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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
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
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
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.
Whites will be whiter if you soak them in hot water for 10 minutes along with a few lemon slices.
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
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.
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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Here are questions related to Getting Your Whites Really 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 LeeAnne67 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!
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!
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 Frugal Sunnie11/28/2013
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.
What can I use to get cold water whites (tops, bras, etc.) white again?
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
By Frugal Sunnie01/21/2013
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!
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
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
How can I get my white uniform (nurse dress) back to white?
By D. Oatis
By Judy = Oklahoma07/15/2011
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!
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
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.
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
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).
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
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.
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.
Tips for washing white clothing. Post your ideas.
CAUTION! Do not use if you are using bleach. (02/17/2005)
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)
What can I use in place of bleach for whitening whites?
Brian from St. Petersburg, FL
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.
By Jennifer Haubrich
By shells bells