Bleach Alternatives

I’ve talked before about bleach and how it definitely has its place in washing and whitening laundry.

But what if you have an item that won’t tolerate bleach?  Such as lace or a delicate linen or an old handkerchief…

There are a few options that you have as an alternative to bleach.

1.)  Good Ol’ SunshineClothespins on Line

Our Great-Grandmas definitely knew the wonderful bleaching powers of the sun and they took advantage of them every Monday (Wash Day).

Women left their whites hanging on the line all day long to maximize the sun’s bleaching effects.

When my cloth diapers are looking a little dingy, I hang them outside and it is amazing how quickly they whiten up.  Not to mention that they have that irreplaceable ‘line-dried’ smell.

There’s no trick to using the sun.  Simply wash as usual and then hang on a clothesline, a drying rack, or even in the grass to take advantage of what I consider to be free bleach!

2.)  Cream of TartarCream of Tartar

Yes, the item that you use for making meringue and homemade biscuit mix.

This works especially well for items that are yellowed or dingy.  Items like old baby clothes, or old lace doilies.  You typically wouldn’t use this concoction for everyday white socks.

It’s pretty simple: Wash your item as usual (handwash if needed).  Dissolve 1 teaspoon cream  of tartar in one quart of luke-warm water.  Soak your item overnight and then dry on your clothesline or drying rack.  Of course double or triple the recipe as needed for the dingy item to be fully covered in water.

This is an old-timey method, but still works beautifully today!  And it’s cheap!

3.) Oxi-CleanOxi Clean Bucket

If you’ve read here at Mama’s Laundry Talk  long at all, you probably know my love for the Oxi-Clean.  We’re such bosom buddies.

Oxi-Clean rarely bleaches clothes, but definitely try it on a seam first if you’re nervous about it.

It is similar to the cream of tartar recipe in that you make a concoction and then let the item soak overnight.

For a smaller item, like a baby outfit or lace doily I use a 1/2 scoop Oxi-Clean dissolved completely in about a gallon of water.  I just eye-ball the water.  Let it soak 1-3 hours and then check to see the progress.  I’ve even let items soak up to 36 hours without the color fading, but you need to keep an eye on it, especially if it is a delicate item.

After soaking, I rinse well under luke-warm water and hang dry outside in the sun.

Do you have questions about how to soak items?  Or how to whiten them?  Feel free to ask in the comment section…


  1. I have a cream lace flower girl dress that I wore in a wedding about 28 years ago. I am hoping I can get this altered for my baby girls Christening next month. Do you know if you can turn a delicate cream lace dress white?

    • mamalaundry says:

      Hayley, was the dress originally cream in color?

      If it WAS originally cream in color and you would like to make it white, I would definitely NOT bleach it. Especially since it is 28+ years old. Fabric that old is usually delicate and if you were to bleach it, I’m afraid it would ruin the elastic (if it has any) and possibly even put a hole in the fabric. If you are trying to make it white, you can certainly try a product like Rit Dye Color Remover. I wouldn’t put the dress in the machine, but possibly use it in a similar method to The Soak.

      Whatever you choose to do, I would just again be very careful since the fabric is likely to be delicate.

      Congrats on your new baby girl! 😉


  2. Thanks so much Lauren.
    Yes it was originally white. I have since learnt from talking to Mum that it is satin (or similar material) with the lace overlay. It also sounds like it has food stains on it as it was never washed so I am hoping these will come out – if not I will have to go buy her a new one. I’m wondering if I could Napisan it 1st?

  3. Connie Mercer says:

    I have a lace dress that is 52% nylon. and 48% cotton. The slip underneath is nylon. It is a light blush pink in color. I would like for it to be more ecru or white. Would you recommend the Rit Dye Color Remover or some other method to whiten this dress? -or is it too risky to try?

  4. I have a beautiful pair of lingerie bottoms that I bought in ivory that I would like to “bleach” to match my pure white camisole. The bottoms are new/modern construction made of 79% polyester, 21% elastane with a lace overlay design on the front. So delicate, but still “high tech” materials.
    I don’t think bleach is a good idea—it would be too harsh and eat a hole through the delicate fabric. It seems like the Rit Dye Remover you’ve mentioned might be helpful? What would you recommend for this particular whitening project?

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Anna, of course take my advice at your own discretion, however I DO think the Rit Dye would be better in this case.

      Bleach can cause polyester to yellow horribly, and you’re right that it might eat a hole in the fabric.

      I’d stick with the Rit Dye for this one. 😉

  5. I have a skirt that has a lace overlay of nylon and spandex and a lining of polyester. The overlay had yellowed in spots being that’s it mostly nylon. I want to remote the yellowing. What is the best product for this?

  6. Esther Confino says:

    I have an antique white cotton embroidered organdy wedding dress that was stored badly and has yellowed badly. It has a white rayon lining attached. I have soaked it in plain cold water for days, then placed in two pillow cases and soaked in delicate wash soap and cold water, with little success. Is there a liquid bleach that is safe enough to use? I have also thought of bleaching it in sunlight but am afraid to leave it out.

    • Lauren Hill says:


      Since the dress is supposed to be white, you could try using Rit White Wash to see if it could remove the yellowing and restore the original whiteness.

      I would caution you to follow the directions very carefully for this product. In my experience, a longer than recommended soaking time does not equal better results.

      Best wishes!

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