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Getting Your Whites Really White

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

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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

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Tip: Getting Whites Clothes White Again


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


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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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.

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Tip: Whiter Whites

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

    By Janette [91]

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    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

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    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.

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    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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    Here are questions related to Getting Your Whites Really White.

    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

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    Most Recent Answer

    By Sandra M. H. 1 02/01/2015

    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.

    ReplyWas this helpful? Yes No

    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

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    Most Recent Answer

    By joanfry 28 74 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.

    ReplyWas this helpful? Yes No

    Question: Getting White Clothing White Again

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

    By D. Oatis

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    Most Recent Answer

    By Judy = Oklahoma 60 751 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!

    ReplyWas this helpful? Yes No

    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

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    Most Recent Answer

    By MelBunny 1 5 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.

    ReplyWas this helpful? Yes No

    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

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    Most Recent Answer

    By lauriedeee 1 03/15/2014

    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.

    ReplyWas this helpful? Yes No

    Question: Cleaning Dingy Whites With Color

    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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    Most Recent Answer

    By Saber Alexander 9 69 12/09/2014

    Maybe Oxyclean or color safe bleach?

    ReplyWas this helpful? Yes No

    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

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    Most Recent Answer

    By Frugal Sunnie 11 1,654 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!

    ReplyWas this helpful? Yes No

    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

    AnswerWas this interesting? Yes No

    Most Recent Answer

    By Dorothy 1 124 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.

    ReplyWas this helpful? Yes No

    Question: Washing White Socks

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

      By Audra A. [1]

      AnswerWas this interesting? Yes No

      Most Recent Answer

      By Mary Lou 14 765 08/22/2015

      Usually, it's okay!

      ReplyWas this helpful? Yes No

      Question: Cleaning a White Towel with Colored Appliques

      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

      AnswerWas this interesting? Yes No

      Most Recent Answer

      By cathy 2 57 04/02/2015

      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.

      ReplyWas this helpful? Yes No

      Question: White Clothing Turned Grey in Wash

      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

      AnswerWas this interesting? Yes No

      Most Recent Answer

      By Roberta S. 2 12 09/01/2014

      I was told by a single dad once that using dishwasher detergent in your washing machine will make dingy white things look like new again. I tried it, results were okay, not like new though, but not grey anymore.

      ReplyWas this helpful? Yes No

      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

      AnswerWas this interesting? Yes No

      Most Recent Answer

      By CarolQ 1 11/01/2014

      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!

      ReplyWas this helpful? Yes No

      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

      AnswerWas this interesting? Yes No

      Most Recent Answer

      By LeeAnne67 4 106 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'll have suds all over!

      ReplyWas this helpful? Yes No

      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

      AnswerWas this interesting? Yes No

      Most Recent Answer

      By Frugal Sunnie 11 1,654 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.

      ReplyWas this helpful? Yes No

      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

      AnswerWas this interesting? Yes No

      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.

      ReplyWas this helpful? Yes No

      Question: Getting Whites Really White

      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

      AnswerWas this interesting? Yes No

      Question: Lace on White Bra Getting Grey

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

      By Lorna P

      AnswerWas this interesting? Yes No

      Question: White Sweater Turned Grey

      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

      AnswerWas this interesting? Yes No

      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

      AnswerWas this interesting? Yes No

      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.

      AnswerWas this interesting? Yes No


      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 comments that were 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


      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.


      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