Keeping linens and clothing as white as the day you bought them can be a challenge. This guide is about getting whites white.
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
By peter 1
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
February 1, 2015
There are several methods that you can use to get your whites white again. Let's start with adding a cup of white vinegar to your regular wash. Fill your washer, add your detergent, and the vinegar before adding your clothes. The smell of the vinegar will disappear.
Another method is to use a large stock pot, add 3 tablespoons or detergent and 3 tablespoons of baking soda. Add the items you want to whiten and boil for about half an hour. Let cool, wring out the clothes and toss in the washer just to rinse, and dry as usual.
A third method is hanging your clothes on a clothesline and drying with "good old sunshine." That's nature's way of bleaching your clothes naturally, without doing damage to the fabric and it's also great for brightening all your color clothes as well.
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.
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?
August 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.
How can I get my white uniform (nurse dress) back to white?
By D. Oatis
July 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!
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.
August 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.
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.
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
March 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.
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
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.
December 9, 2014
Maybe Oxyclean or color safe bleach?
By kate duff 1
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
January 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!
By Jill 1
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
September 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.
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
By Audra A. 1
I have socks with blue and pink heels and toes. Is it okay to wash them with regular whites?
I have a white towel with sewed on colored appliques. I can't use Clorox, and the towel looks grayish. How do I whiten?
Does anybody have any ideas as to why my underwear has turned grey especially my bras? I have already tried using a whitener product like a sachet in the back of the machine which is supposed to get rid of the grey and take laundry back to white, but to no avail. I really want to get my bras back to white again so any ideas would be great. Thanks.
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.
November 1, 2014
Sounds like you have rust in your water. Are you also noticing brown streaks in your showers and toilets? My parents had a major rust problem at one house they lived in. They switched water softener/filter services (they paid monthly for the softener & refills) and it turned out the old company wasn't changing the filter - it was disgusting and deteriorating!
If rust is your problem, I suggest getting a good water softener and filter system and check/replace the filter frequently to prevent further damage to your clothes and house.
To get the existing rust stains out of your clothes, try vinegar or lemon juice. One instructable used lemon juice with salt, but that was for spot treating. Look up how to get rust out of clothes, and see if that works for you. Good luck!
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.
March 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 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.
November 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.
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 shannonm52 1
I put my white tops in with coloured clothes and then into the dryer. They came out discoloured and one top went slightly blue. How can I restore the colour without ruinning my tops?
What can be used to get a greyed lace bra back to white again?
By Lorna P
My white sweater turned grey, but it has a black design on it. It says "Paris Darling" in black with the Eiffel Tower
By Serena m from Vancouver, BC
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!
What can I use to get cold water whites (tops, bras, etc.) white again?
Whites will be whiter if you soak them in hot water for 10 minutes along with a few lemon slices.
Tips for washing white clothing. Post your ideas.
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)
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.
CAUTION! Do not use if you are using bleach. (02/17/2005)
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)
Used warm water while washing white. Plus a little Dawn dish liq well also brighten your whites. (02/25/2005)
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.
Don't wash in hot water. It sets in stains. Cold is best. (06/02/2006)
What can I use in place of bleach for whitening whites?
Brian from St. Petersburg, FL
(format_html)Tips for washing white clothing. Post your ideas.
My mom used to use a product called Bluing for laundry. Do they even still have this? It worked great! (01/15/2007)
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)
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)
Dollar Tree sells an "oyx-clean" product made by Awesome and it IS awesome and only $1. (01/17/2007)
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)
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.
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)
Don't overdo it with the Cascade. It is very hard on clothes and will shorten their life of use. (08/14/2007)
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)
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
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)
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)
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)
For most stains, Avon bubble bath rubbed into the stain really works. (10/07/2008)
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
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)
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)
How do I get whites whiter in the laundry? I normally use a rust out product from Wal-Mart but was wondering if anything like vinegar, baking soda or something else cheaper would work? We have hard water - live in the country.
Thanks in advance for any helps or hints.
Patti from N Manchester, IN
I always find that adding a handful of baking soda to my wash-load really helps to deep-clean the fabrics without wearing them out. (01/21/2007)
I also use the "Iron Out" product and it is not cheap but have found that it is less expensive than buying new whites. My local Tractor Supply store has it cheaper because you can buy it in bulk also when washing make sure you do a full load so that you only have to use the amount directed once. I have a huge plastic container that I soak my white in and I can get 2 loads of whites and only use 1/2 cup of product this stretches my bottle and I have found that I don not have to replace it as often. Iron Out is well worth the money especially if you have hard water. (01/24/2007)
Concerning the Wash in cold water post... I have seen this post several times in response to other laundry issues. Logically it does not add up. If using hot water "cooks" a stain then what does putting it into a dryer do? Detergent Manufacturers advise hotel laundries to raise the water temps 10 - 15 degrees in order to boost the performance of the detergents. Yes, some fabrics require cold water but with proper pretreatment Hot is still the best for whites. (01/24/2007)
I use Iron Out on whites and its great. But, can you use them on whites with colored embroidery/logo? Will it discolor the embroidery? (07/30/2007)
I'm a poor college student, so when I do my washes, I tend to mix colors and do it on cold. That way colors have less of a chance of running. It works better than you'd think. After a while my whites start to get a little darker, I suppose because of the blacks in the wash, including a shirt I just got (first wash!). This shirt, among a few others that could use some whitening, have that plastic shirt logo/band names/design.
What's the best way to get these clothes blindingly white again, without ruining the logos and whatnot? Should I hand wash them with some home remedy and then, when they're good again, continue washing them with like colors? Thanks in advance.
Rylee from Hollywood, CA
Ok college kid, I have one just like you and he did the same thing. You need to stop RIGHT NOW washing whites with colors! Use OxyClean with hot water for JUST THE WHITES instead of liquid bleach (fades the logos, etc.) and continue to wash whites alone. Unless of course, you want dingy whites all the time, which you don't. I know this makes 2 loads where you possibly have only 1 good sized load but this is the only way I know to keep whites white. Works at my house and worked for my OSU student. Maybe you could get a friend to share a washer with you. (06/30/2008)
Rit Dye company makes a product that will remove the dye from improperly washed clothes. It's called (you guessed it) dye remover. You can find it in supermarkets. Wash your colors separately, wash whites alone. Otherwise, everything becomes grey! (07/02/2008)
There is a RIT DYE product (Color Remover) that comes in a powder or liquid you can get at most any store. I like to use the powder and put it in the sink, or a bucket, go by the directions then add your dingy whites and let soak. Then put in your washing machine and wash as usual. Might have to put your sunglasses on when you take them from the wash! (07/04/2008)
Tried washing with 3 or 4 aspirins. It works. (07/14/2008)
When my white articles get stained or dingy from our hard water, I soak them in a bucket of hot water with plain old Cascade dishwasher powder or liquid. Makes them white as new and doesn't rot the material the way that Clorox does. (03/02/2010)
My friend gave me this hint, in your wash put 2 cap of peroxide. It makes your white white.
Does anyone have ideas how to get dingy whites bright white again? So many of my white t-shirts are starting to look off-white or light tan. I would like an easy way to get them back to the white white color.
jho from Chassell
I love the generic oxygen cleaners at the dollar stores. The well known name brand is OxiClean.
Pre-soak the white clothes over night, and I think you will see a difference.
I use Oxiclean and put a load in the dryer and let them soak for several hours in it and then run them through a regular wash. (10/21/2008)
Along with using oxiclean, you might try to add some old fashioned Mrs. Stewart's laundry bluing to the rinse water. Dilute a few drops of bluing in 1 to 2 quarts of cold water and add to your wash water or rinse water. The water should appear a light sky blue color. Old fashioned? Yes, but it works. (10/21/2008)
To prevent dinginess, be sure that you wash whites separately from colored things. Even though things are colorfast, washing colored articles with whites will result in the whites being dingy. Another reason for dinginess is washing whites with items that are heavily soiled. Less often, whites are "yellowed" from the type of water you have.
If your whites are solidly white, you can bleach them. If you have colored areas, such as colored sleeves or printing you do not want to use bleach as it will fade them out.
Another product for making whites bright is bluing. It is an old-fashioned product, found in the laundry aisle, Mrs. Stewart's Bluing being the most common brand. You add it to the rinse water. This is especially useful if your whites are dull because of the type of water that you have as opposed to be washed with dark colored garments. (10/21/2008)
Fill washer with hottest water you have. Add 1 cup Clorox, 1 cup dishwasher compound, and 1 cup of powder laundry detergent. Soak overnight, was as usual next day. Works great! (10/21/2008)
By my secret
My sister once sent me an article on the benefits of peroxide. One surprising use for this inexpensive household product is as a laundry whitener. I slosh about half a cup (more or less) in each wash. A bottle of peroxide costs less than a dollar and, if laundry were all you used it for, could whiten perhaps 15 or 20 loads. (Sorry, I never counted.) (10/21/2008)
I got this tip from somewhere (maybe this site, I can't remember for sure) to add a tablet of dishwasher detergent to the whites. When I bought it, my store only had the generic regular, or for about 50 cents more the Cascade brand with Dawn, (and it had more in it) so I bought that. I add one tablet and it had really made a big difference in mine (and I have to use the laundromat)! Try it. (10/21/2008)
RIT brand dye has an actual whitening packet. It is inexpensive, and works great! (10/22/2008)
By Sherry T
I bleach my whites once in a while and hang them in the sun to dry. It works great with tennis shoes, too. I wash them in the washer and lay them out in the sun. Hope you have a place to hang things. Good luck. (10/23/2008)
Thanks for all the great feedback. I tried the LA's Totally Awesome Power Oxygen Base cleaner from the Dollar Tree. It is a 16 ounce powder for one dollar (obviously). The scoop size is two tablespoons and there are 15 scoops total. The cost is .07 per scoop (that includes the tax on the dollar). My white t-shirts were so dingy they looked tan. I put very hot water and tried one scoop, which didn't seem to do anything so I did it again and put three scoops (why I didn't try two scoops I don't know, but I wanted it to work for sure, therefore the three). It worked magically. I'm so excited that I'm soaking every white thing I have in my house. Once I get everything white I will use half a scoop to each wash and see if that helps, if not I will use the whole scoop. (10/24/2008)
My experience with white t-shirts are to wash them in warm water with oxiclean and your laundry soap, preferably a name brand, I use Purex Free and Clear because I have allergies along with Oxiclean free. Good luck.