My husband's white t-shirts have turned yellow from using bleach. How can I get them white again?
Karen from Dallas, TX
I used to work in the garment industry and know that most modern white fabrics are not made from white cotton, but from "greige" goods and are later dyed white and cannot be bleached without removing the white dye. If you check your labels before laundering, you will find very few of them that recommend bleach. Way back when (I'm dating myself here) in the fifties, they made colorfast fabrics which could be bleached no matter what color they were (except navy or black), but that seems to have gone with the nickel candy bar and the twenty-five cent quart of milk. Sigh.
In regards to Post By (Guest Post) (03/31/2008)
"most modern white fabrics are not made from white cotton, but from "greige" goods and are later dyed white and cannot be bleached without removing the white dye." If this is the problem, can't you just re-dye them white or another color he might like. GG Vi
If you live in the country, sometimes there is enough rust and iron in the water to cause a reaction to bleach in laundered clothing. I used to use Iron Out for some of the whites, but our water was so bad that I evenatually steered away from buying whites.
Later on, an old neighbor taught me that using my conventional washer, the wringer type, was the most economical and efficient. I would fill the machine with HOT water, and then add about two tablespoons of Lye, wait for the rust and iron to surface and then skim off the gunk. I could then wash whites first followed by other clothes according to color and how grimey they were. I actually went back to buying whites again since I could get them clean.
The problem is that Lye is sometimes difficult to find in the stores and it must be treated with care, since it can be dangerous.
Clorox will eventually turn your whites yellow, so use it sparingly. Spray the shirts with Awesome. Let sit for a hour, then I soak white t-shirts in hot water, with baking soda. Put in wash cycle. If still yellow, try soaking them in bluing (add the bluing to the water and mix) then add shirts and wash again. It may take a few times, but they will get white after a few washings, sometimes I have added oxy-clean to the wash with a little detergent after I try everything else.
How do you avoid them turning yellow in the FIRST place, thanks!
Hi, This has also happened to me. I have a white embroidered shirt with a bit of stretch in, its 5% elastene, 95% cotton. I put some ariel stain remover and whitener powder in the wash that was a certain % chlorine bleaching agent. I didn't realize this at the time as I was doing the washing in zombie mode. The shirt has come out of the wash with a yellow tint and I'm really upset. It was my favourite shirt not to mention it was expensive. Does anybody know how to restore this?? Any help would be greatly appreciated!
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I have done this before, since the old fashioned laundry blueing is hard to find. I have used some of the Rit royal blue dye and made a light batch and put the item in. It doesn't take much dye ... you can judge by the color. It brightens whites that have become dingy!
Be careful in working with dye, that you don't accidentally spill it.
My friend uses Rit Dye Remover and uses it to spruce up her whites. (11/16/2004)
Stains caused by the use of chlorine bleach on wool and silk cannot be removed. White or faded spots caused by use of chlorine bleach on colored fabrics cannot be restored to the original color.(/quote)
If the shirt is 100% cotton, this is not a problem but if there are synthetics mixed with the fabric, it might be their reaction to the bleach as with the wool and silk above. (11/17/2004)
I would try soaking the shirt in a mixture of laundry soap, bleach, and powdered dishwasher soap. The amount of dishwasher soap to a full load is 1 cup. If my whites start to get really bad I soak a whole load overnight in the mixture above and they come out as good as new. (11/17/2004)
It sounds like the shirt is made of a synthetic material. Bleach permanently yellows many synthetics and synthetic blends. Check the care label. If it says "use only non-chlorine bleach when needed", you may not be able to get the yellow out. It wouldn't hurt to try an oxygen-based bleaching agent or a blueing agent. (11/18/2004)
I have well water that reacts when bleach is added by turning white clothes orange. I use a small amount of a powder called "Iron-Out" that is available at WalMart. It costs about $10 a jug, but goes a long way. I use about half a cup in my whites in place of bleach. I only use it a couple times a month. It also will clean rust stains from your sinks and toilets.
Harlean from Arkansas (11/21/2004)
Soak the blouse overnight in borax. If this doesn't brighten it sufficiently,
dampen it with lemon juice and let sit in the sun. (11/30/2004)
NEVER use chlorine bleach on synthetic fabrics. It turns them yellow regardless of your water supply. It's just s chemical reaction.