12 Smart Ways to Use Bleach

You know it's a great cleaning product, but you'll never guess what else bleach can do!

From Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things (Reader's Digest Association Books) and

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1. Clean off mold and mildew Bleach and ammonia are both useful for removing mold and mildew both inside and outside your home. However, the two should never be used together. Bleach is especially suited for the following chores:

  • Wash mildew out of washable fabrics. Wet the mildewed area and rub in some powdered detergent. Then wash the garment in the hottest water set-ting permitted by the clothing manufacturer using 1/2 cup chlorine bleach. If the garment can’t be washed in hot water and bleach, soak it in a solution of 1/4 cup oxygen bleach (labeled “all fabric” or “perborate”) in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) warm water for 30 minutes before washing.
  • Remove mold and mildew from the grout between your bathroom tiles. Mix equal parts of chlorine bleach and water in a spray bottle, and spray it over grout. Let it sit for 15 minutes, then scrub with a stiff brush and rinse off. You can also do this just to make your grout look whiter.
  • Get mold and mildew off your shower curtains. Wash them — along with a couple of bath towels (to prevent the plastic curtains from crinkling) — in warm water with 1/2 cup chlorine bleach and 1/4 cup laundry detergent. Let the washer run for a couple of minutes before loading. Put the shower curtain and towels in the dryer on the lowest temperature setting for 10 minutes, then immediately hang-dry.
  • Rid your rubber shower mat of mildew. Soak in a solution of 1/8 cup (3.7 liters) chlorine bleach in 1 gallon water for 3-4 hours. Rinse well.
  • Get mildew and other stains off unpainted cement, patio stones, or stucco. Mix a solution of 1 cup chlorine bleach in 2 gallons (7.5 liters) water. Scrub vigorously with a stiff or wire brush and rinse. If any stains remain, scrub again using 1/2 cup washing soda (this is sodium carbonate, not baking soda) dissolved in 2 gallons (7.5 liters) warm water.
  • Remove mildew from painted surfaces and siding. Make a solution of 1/4 cup chlorine bleach in 2 cups water and apply with a brush to mildewed areas. Let the solution set for 15 minutes, then rinse. Repeat as necessary.

2. Sterilize secondhand items Remember Mom saying, “Put that down. You don’t know where it’s been”? She had a point — especially when it comes to toys or kitchen utensils picked up at thrift shops and yard sales. Just to be on the safe side, take your used, waterproof items and soak them for 5-10 minutes in a solution containing 3/4 cup bleach, a few drops of antibacterial dishwashing liquid, and 1 gallon warm water. Rinse well, then air-dry, preferably in sunlight.

3. Clean butcher block cutting boards and countertops Don’t even think about using furniture polish or any other household cleaner to clean a butcher block cutting board or countertop. Rather, scrub the surface with a brush dipped in a solution of 1 teaspoon bleach diluted in 2 quarts (2 liters) water. Scrub in small circles, and be careful not to saturate the wood. Wipe with a slightly damp paper towel, then immediately buff dry with a clean cloth.

4. Brighten up glass dishware Put the sparkle back in your glasses and dishes by adding a teaspoon of bleach to your soapy dishwater as you’re washing your glassware. Be sure to rinse well, and dry with a soft towel.

5. Shine white porcelain Want to get your white porcelain sink, candleholder, or pottery looking as good as new? In a well-ventilated area on a work surface protected by heavy plastic, place several paper towels over the item (or across the bottom of the sink) and carefully saturate them with undiluted bleach. Let soak for 15 minutes to a half hour, then rinse and wipe dry with a clean towel. Note: Do not try this with antiques; you can diminish their value or cause damage. And never use bleach on colored porcelain, because the color will fade.

6. Make a household disinfectant spray Looking for a good, all-purpose disinfectant to use around the house? Mix 1 tablespoon bleach in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) hot water. Then fill a clean, empty spray bottle and use it on a paper towel to clean countertops, tablecloths, lawn furniture — basically, wherever it’s needed. Just be sure not to use it in the presence of ammonia or other household cleaners.

7. Disinfect trash cans Even the best housekeepers must confront a gunked-up kitchen garbage pail every now and then. On such occasions, take the pail outside, and flush out any loose debris with a garden hose. Then add 1/2 to 1 cup bleach and several drops of dishwashing liquid to 1 gallon (3.7 liters) warm water. Use a toilet brush or long-handled scrub brush to splash and scour the solution on the bottom and sides of the container. Empty, then rinse with the hose, empty it again, and let air-dry.

8. Increase cut flowers’ longevity Freshly cut flowers will stay fresh longer if you add 1/4 teaspoon bleach per quart (1 liter) of vase water. Another popular recipe calls for 3 drops bleach and 1 teaspoon sugar in 1 quart (1 liter) water. This will also keep the water from getting cloudy and inhibit the growth of bacteria.

9. Clean plastic lawn furniture Is your plastic-mesh lawn furniture looking dingy? Before you place it curbside, try washing it with some mild detergent mixed with 1/2 cup bleach in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) water. Rinse it clean, then air-dry.

10. Kill weeds in walkways Do weeds seem to thrive in the cracks and crevices of your walkways? Try pouring a bit of undiluted bleach over them. After a day or two, you can simply pull them out, and the bleach will keep them from coming back. Just be careful not to get bleach on the grass or plantings bordering the walkway.

11. Get rid of moss and algae To remove slippery and unsightly moss and algae on your brick, concrete, or stone walkways, scrub them with a solution of 3/4 cup bleach in 1 gallon (3.7 liters) water. Be careful not to get bleach on your grass or ornamental plants.

12. Sanitize garden tools You cut that diseased stalk off your rosebush with your branch clipper. Unless you want to spread the disease the next time you use the tool, sterilize it by washing it with 1/2 cup bleach in 1 quart (1 liter) water. Let the tool air-dry in the sun, then rub on a few drops of oil to prevent rust.