What is Oxygen Bleach?

I'll never forget the first time I heard the phrase oxygen bleach. I was on the phone with John Meredith, the president of Saver Systems. Saver Systems is a manufacturer of a synthetic resin deck sealer.

The conversation centered around what's the best way to clean a wood deck to get it ready to apply the sealer. "Does your label say to mix one part chlorine bleach to one part water," I asked.

"Oh absolutely not. You want to use oxygen bleach," replied John. My response was no different than why you're reading this blog post. I inquired, "What is oxygen bleach?"

I quickly discovered that it's a powder. What's more, I discovered that there's more than one bleach and that bleach is the dumbed-down descriptor for what chemists call oxidizers.
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There are many oxidizing agents, some of them being oxygen, chlorine, flourine, bromine, hypochlorite, etc. In all my years of grabbing that white plastic Chlorox bottle at the grocery store, I never ever looked at the label. Had I done that, I would have quickly seen under the ingredients: Contains Sodium Hypochlorite.

There are different oxygen bleaches, but the one I'm most familiar with is Stain Solver. It's a dried form of hydrogen peroxide and soda ash. It comes as a pure white granular powder. When you look at the particles closely with a magnifying glass like a 10X Hastings Triplet, you'll see the active ingredient is a very tiny white sphere.

When you mix the powder with water, you begin an aggressive chemical reaction that activates the oxygen bleach. The solution is clear and it has no odor. Once you mix the powder with water, all you create is more water, oxygen and soda ash. All natural materials.

After adding the powder to water, one of the oxygen atoms breaks off the hydrogen peroxide molecules. This oxygen ion is unstable and it immediately starts looking to attach itself to another ion.

The billions of oxygen ions that are in the solution act like tiny missiles. When they find organic molecules like grape juice, grease, red wine, blood, grass stains, etc., the oxygen ions break apart the organic stain molecules and in the process become stable.

The net gain is the oxygen bleach gets rid of the stain. It's a multi-purpose cleaner that can replace many of the different cleaners you have under your kitchen sink or in your laundry room. I find it does the best job when you let it soak.

The oxygen bleach solution is an amazing floor tile grout cleaner. The dirt,greases, food and drink particles that get into the grout are rapidly cleaned by the solution. The longer you allow it to soak the less scrubbing you have to do.

Not all bleaches are the same. Some are far more powerful than others. Chlorine bleach is so powerful its ions will shred synthetic dye and fabric molecules. This is why when you get a drop or two of chlorine bleach on a garment, that spot turns white. If you wash clothes, sheets or other garments in chlorine bleach too often, the fabric eventually weakens and tears easily.

This doesn't happen with oxygen bleach. It's not as aggressive. It's color and fabric safe once you mix it with water. It's been around for decades, as it's heavily used in the commercial laundry business as hospitals and uniform companies can't use chlorine bleach to de-stain things. If they did, they'd ruin them.

Oxygen bleach also does to odor molecules what it does to stain molecules. It breaks them apart and gets rid of the odor. Just last week I mixed up some of the solution and carefully poured it on my dog to get rid of her dog BO. It worked in seconds. I was careful not to get it in her eyes and mouth and I immediately rinsed her off so she wouldn't lick the solution. In just minutes she smelled as fresh as a puppy!

I wish I would have paid attention in high school chemistry class. I went nearly 41 years without any knowledge that oxygen bleach existed. I ruined lots of things using chlorine bleach that could have been safely cleaned with oxygen bleach.