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Getting Your Whites Really White

Category Laundry
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.
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Solutions

Share on ThriftyFunThis guide contains the following solutions. Have something to add? Please share your solution!

By 34 found this helpful
March 10, 2010

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.

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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.

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Happy Day to Everyone

By Pookarina /Julia from Boca Raton, FL

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By 19 found this helpful
April 30, 2012

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.

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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

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By 8 found this helpful
August 13, 2010

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

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May 28, 20041 found this helpful

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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August 17, 20060 found this helpful

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.

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July 14, 2008

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!

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Source: trial and error!

By Catastrofy from Winnipeg, Canada

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July 22, 20161 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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October 26, 20040 found this helpful

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.

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July 23, 20160 found this helpful

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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By 0 found this helpful
December 10, 2012

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

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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

By 0 found this helpful
August 14, 2009

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

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
August 14, 20090 found this helpful

This may not help much because it only refers to stains, but put fresh lemon juice on the stain after you wash the garment BUT before you dry it. Putting stained cloths in a dryer will set the stain. Put the wet garment with the lemon juice on the stain out in the sun and the stain should come out.

I've heard that stains from oils on the skin can be washed out using ordinary hair shampoo because shampoo is made to dissolve hair oil, body oil. I'd use a 'clear' type of shampoo not one with conditioners in it.

There are homemade recipes on this site for Fels Naptha Soap - I think that's how you spell it. But I don't know if you can buy it in your area. You can try to find it on line. But I'd search this site first if I were you. Good Luck!

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August 14, 20090 found this helpful

Have you tried SUNSHINE? It will bleach clothing... For natural "organic" stains use hydrogen Peroxide.

ALSO: have your ever heard of Bluing?

In the olden days (back until the 1960's) I remember my grandmother using something called "bluing"....pronounced blue-ing. It turns whites REALLY white!

You can order it from the URL below.

HERE'S INFO:

http://www.mrss  ages/purpose.htm

http://mommysav  your-whites.html

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August 14, 20090 found this helpful

My grandma always swore by a good washing, then laying the clothes out on the grass over nite. She said the combination of dew and sunshine will make them white. I am not sure if it works, but it can't hurt! Best of luck to you!

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August 18, 20090 found this helpful

If you are using pure cotton fabric you can boil the tea towels etc. in lye. That is what was used in the old days. Be sure you have an open window or do it outside.

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August 18, 20090 found this helpful

Try washing the items in dishwasher detergent. That's what the chefs here in the United States do.

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August 18, 20090 found this helpful

I wash my whites with bleach and electrosol (which is dishwasher soap). I've done this for years, I put about 1/4 cup for a large load.

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August 21, 20090 found this helpful

I have been in the restaurant business all of my life--inherited it from both parents. Mom was a bakeress & daddy was a Chef. I myself am a retired Chef. When working, I was very picky about my white coat & pants. My solution was to use just a dot or 2 of Dawn dish washing liquid on any spots I thought would stain-scrub them for just a minute with a fingernail brush. Then I would fill my washer about 1/4 of the way with straight hot water & add a 1/2 c. of automatic dishwasher soap to the tub--the cheaper the better because most cheaper brands have more phosphorous. I'd swish the water around, turn the temp. to warm, & put in my whites when the tub was about halfway full. Then I'd add about half the amount of detergent to the tub that I would normally use.

I rinsed my whites in cold & added a cup of baking soda. Baking soda seemed to freshen the fabric because--as you know, even washing sometimes doesn't remove the food or grease odors from your whites. I also took my Chef whites from the dryer before they were completely dry. Complete drying seemed to make them feel stiff & scratchy against my skin. Then, because I was such a fanatic about looking right, I ironed them whether they needed it or not. A light coating of spray starch somehow seemed to keep the whites from staining so badly.

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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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July 13, 20110 found this helpful

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

By D. Oatis

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
July 13, 20110 found this helpful

Can you use bleach to clean your uniform? If yes, try washing like you usually do with detergent and add bleach.

Don't put it in the dryer, which will set any stain, but try drying it stretched out in the bright sunlight.

My sister swears by this trick.

Good Luck!

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July 13, 20110 found this helpful

I have recently started using Oxyclean instead of bleach in my wash. It whitens and is not as harsh as bleach. It can be used on colors too. It won't yellow the fqbric with blends, such as cotton/poly.

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July 14, 20110 found this helpful

I agree with MartyD.. Use Oxyclean, it is wonderful.

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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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July 15, 20110 found this helpful

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!

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By 0 found this helpful
July 23, 2017

I have a white blouse with colored sparkles on it and I sent it to the laundry while I was on a cruise. When it came back the white was a pale brown and the colored sparkles were unaffected. What can I do to return the blouse to white without damaging the sparkles?

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By 0 found this helpful
August 29, 2011

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

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
August 29, 20110 found this helpful

Here is a link that discusses ways to make clothes whiter...

http://www.ehow  sing-bleach.html

It discusses boiling water and soaking clothes in the pot of water with lemon slices, and also using a small amount of dishwasher detergent in the laundry. Also vinegar is discussed. My favorite is lemon juice soak overnight as discussed in the above link.

Blessings, Robyn

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August 30, 20110 found this helpful

There is a product at Walmart and other places called "Iron Out" It takes about i/2 cup per white load and your whites will glisten. I am a nurse and I used it in my uniforms. You don't have to use it each time, just occasionally.

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August 30, 20110 found this helpful

Bluing is another product that can be used with your laundry to whiten whites. It is in the laundry section of most stores where I live. It is an old fashioned product; comes in a bottle. The brand that is sold here is Mrs. Stewart's Bluing.

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August 26, 20110 found this helpful

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

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
August 27, 20110 found this helpful

You could try washing it by itself with 2-3 Shout Color Catcher Sheets. The package says one, but I have found 2-3 work better. This product is available in the laundry aisle at the supermarket. Air dry the shirt, as the dryer sets stains. Another possibility is Rit's Color Remover. Follow the package directions. Hope this helps.

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August 29, 20110 found this helpful

Bluing is an old remedy that works to remove yellow stains from whites, especially if they are caused by water and washing rather than by something spilled on the item. You can find Mrs. Stewart's Bluing in the laundry section of stores.

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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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May 9, 20120 found this helpful

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

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December 8, 20140 found this helpful

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.

By EP

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By 0 found this helpful
January 15, 2013

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

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By 0 found this helpful
September 8, 2010

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

Answer Was this helpful? Yes
September 14, 20100 found this helpful

One thing you can try is bluing. It is on sale in the laundry section of your supermarket, likely. Also, whites should only be washed with whites, If you are washing them with coloreds, they will get dingy In that case, I would bleach them, T-shirts should come quite nicely whiter with about a cup of bleach in the wash water.

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September 15, 20100 found this helpful

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.

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By 0 found this helpful
April 10, 2016

Can somebody please help? I need to get my whites white again they are grey in some parts. I tried everything lemon, vinegar, Oxiclean, hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and bluing too, but still they are the same. Can somebody please help?

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By 0 found this helpful
August 21, 2015

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

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March 20, 20150 found this helpful

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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By 0 found this helpful
August 28, 2014

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.

By Joanne

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April 30, 20140 found this helpful

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

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March 26, 20140 found this helpful

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

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By 0 found this helpful
November 26, 2013

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

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July 16, 20070 found this helpful

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

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By guest (Guest Post)
July 18, 20070 found this helpful

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

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By 0 found this helpful
February 27, 2015

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?

By shannonm52

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December 18, 20140 found this helpful

What can be used to get a greyed lace bra back to white again?

By Lorna P

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October 19, 20140 found this helpful

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

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January 25, 20140 found this helpful

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

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May 22, 20130 found this helpful

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

By J.L.

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