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My son has white 100% polyester work shirts. I have already used bleach and fabric softener on them, but it is not working. They look dirty all of the time and I can't stand it. What can I do to make them white again?
Add equal amounts of your detergent and a non chlorine bleach such as Purex 2 to the wash water. Also add one to two cups household ammonia. Use wash water as hot as the fabric will tolerate. Soak for at least an hour. Overnight is even better. Then wash garments in this water, as usual.
Chlorine bleach do a good job of whitening cottons. It has a slight yellowing effect on polyester.
In future, be sure to wash these white things only with other white things. Fabric softener does not whiten fabrics. As the other poster mentioned, bleach works for cottons but not for polyesters. You may also find it helpful to hang them in the sun.
Fabric softener makes whites look dingier. It leaves a film that picks up dirt.
You can add 1/4 cup of vinegar to the rinse water to take the static electricity out of polyester. Then you don't need fabric softener.