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Solid or liquid chemical compound used to whiten or remove the natural colour of fibres, yarns, paper, and textile fabrics. Sunlight was the chief bleaching agent up to the discovery of chlorine in 1774 by Karl Wilhelm Scheele (b. 1742d. 1786) and the demonstration of its bleaching properties in 1785 by Claude-Louis Berthollet (b. 1748d. 1822). In textile finishing, the bleaching process is used to produce white cloth, to prepare fabrics for other finishes, or to remove discoloration. Chlorine, sodium hypochlorite, calcium hypochlorite, and hydrogen peroxide are commonly used as bleaches.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on bleach, visit Britannica.com.