My first introduction to bleach was in college. I added it to a laundry of my most colorful T-shirts, believing it would make the colors brighter. I still don't know what I did wrong, but they all came out looking as if they'd been tossed into a Paint 'n Swirl. Fortunately, this was the '80s, and it turned out to be a fashion statement.

Today, bleach has a different connotation for me. Anytime there's a stock market meltdown, such as we saw in 2008-2009, the investment pundits always talk about the "flight to quality." They urge us to buy the stocks that have been around forever because of their "safety." Clorox (NYSE: CLX) often seems to be one of them.

On the surface, it seems to make sense. Clorox makes tons of consumer staples -- from its namesake bleach to Armor All, Glad bags, Pine Sol, and Hidden Valley salad dressings. In that regard, it has a diversified consumer products offering much like those of larger competitors Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG) and Kraft (NYSE: KFT).

Yeah, like P&G and Kraft, Clorox is a fine company with a good balance sheet -- manageable debt, cash on hand, cash flow in excess of interest expense. OK, so consensus estimates have it growing earnings 11% this year over last. That's fine. And it does have a 3.2% dividend.

But here's my problem: I happen to look at the broader market and economy when making individual stock decisions. I have a higher tolerance for risk, and I'll take more risk when the market is crashing. Like other "safe" stocks, Clorox just doesn't offer that much chance for capital gain.

Last March, I expected outsized returns for taking a risk with my capital, and got them. I bought St. Joe Company (NYSE: JOE), General Electric (NYSE: GE), and Leucadia National (NYSE: LUK). All those stocks performed way better than Clorox off the March 2009 bottom.

My issue with Clorox is but an example of a larger trend, especially as market sentiment has become more ebullient.

Right now, in large-cap stocks, I do not see premium returns given the overall risk to capital. Clorox's 11% growth estimates and 3.2% yield might be all right in certain circumstances. However, a PEG ratio of almost 1.4 on this year's earnings suggests to me that Clorox is an overvalued stock. Even at last year's low price of $46, it was still trading at a PEG ratio of 1.1. That still looked overpriced compared to the other opportunities I mentioned above.

More conservative investors than I might prefer Clorox -- in fact, the folks at Motley Fool Income Investor list it as an active recommendation. Others point out that it trades at a discount to its peers. All true. But I'm looking for outsized absolute returns, not relative ones.

Clorox is still good for bleaching shirts, but I might pick it up only when it's '80s night at my local hangout.

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Rick Steier owns shares of General Electric. Leucadia National is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor choice. Clorox and Procter & Gamble are Income Investor picks. The Fool owns shares of Procter & Gamble. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.