Why OxiClean Is a Laundry Staple Everyone Should Have at Home

updated Dec 20, 2023
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

I use OxiClean for everything and it has never failed me. It’s the only way I’ve been able to clean my white shag rug and it’s saved many of my husband’s favorite work shirts. I always felt somewhat guilty for using it because I thought that since it worked so well it must be filled with harsh chemicals, fragrances and dyes.

I finally decided to face my guilty cleaning demons and find out what was in my favorite cleaner and was pleasantly surprised with what I discovered.

Quick Overview

What Are the Main OxiClean Ingredients?

  • Sodium percarbonate
  • Sodium carbonate
  • Surfactants
  • Polymer

The OxiClean product information page clues us in to four key ingredients in its formula: sodium percarbonate, sodium carbonate, surfactants and polymer. Let’s dig in deeper to what each one does.

Sodium Percarbonate and Sodium Carbonate

OxiClean’s most important active ingredient is sodium percarbonate: Which is basically dry/powdered hydrogen peroxide plus washing soda. Washing soda is also called sodium carbonate, which is very similar to but not exactly baking soda.

When we asked laundry expert Patric Richardson to recommend a homemade substitute that was the most chemically similar to OxiClean, he told us to mix hydrogen peroxide with washing soda. You can add that mixture to the laundry to remove organic stains or brighten a load, the same way you would OxiClean, but you’d have to use it right away. Richardson said that once the homemade mix touches water, it off-gases oxygen and loses its effectiveness.

Credit: Joe Lingeman


The next ingredient on OxiClean’s ingredients list is a surfactant. Surfactants are a category of substance that forms the backbone of almost every cleaner you use at home. They’re designed to reduce the surface tension of water, allowing the water and your cleaner to better penetrate whatever it is you’re cleaning (i.e. fabric). The surfactant molecule also features both hydrophillic (water-loving) and hydrophobic (water-fearing) ends. Those double-ended molecules form micelles that cling to dirt on the hydrophobic ends, then using the hydrophillic ends to clear away the dirt with the wash water.

If you’re interested in learning more, this article from the American Cleaning Institute does a great job at explaining how surfactants work.


The reason OxiClean has such a lasting shelf life compared to Richardson’s closest guess at a homemade solution might be due to another element that the makers of OxiClean lists among its ingredients: polymer. Polymers are chemical compounds, and without knowing more about OxiClean’s specific polymer, we’d guess it’s there to stabilize the mixture and provide a longer shelf life.

That brings me to another point: It’s impossible to know every detail about every ingredient in OxiClean. Most cleaning companies will often keep the formula of their solutions a proprietary secret. And contrary to popular belief, cleaning products aren’t regulated by the FDA, which would require them to disclose full ingredients lists, since they’re not intended for human consumption or skin application.

So while these four ingredients are things we know are included in OxiClean’s formula, there’s likely to be more. For example, OxiClean sells both a regular and “free” version of it’s powdered formula: the free version claims to be free of dyes and fragrances, which seems to imply that the regular formula contains both.

Is OxiClean Safe to Use?

Since OxiClean’s primary ingredients are sodium percarbonate, sodium carbonate, surfactants, and polymer, it’s a less harsh stain remover than many others. But that doesn’t mean OxiClean can be used with complete abandon. 

It’s important to always spot-test any material you’re going to use OxiClean on to make sure you’re not going to damage the fabric in any way. Additionally, OxiClean should not be used on certain objects, including jewelry, wicker, and teak, and fabrics, including silk, wool, leather, or dry-clean-only fabrics. Furthermore, do not store OxiClean in a spray bottle as pressure can build up and cause the spray bottle to rupture. 

While OxiClean should be used with some caution, it is safe for septic systems and will break down into ingredients (such as water and plant ash) that are harmless to the environment. OxiClean is also safe for HE machines and front-loading washers. 

Jessica Samson, cleaning expert with The Maids, confirms that “OxiClean is a non-toxic, biodegradable product and is eco-friendly and contains no harsh ingredients” but she also cautions that OxiClean should not be ingested orally. Hence, safety measures like keeping the product out of the reach of children and pets are important. 

Another safety precaution involves not mixing OxiClean with other products. “OxiClean contains various active ingredients designed to lift stains and brighten fabrics. Mixing it with other cleaners or bleach can cause a chemical reaction due to incompatible ingredients. It could lead to less effective cleaning or even produce harmful fumes,” cautions Elizabeth Shields, operations manager at Super Cleaning Service Louisville. “Stick to using OxiClean on its own as directed on the packaging. That way, you’ll get the best results without any risks to your clothes or surfaces.”