Keeping white laundry bright and stain free is a difficult task – especially when small children are involved. One of the most effective ways to clean whites is with bleach. But bleach is a harsh, toxic, and corrosive chemical that must be handled very carefully in order to keep your family safe. Some mamas who use cloth diapers swear by using the bleaching power of the sun instead. Can the sun naturally and safely remove stains from your white clothing?
- Better for you – no chemicals required near you or your little ones
- Better for the Earth – again, no toxic chemicals getting into the waste stream
- Saves Money – the sun is free!
- Easy – leave laundry in the sun for the afternoon, and collect it up at the end of the day
- Fabric Damage – over time the sun can break down the fibers in your fabrics
- Doesn’t work for all types of stains
I think white clothing for children is a baaaaaad idea. With a 3 year old and a 1 year old, messes and stains are a constant part of my life. I’ve learned that a white shirt can be ruined forever within minutes of its first wearing. I have a small collection of white items for my kids; most of it has come as gifts or hand-me-downs. Sometimes I layer them under outer clothing, more often I leave them laying in the drawer. (The same is true for my wardrobe!). It just feels too risky to put them in white!
Because we don’t have a lot of whites, there are never enough to do a bleach load. And I’m not sure I really like the idea of using bleach around my kid’s clothing anyway. So my kid’s socks are mud stained, their white necklines and cuffs are dingy, the baby’s bibs are greyed from food stains, the little guy’s undies have the occasional brown streak, and the prefolds we use as catch-all rags have all sorts of random stains on them.
Recently I read about using the sun to naturally bleach your whites. This idea was right up my alley! It seems cloth diapering mamas find that drying the diapers in the sun fades away any of the poopy stains that settle into the cloth over time. I collected up all the little kid stains on white I could find and waited for the next sunny weekend (it didn’t take long to arrive in sunny SoCal). I draped the assortment of items across a sunny stone wall in my backyard with stones on the corners so they didn’t blow away. I left them out there most of the afternoon – they probably got 4 hours of strong, direct sunlight.
After assessing the results, I give sun bleaching a 3 out of 5 leaves. It seemed it worked great on some stains (YAY!), but had no effect at all on others (BOO!). Here’s the play by play on what stains were removed by the sun (all stains were previously washed):
- Grass – totally gone!
- Poop – significantly faded
- Blood – faded somewhat
- Food – no noticeable difference
- Dirt – no noticeable difference
- Paint – no noticeable difference
The sun did a great job on handling the more “biological” stains, but with food, dirt, dinge, and paint stains there wasn’t much of a difference, if any at all. Overall, I think sun bleaching is a great idea for cloth diapers, but is generally ineffective against general laundry stains.
Have you ever tried bleaching stains in the sun? What was your experience?