Getting Your Whites Really 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

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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.

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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.

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May 28, 2004

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, 2006

Whenever I do a load of whites I use Tide with bleach alternative, Calgon water softener, vinegar and Borax.

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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.

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October 26, 2004

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

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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.

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 peter from Rotorua, New Zealand


August 14, 20090 found this helpful
Best Answer

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 21, 20090 found this helpful
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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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May 9, 2012

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


May 10, 20120 found this helpful
Best Answer

It could be several things - first, check your bleach dispenser to make sure it's not blocked. If that's not it, then I imagine the problem is that your towels have accumulated a soap film and need to be "stripped".

Wash the towels in HOT water with 2 cups of white vinegar and run through two rinse cycles. If that doesn't help, repeat the process. If they are still dingy, and the bleach dispenser is clear, you might have a problem with your water. Good luck!

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July 13, 2011

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

By D. Oatis


July 15, 20110 found this helpful
Best Answer

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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