that? Should I use bleach?

We've all been there — should the shirt get tossed in with the whites or stick with colors? Gagliardi says, "It's always best to wash these items separately until you know for sure the black color won't bleed into the wash water. It's also important to let them air-dry — this is an important step to keep a hot dryer from fading any black or black-and-white item." If the garment is colorfast when washed, try using Clorox Smart Seek Bleach, which can be used on whites and whites with a little bit of color, like a white shirt with black stripes.

2. Do you have any surprising tips and tricks for getting out stains using bleach?

Dr. Laundry has smart tips for getting rid of tricky marks, from grease to grass stains:

  • Gagliardi shares, "With greasy combination stains (e.g., balsamic vinaigrette), you need to break up the grease before the bleach can go after the color." She suggests pretreating with a little liquid laundry detergent before adding the item to the white load and washing with detergent and one half cup bleach.
  • Large beverage spills, such as coffee, tea or red wine, are easily handled with a bleach solution made from three tablespoons bleach per gallon of water. Gagliardi suggests to, "Completely submerge the entire item in the soaking solution for five minutes, then rinse and run the item through a regular wash cycle." And using detergent and one half cup bleach helps get rid of any lingering stain.
  • Grass stains are the worst, and Gagliardi knows that "if you first soak the stained item for 30 minutes in warm water with a little powdered detergent that includes an enzyme (check the ingredient list), you are off to a good start. The enzyme helps to break down the grass stain, making it easier to remove." After the presoak, wash the item in the hottest water recommended, using detergent and one half cup bleach.

Most importantly, any time you are working on a stained item with bleach, Gagliardi stresses, "always let it air-dry until you know the stain is all the way out! Really stubborn stains (especially stains that have been sitting for a while before washing) may need to be treated twice, and keeping the item out of a hot dryer greatly increases the chance of eventual success!"

Thanks, Dr. Laundry!