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Getting Your Whites Really White

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White t-shirts hanging on a clothesline.

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

Solutions: Getting Your Whites Really White

Read and rate the best solutions below by giving them a "thumbs up".

Tip: Old Fashioned White Laundry

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

Tip: Ammonia To Whiten Clothes

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. I start with my lightest color or white garment that has turned dingy or gray and put it in the bucket. I swirl it all around with a stick. I take it out, wring it out and throw it in the washer. Then I go to the next lightest garment.

If I should run low on this mixture, I just add another 1/2 gallon of very warm water and another cup of lemon ammonia then load the washer with the other clothes.

If there's any solution left, I just dump it in the washer and start the load in the usual manner. On occasion, I put a cup of white vinegar in the rinse water. I've never had my clothes smell like ammonia and the ammonia is much gentler on the fabric then bleach.

WARNING: Never use bleach if you use ammonia!

Source: I noticed my cleaning rags would come out cleaner when I use ammonia so I gave it a try.

By Babbie from Lemon Grove, CA

Tip: Getting Whites Clothes White Again

Ingredients:

  • 1 gal. hot water
  • 1/2 cup automatic dish washing soap (powder)
  • 1/4 cup bleach

Directions:

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. Then wash as usual. This works well, they come out snow white.

For rayon or polyester, do not put clothes in while water is hot.

By Robin from Washington, IA

Tip: Whiter Whites with Borax Rinse

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.

Tip: Whiter Whites

Whites will be whiter if you soak them in hot water for 10 minutes along with a few lemon slices.

By

Tip: Removing Dinginess from Whites

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. Works really great on white socks!

Source: trial and error!

By Catastrofy from Winnipeg, Canada

Tip: Laundry - Making Whites Whiter

Whenever I do a load of whites I use Tide with bleach alternative, Calgon water softener, vinegar and Borax. I begin to add HOT water to machine then pour in all ingredients approx 1/2 cup of liquids and about 1/4 cup of Calgon and Borax. Allow all the ingredients to dissolve first before adding clothes! Nothing, (not even bleach) gets my clothes whiter than this method.

Tip: Soaking Your White Laundry

To get and keep your white laundry the whitest you can, soak the load overnight in the washing machine with your normal detergent and additives. Agitate the load for a few minutes, turn off, and let soak. In the morning you simply have to turn the machine back on to finish the cycle. It really makes a noticeable difference!

By Leann D

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Questions

Here are questions related to Getting Your Whites Really White.

Question: Cleaning White T-shirts

My t-shirts are all turning light brown from white. I use the same Arm and Hammer soap and the good Clorox. The only change is I moved and now I have well water and very hot water. Help.

By Tommy

Question: Getting Whites White

Instead of the dishwashing powder, can I use the Cascade action pacs dish tabs? That's all I have. And they're white powder with blue (Dawn) and orange fluids in them.

By Christal


Most Recent Answer

By LeeAnne67 [3]03/31/2014

If it says on the package that it's made for the dishwasher, then you can use them. I personally love the convenience of the tabs, and they are not messy like the powders are. They are probably a bit more expensive to use per load than powders, but they're worth it to me.

Now, if you're talking about using the tabs for the washing machine, I don't know if tabs made for the dishwasher could be used in the laundry. Definitely not use laundry tabs in the dishwasher....you'll have suds all over!

Question: Making Dingy Uniforms White

I have some uniforms that went from bright white to dingy. I've tried borax, Rit, peroxide, Cascade, bleach, and baking soda... none of which have worked. Help!

By Cjones

Question: Products Available in India for Whitening Shirts

I live in Hyderabad India. i always wear white, khaki or linen shirts. Slowly they are turning into white grey which I don't like. Please, I need someone to help me by guiding with products available in Hyderabad, India.

By Sreekanth


Most Recent Answer

By Frugal Sunnie [11]11/28/2013

Can you get plain white distilled vinegar? Using it in the rinsing water works a treat to brighten whites.

There may be products in your shops - you'd be looking for the words 'laundry bluing'; Robin Blue and Reckitt's Crown Blue used to be widely available in India but you have to know to look for it! You can also get it from Amazon if you can order online. I get it from Amazon UK because it's really hard to find in our local Scottish shops.

Bluing works better than anything else to brighten whites, it's amazing! But if you can't find it in your town, try the white vinegar because it works almost as well as the bluing.

Question: Getting White Clothing White in Cold Water

What can I use to get cold water whites (tops, bras, etc.) white again?

By J.L.

Question: Getting Nappies Whiter

Does anyone know how I can get my white nappies to become white again? They have been well used and now look gray, I'd love to see them gleaming bright white again! Many thanks to anyone who can help.

By Kate from Rothesay, Argyllshire


Most Recent Answer

By Frugal Sunnie [11]01/21/2013

Hiya Kate! I'm in Angus:)

Believe it or not, it may be those nappies have gone grey owing to soap residue! Even the gentle soaps for Baby's laundering can leave residue. (Our machines just don't use enough water in the rinse cycle to really get the soap out.)

Another part of the problem may be that there is a mixed fibre content in your nappies-you want 100% cotton for a truly good nappy but a lot of companies are pushing % cotton-% synthetic nappies on parents these days as being easier to clean (not true, though as any mum with a rashy baby will tell you). Check the label for content.

I really think your trouble is residue, though. Try running the nappies through twice or even three times without additional soap. Use the hottest setting possible on your machine.

Watch the clothes washing machine window during the 'wash' to see if you are getting any sudsing-if you see sudsing you'll need to repeat the washing until you no longer see sudsing in the window. After you get all the residue out of the nappies you should see a much whiter piece of fabric:) In the future, use only half or two-thirds amount of soap that you had been using.

You can also add a cup of vinegar to the wash (in the fabric softener area of the tray), and for really stubborn grey, add a quarter cup of hydrogen peroxide (tell the chemist that you want the mouthwash strength).

Our UK clothes washing machines are wonders at saving energy and water but are not great for really getting clothing (and nappies) clean as the amount of water and the agitation vigour are low. I have to watch my husband as he uses far too much soap and then it takes up to four repeated cycles to get all the soap out!

I'm so glad to be back in Scotland, but I do miss the top load clothes washers-wowsa, did those machines clean the laundry!

Question: Keeping White Towels White

I find the the nice white towels I bought 2 months ago are now a dirty whitish grey. Bleach is automatically filtered into the wash. How do I get them white again?

By Irene from Whanganui, New Zealand


Most Recent Answer

By lauriedeee03/15/2014

If your whites are turning grayish.. check your dryer. Open the dryer door and towards the back you'll see a circle with some kind of rubber around it. Take a damp soapy washcloth and wipe it all around that circle. If you get black or grayish dirt on the washcloth then it's the dryer that's causing your whites to turn gray. I scrubbed the inside of my dryer and was amazed at the black stuff that came off the inside back and the drum. Unfortunately, I don't know why it's happening or how to fix it other than to not use the dryer for white clothes. I'll have to have hubby see if he can fix it.

Question: Whitening Dingy White Clothing

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


Most Recent Answer

By joanfry [23]08/31/2011

Wash a few times with no detergent or bleach, or anything. Use warm water. Hang in sun. I do this automatically all the time and my whites are quite acceptable.

Oops! I do put detergent in sometimes, but the dingy look, I believe, comes from a build up of too much soap and synthetics. Hope this works for you.

Question: White Shirt Turned Yellow in Wash

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


Most Recent Answer

By MelBunny [1]08/16/2012

If the stains are on the underarm part of the shirt, that's caused by wearing deodorant. I've heard that smokers usually get these stains because of the nicotine coming out in their sweat, reacting with the deodorant, but I don't know if that's true. Your best bet is to try either soaking in baking soda mixed with water or vinegar.

Question: Getting White Clothing White Again

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

By D. Oatis


Most Recent Answer

By Judy = Oklahoma [57]07/15/2011

If it's just a dingy white color that can't be helped with bleach or Oxyclean, try 'liquid bluing', it's been around since forever! It's in the laundry dept of the store, in a blue bottle. It's a little scary using it at 1st because it is a very dark blue (how could something blue possibly make your clothes white instead of dying it blue?). I believe (haven't used it in awhile) you are supposed to add it to the water & let it agitate before you add the clothing, but it works very well, it makes your white clothing whiter & brighter!

Question: Brightening White Clothing

How do I get white clothes white again? They have a dingy, a rusty color to them. The tops are made of cotton, with some rayon in them.

By Jill from Durant, IA


Most Recent Answer

By Dorothy [1]09/15/2010

Add baking soda to your whites when washing. I use this all the time and they are whiter than when using bleach. For an extra boost, stop the wash and let them soak in the water for a little while.

Question: Getting Whites White

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


Most Recent Answer

By Eadie09/05/2009

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).

Question: White Microfiber Shirt

My husband has a white microfiber shirt that he loves but it is turning gray and splotchy, particularly on the back. It has some white spots on it from using a bleach pen to remove stains. This just shows how gray the shirt has become. It says not to bleach it but I really want to get it white again! I wonder if our well water could be partly to blame. What should I do?

Miriam from Independence, OR


Most Recent Answer

By (Guest Post)07/18/2007

I use Oxyclean or Rit Whitewash to get my whites "white". You can find it at the grocery store.

Archives

Thrifty Fun has been around so long that many of our pages have been reset several times. Archives are older versions of the page and the feedback that was provided then.

Archive: Whiter Whites - Tips For Washing White Clothing

Tips for washing white clothing. Post your ideas.


Borax and Dishwashing Detergent

To brighten your whites use borax and automatic dishwashing detergent along with half of your regular laundry soap. Not only will your whites be bright, but you won't have that awful bleach smell in your clothes. By Kat (01/17/2005)

By ThriftyFun

Ammonia

A little ammonia added to your wash water with your whites will help make them brighter. Be careful using this with delicates, though, and also don't use it on bright colors as they color may fade.

By Robin

CAUTION! Do not use if you are using bleach. (02/17/2005)

By ThriftyFun

Don't Mix Ammonia and Bleach!

If you use ammonia in the wash NEVER use chlorine bleach with the ammonia. It creates an harmful gas. Just use one or the other. (02/17/2005)

By Luvyabye

Warm Water and Dawn

Used warm water while washing white. Plus a little Dawn dish liq well also brighten your whites. (02/25/2005)

By Kitty1952

Lemon Juice

1 cup of lemon juice naturally bleaches the whites along with your detergent. When you use bleach, the material thins out.

On stubborn stains, use electric dishwasher soap instead of laundry soap. When my daughter was in Little League, and her white uniform pants were red from the dirt, the electric dishwashing soap did wonders. (05/27/2005)

By Sheryl

Cold Water

Don't wash in hot water. It sets in stains. Cold is best. (06/02/2006)

By Lucinda

Archive: Whiter Whites - Tips For Washing White Clothing

What can I use in place of bleach for whitening whites?

Brian from St. Petersburg, FL


Request: Whiter Whites - Tips For Washing White Clothing

(format_html)Tips for washing white clothing. Post your ideas.

Bluing

My mom used to use a product called Bluing for laundry. Do they even still have this? It worked great! (01/15/2007)

By lazisuzi

OxyClean Alternative

I like OxyClean, but it's expensive so I tried a product put out by Sun detergent that is also an oxygen cleaner. Seems to work pretty well. We have extremely hard water so I know how hard it is to get whites really white! (01/15/2007)

By Robin

Iron Out

I have lots of iron in my well water. If I use bleach, my whites turn orange. So I buy a product called Iron Out at Walmart. It is a powder sold in 2 sizes. The large size is much more economical and is 5 pounds in a plastic jug for about $10.00. It is great for whites, but has a warning about using on colors. I also use it to clean the iron sediment from the toilet tank and bowl, and prefer it to any of the toilet bowl cleaners I have tried. Other uses are also listed on the jug. (01/15/2007)

By Harlean from Arkansas

Dollar Tree

Dollar Tree sells an "oyx-clean" product made by Awesome and it IS awesome and only $1. (01/17/2007)

By Grandma Margie

Oxygen Cleaning Ingredients

Use a powder specifically for bleaching nappies white, or find one that has 'oxygen' cleaning ingredients. You mix a small amount of powder in water, and soak the item, then was the normal way. They're awesome! (01/19/2007)

By Cathy

Archive: Getting Whites White

Put Cascade dish washing detergent in your white laundry to make the whites their whitest.

By Tammy from Economy, IN

Editor's Note: Most dishwasher detergent contains bleach. Be sure to only try this on clothing that can be bleached. I would recommend using 1 Tbsp. per 1/2 gallon of water and soak the item before washing for best results.


RE: Whiter Whites - Tips For Washing White Clothing

My mom puts cascade in every load of laundry. She waits until the washer is filled completely full (because it does contain bleach) and then puts in a cup of the powder cascade. If you have hard water she will add a cup of salt to each load of laundry as well. (08/13/2007)

By Tammy

RE: Whiter Whites - Tips For Washing White Clothing

Don't overdo it with the Cascade. It is very hard on clothes and will shorten their life of use. (08/14/2007)

By pabk

RE: Whiter Whites - Tips For Washing White Clothing

Cold water is only good to stop a stain from actually happening, because if you use hot water it will help bake the stain into the clothing so you can't get it out without bleaching. This is the same with drying, use hot water or cold water if there is already a stain in it. (11/11/2007)

By Somebody

RE: Whiter Whites - Tips For Washing White Clothing

I've heard that you can use vinegar to whiten your white clothes, is this true? Or does the lemon juice work better? (12/29/2007)

By Jennifer Haubrich

RE: Whiter Whites - Tips For Washing White Clothing

Iron Out works (also at places like Home Depot and some grocery stores). Be careful not to put any wash in that has ANY colored embroidery or color to it- fades the color and changes the color, black becomes brown, yellow becomes orange, etc. Ruined quite a many special. Scrub top with it. (03/15/2008)

By Tracy

RE: Whiter Whites - Tips For Washing White Clothing

Mix regular Dawn and rubbing alcohol in equal amounts. Pour into spray bottle. Spray on spots and stains before putting item in washer. Wash as usual. (04/11/2008)

By June

RE: Whiter Whites - Tips For Washing White Clothing

I find that if your washer has a second rinse cycle running it will also help get all the dinge out that the first rinse did not eliminate. I'm going to try the auto dish washing detergent idea though. I find that my whites are getting more and more grey. Thanks. (07/06/2008)

By Gil

RE: Whiter Whites - Tips For Washing White Clothing

For most stains, Avon bubble bath rubbed into the stain really works. (10/07/2008)

By Darlene

RE: Whiter Whites - Tips For Washing White Clothing

My grandma uses Clorox powder, bleach, and hot water soaked overnight. So I just send her my whites, lol. (10/09/2008)

By shells bells

RE: Whiter Whites - Tips For Washing White Clothing

My mother mixed 1 cup laundry detergent, 1/2 cup dish washing powder (generic worked best), and 1/2 cup bleach. Let sit in hot, hot water for 1/2 an hour and then finish wash cycle. She always rinsed 2 times. Worked great on 2nd hand baby items, and my brother's white football jersey. (10/13/2008)

By Tina

RE: Whiter Whites - Tips For Washing White Clothing

I haven't tried it yet, but ever watch the old British women - Clean House or How Clean is Your House? I saw them use Denture Tabs on white lace curtains that had already been soaking in bleach - after they soaked in the denture tabs & warm water for like a minute, you could see the difference, the water was almost black, and again, they soaked in bleach first. (11/13/2008)

By TMTIBBS