Getting Your Whites Really White

Keeping linens and clothing as white as the day you bought them can be a challenge. This guide is about getting whites white.

White t-shirts hanging on a clothesline.

March 10, 2010 Flag
33 found this helpful

I remember the days when we used a big black 3-legged wash pot over an open fire to wash clothes. If there's anything I learned and remember best, is how to get and keep white clothes clean and the whitest possible.

Of course, with today's seemingly unlimited types of man-made fibers and exotic fabrics, boiling them might just cause them to be totally unusable at all. So this tip is for white cotton linens, towels and wash clothes and even men's or women's white cotton long or short sleeved blouses and shirts including T-Shirts.

A big white enamel pot works best on your kitchen stove, but I'm sure stainless steel would work just as well.

Add about 3 Tablespoons of laundry soap and the same amount of baking soda, the clothing and fill the pot with clean cold water. If there were stains on the fabric, they should have been treated first individually, but then just boil the clothes for at least half an hour. Keep them punched down so that the water covers them, and boil gently. Allow to cool, wring them out and toss them into the washing machine to rinse and spin out, then dry as usual.

One other little trick is to treat whites with sunlight. There is still nothing as good as Old Father Sun for bleaching out white clothing to their whitest. My Mother often would put a sheet down on the ground, and then the shirt or whatever else she was drying and allow it to dry right there on the ground.


I can remember my snow-white pinafores and her aprons carefully dried, then ironed to pristine perfection. I can't tell you how long it's been since I even saw someone ironing. Most of our clothing today is "Wash & Wear" and while I am enjoying the freedom, I do miss the beauty of lovely white crisp blouses, tea-towels and bed linens.

This sounds old-fashioned, I realize, but once in a while, we run across things which are just better done the old-fashioned way if we want good old-fashioned results.

Happy Day to Everyone

By Pookarina /Julia from Boca Raton, FL

Anonymous Flag
May 16, 20160 found this helpful

Oh, my goodness. My memories are the same.

My mother did all of those things. No washing machine. A very large galvanized tub in the back yard with a scrub board to facilitate the washing, a free standing wringer and another large tub to rinse.

She hung out on the line even in the coldest of winter. I used to help her do all of these. I thought I was so grown up.

My first washing was with an old-purchased washing machine that had two tubs, one for washing and the second for spinning. I rinsed in one of the double laundry tubs, then put them back into the spinner. I graduated to a regular wringer washer (sadly not a Maytag, the most prized washer at that time). Now I use the automatic washing machines.

You are correct ---- all of the mothers were competing as to who not only had the whitest clothes but as to who got the clothes on the line first.

I still hang clothes on the line. I wish they still had diaper pails so I could purchase another to carry my wet clothes out to hang. I quit using a clothes basket (do not own one) when I was in my twenties due to back problems. Carrying the diaper pail was easier on my back then using a laundry basket carrying it in front of me. I miss buying LaFrance. Can still find Boraxo. There are some products other than bleach that were in stores to help whiten or were gentle on my clothing. Not around anymore. Not everyone wears just 'wash and wear' clothing. I buy cotton whenever available. Less problems to my skin.

Have enjoyed reading all of the blogs.

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June 9, 20160 found this helpful

April 30, 2012 Flag
18 found this helpful

I found a way to whiten and brighten my clothes without bleach or Oxyclean, which I am allergic to. I take a bucket of approximately 1/2 gallon of very warm to hot water and 1 cup of lemon ammonia.

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August 13, 2010 Flag
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Pour the hot water into a plastic, enamel or stainless steel (not aluminum) container. Add the dish washing soap and bleach, and stir well. Put 100% cotton in this and let soak for 30 minutes.

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July 22, 2016 Flag
1 found this helpful

This is a guide about cleaning whites without bleach. If you choose to not use bleach for your whites there are other options for getting them clean and white.

Stack of white linens with a white flower resting on top

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July 23, 2016 Flag
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Even if you use bleach, sometimes your whites are dingy and gray after washing. This is a guide about whites not looking white after washing.

Distressed woman looking at white towel in laundry room

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August 17, 2006 Flag
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Whenever I do a load of whites I use Tide with bleach alternative, Calgon water softener, vinegar and Borax. . .

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May 28, 2004 Flag
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Add a teaspoon of Borax to the final rinse when washing white clothing. Make sure the Borax doesn't have any clumps in it so that it will dissolve quickly.

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July 14, 2008 Flag

To remove the "dingies" from white clothes drop a dishwasher soap tab, or a half cup of dishwasher powder (must be for dishwashing machine) into your washer, along with your regular laundry soap, and wash as usual.

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December 8, 2014 Flag
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I've got several white tank tops with colored stripes on them, some are brand new and thus still white, some have the white parts, and sometimes even the colored parts, looking grey and dingy. Is there any way to brighten the dingy ones up, and/or to keep the others from getting that way?

Some examples of my tanks' colors: 50% of each color, white with black, white with red, and white with green.


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December 9, 20141 found this helpful

Try adding washing soda to your detergent. I use Arm and Hammer brand. It should be on the store aisle with the detergent. Don't use more than the directions call for. If you use it with liquid detergent, add the soda first, then let the water fill up before adding detergent. If you use powdered detergent add them before you run the water.

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August 14, 2009 Flag
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I live in New Zealand so I don't have as much access to products as the rest of the world. How do I get my whites, white? They accumulate grease stains, food stains, and sweat stains. I've tried bleach and soaking and the prehistoric cleaning method as well (the one with the wooden board) and still the stains stay there.

Just putting it through the wash gets it cleaner than all the other methods but not as white as I want. That's why I'm asking you guys for help. I am particular about getting it white because I am the supervisor in the kitchen so I have to set an example you know. So how can I get my whites as white as possible?

By kiwi047 from Rotorua, New Zealand

September 5, 20090 found this helpful

Try the product white bright or white out for laundry. We have what is called red wells here in the south and if you add bleach to the wash it turns red and the clothes are dingy. I can't seem to find it now but until a week ago I bought it in the laundry aisle at the wally world (walmart).

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February 1, 20150 found this helpful

August 21, 2015 Flag
0 found this helpful

I have socks with blue and pink heels and toes. Is it okay to wash them with regular whites?

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August 22, 20150 found this helpful

Usually, it's okay!

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August 29, 2011 Flag
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I'm sure someone has already given some hints to whiten whites, but I guess I've missed them. My whites are dingy even though I add bleach and use hot water. What can I do?

By Anne

August 30, 20111 found this helpful

If you are using a dryer all the time for drying your clothes, you might try finding a way to use the sun to help whiten some of the cotton fabrics. I'm not sure that the sun will help too much when it comes to the polyesters and other man-made fibers, but I know for sure that the sun alone will help whiten cotton towels, "t" shirts, socks, bed and table linens, as well as dish or tea towels.

Boiling cotton on the stove will help too, but not everyone has the tubs or buckets to do that with today. You might also try using a little of the electric dishwashing powder, Cascade in some loads to see if it helps.

Water is so often the culprit when it comes to whitening clothes today. Water which contains a lot of iron is just always going to dull the whites and even the pastel colored clothing. You might try adding Oxyclean to those washer loads.

Good luck. I've been there and done that, and it can be a troublesome problem. I understand. I grew up during the time of when a woman was judged partially by the quality of her laundry abilities, and the way the clothes looked hanging out on clotheslines.


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August 31, 20110 found this helpful

July 13, 2011 Flag
0 found this helpful

How can I get my white uniform (nurse dress) back to white?

By D. Oatis

July 14, 20110 found this helpful

I always used "IRON OUT" for my white nursing uniforms and my families white tees. It is a powder sold at Walmart near the hardware section or paint section.It will amaze you.

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March 20, 2015 Flag
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I have a white towel with sewed on colored appliques. I can't use Clorox, and the towel looks grayish. How do I whiten?

By Sandy

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April 2, 20150 found this helpful

Put in a container with warm water about a gallon and about 1/2 to a cup of hydrogen peroxide and let set for a while. Rinse.

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August 26, 2011 Flag
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I soaked my white cotton shirt in cold water with detergent overnight then washed it, but observed subtle yellow tones in some places! This is a beautiful white shirt that cost a lot of money and I don't want to dye it or not wear it. How can I get back the perfect white color? I tried bleach, but it does not work, even though the instructions say no bleach. It also says to wash in cold so I am afraid to try hot water with bleach. Please help.

By Nelsia

August 30, 20110 found this helpful

Try using peroxide to soak the item in. then launder with bluing in the rinse. But don't use too much or it might stain the item blue. Mix the bluing in the water before adding clothing

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August 16, 20120 found this helpful
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