Are your whites looking a little yellowed? Do they seem dingy, but you can’t quite figure out why?
If you are a faithful bleach user, it is the bleach that is probably the culprit.
Household bleach (sodium hypochlorite) is often used as a laundry booster or whitener. However, its chemical makeup can often make white clothes turn yellow.
So once this happens, how do you get rid of the yellow? Can you get rid of the yellow?
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Making Dingy Clothes Bright White Again
Here are several suggestions to try if you’ve got yellowed or dingy whites:
- Start with lemon juice.
Although I am very willing to pull out the big guns, I like to first start with the remedies that are least harsh. Dilute 1/4 cup of lemon juice with 1 gallon of extremely hot water (boiling, if possible). Soak the yellowed garment in the solution for at least 1-2 hours. Then wring out and allow to dry in the sun. If you aren’t thrilled with your results, move on to the other ideas.
- Try borax.
Borax is readily available at most grocery stores in the laundry aisle. Dissolve 1-2 Tablespoons of Borax in 2 cups of water. and then add to the rinse cycle of your washer. You can also put it in the ‘oxi’ dispenser if your machine has that feature. If possible, dry in the sun. Borax naturally softens hard water, so you could use it as a preventative measure when washing whites in the future.
- Try Iron-Out.
If you have well-water, chances are there is a fairly high iron content in your water. Often this excess iron in the water reacts with the bleach causing the yellowing of the clothes. Iron-Out can be applied using the directions on the bottle. It works to counteract that chemical reaction and return white clothes to their original bright condition. Note that this product should only be used on proven colorfast fabrics.
- Try a laundry bluing agent.
Laundry bluing is an old trick to get yellowed or grayed whites to appear brighter. Bluing adds a very slight trace of blue dye to the fabric, making it appear more white. Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing is a popular brand and their site gives detailed instructions on how to use bluing correctly.
Prevent Whites From Turning Yellow
Thankfully, there are a couple of ways to prevent your whites from turning yellow in the first place:
- Never bleach white clothing that is polyester or a polyester/cotton blend. The chemical reaction between the bleach and the polyester almost always yields a yellowed result.
- Consider a water softener if you have well-water. Decreasing the iron and mineral content of water can greatly lessen the yellowing the bleach can cause.
- Minimize your use of bleach altogether. There are several other ways to get your whites to be whiter.
Do you have problems with whites turning yellow? What do you use to help get them white again?
I have a blue Lenin shirt which is my favourite but it got a yellow stains on the pocket it looks horrible I’ve tried washing it many times yet the stain was not removed pls help me out on this one ……
Jayesh, I’m so sorry about your shirt. 🙁 It’s awful when our favorite garments have stains that are tough to remove.
I’ll be honest – yellow stains are not easy to remove at all. They’re some of the toughest, in fact. You can try soaking it in Oxi Clean (here are directions for The Soak), but I’d be careful to monitor the shirt every 30-60 minutes to see if the Oxi Clean lifts the blue dye of the shirt since it’s linen. I don’t think it will, but watch it closely, just in case.
Of course, follow this advice at your own risk. 🙂 I hope it comes out for you!!
Me and my friends were recently at a Chinese restaurant and got our box to go. There was a hole in the corner of the box and sauce dripped through and stained them. Once we got back to the house my friend made me take them off and throw them in the tub and toss bleach on them. I dryed them and put them on and they were white again. Unfortunately, I want to wear them tomorrow but I just notice there is yellow stains all over them. Any suggestions?
These are white jeans I’m talking about
The problem is that the bleach caused a chemical reaction with the fabric of your jeans. Just for the future – don’t use bleach to remove stains. There are much better options! 🙂 Oxi Clean, etc.
You can try something like Rit White Wash and see if it will remove the yellow stains. I’ve had some success with this product. Make sure you follow the directions VERY carefully and don’t oversoak the jeans. You can find that product on Amazon, or even at the grocery store.
Hello, i have a jacket made of 65% polyester and 35% cotton. It got grayed and yellowed, i would like to get it whiter again. The original color if the jacket is beige, i would like to get it back at this color (which is whiter). Any suggestions? Thank you!
Laulic, You can try using a product like Rit Whitener & Brightener to see if it would return the original color of your jacket.
Make sure to follow the directions precisely, and not soak longer than recommended. In my own experience, a longer soak with this product does not equal better results.
Hi Lauren – In your Try Borax suggestion, you say “Dissolve 1-2 Tablespoons in about 2 cups of borax and then add to the rinse cycle of your washer.” Dissolve 1-2 twospoons of what?
Oh no! Thank you for catching that after all of these years! (That post is 6 years old!)
It should read: Dissolve 1-2 Tablespoons of Borax in 2 cups of water.
I’m updating it now. I appreciate you letting me know.
I have a coat, white outside, blue plaid inside. Down-like or fiber-fill weather proofing. It says no bleach, cold water gentle cycle. Outside has yellowed, I’ve done done some stains w/baking soda peroxide paste w/Dawn to lift stains. Washed on gentle & stains have lightened but 2nd app is due. But the yellowing & darkening around cuffs & bottom is visible yet. From reading about others I’m thinking the OxyClean is gonna be next. Do you have added info?
I would soak the coat in Oxi Clean using The Soak method. Make sure you check on the coat frequently (every 20-30 minutes) to ensure the blue inside color doesn’t fade or run. I don’t THINK it will, but you’ll need to kind of baby the garment while you’re trying to get the stains out.
After soaking, I would take the whole bucket and dump it in the washer. Then wash on cold and gentle, just as the tag says.
Hope this works for you!
Hi! I accidentally washed my babies white clothes with a pair of his green pants causing the whites to turn yellow. I soaked whites overnight on whitest white oxiclean but it didn’t help! How do I get the yellow out!! ??? Thanks!
Sorry about your trouble! Been there, done that! If they’re all white clothes, you can probably use Rit White-Wash to lift the yellow/green color. If the clothes have any colors much at all, you could try using Carbona Color Run Remover.
If you choose to use either of those products, make sure you follow the directions carefully! If you don’t, the results will be poor.
I have an off white sweater that belonged to my mother and has been hanging in my closet for ten plus years. I am trying to get the yellow out of it from being stored I guess. Any suggestions?
What type of fabric is the sweater? That could come into play when trying to find the best method. If it’s cashmere or a high quality fabric such as that, you’re probably stuck with the yellow.
If the sweater is a cotton or cotton/poly blend, I would try The Soak first. If that doesn’t work after an extended soak, I would go to use something like Rit White-Wash Dye.
What a goldmine this site is – so glad i found it!
My question is regarding a white rayon top made in India with white embroidery.
The label simply says 100% Rayon, hand wash separately in cold water.
My problem is yellowish discolouration around the neckline which is more-pronounced around the top button and button hole.
I am sure it is from my sunscreen which I use very time I go out.
I have tried soaking it in a cold solution of NapiSan Oxy Acion Fabric Stain Remover for two sepatee sessions of 24hours to no avail – if anything the stain at the button hole is darker!
We have scheme water but I would say it is probably rather hard.
Do you have any suggestions as I am quite fond of this top.
Thanking you in advance
Hi, I have a white polyester ski jacket which was drycleaned, when it should have been washed. Now it has yellow stains in places, and I’ve tried washing with Rit, soaked the stained areas with white wine vinegar and bicarbonate of soda – but no luck. Would soaking in Rit help? I’m really at the end of my tether!
I bleached my adidas hat and it turned yellow does lemon juice work to get the yellow stain out
I’m sorry, Kate. That stinks. 🙁 You’ll probably have to use a whitener/brightener and dry in the sun if you have any chance of getting the yellow out.
I have a white denim jack that turned yellow in one area from being stored over the winter, I washed it but its ,still there will lemon juice help, also i have a new white linen blend shirt that looks yellow after being stored , what is the best way to return them to white
Have you already tried The Soak? If you did and it wasn’t effective, you could try a whitening agent like Rit Dye White-Wash.
Those two tricks are probably your best bet. And definitely dry it in hot sunshine (if possible) for a couple of hours.
I have a navy tee shirt with a white insert at the neck, it turned yellow how so I get the white insert white again, I tried RESOLVE spray but to now avail, now what
Maureen, do you know what turned it yellow? Was it sunscreen?
If so, you might want to read this post: https://www.mamaslaundrytalk.com/reader-mailbag-removing-sunscreen-stains/
Hope that helps!
You are right soak overnite in oxi clean White Revive it is really good the news wash
I washed my husband’s off white 100% silk shirt with a little bleach in the water along with detergent. The shirt is now a yellowish cream color. Please tell me there’s a way to fix it.
Hi! We just bought a used baton twirler marching costume for our daughter about 3 months ago. The previous owner supposedly had “repaired” it, and it did look very clean. But, over the summer, the white top has turned orang-y. I don’t know if it is a slow reaction with the sun and whatever they used to clean it before. I tried using OxiClean spray, but it didn’t help. The uniform is polyester, but this top part is thinner and a little silkier (not sure what the fabric is). What do you suggest?
I washed my shoes with bleach like a dummie and didn’t think till it was all done and they came out yellowish, is their any way for me to get them back white or do I have to try and go buy a another new pair if they even have them anymore! Can I get the bleach yellow back to white on my shoes the fabric part of them?
Hi can I ask how to removed yellow clorox stain from white clothes….pls,reply
Hi there! The yellow clorox stains are likely due to a chemical reaction and are super hard to remove. Try using one of the remedies in this post, especially the Iron Out or the bluing agent.
But definitely don’t try them both at one time! It will probably take some trial and error to get the yellow out. 🙂
I have new white dishtowels with embroidery on them that have been stored in a plastic bag
and have turned yellow. How can I make them white again? I have had them 5 yea. I buy them new for gifts and are hard to find, now I have to deal with bringing them back to new. They have been kept in a drawer.. Open for solutions..
The yellow staining around collars and cuffs is caused by body oils and proteins.
Mix a tablespoon of dishwashing liquid with 1/2 tablespoon of oxygenated bleach (not chlorine bleach), and add to 2 tablespoons of water. Apply to collar/cuffs with toothbrush and let soak for 1 minute or longer, then rinse or throw into washer. If entire shirt is yellowed, add this mixture to 2 litres of water and soak the shirt for 10 minutes. Do this every 3 months or so to maintain the whiteness.
I recently purchased a sports related jacket that I’ve wanted since I was a child. It’s a 25+ year old 100% polyester white jacket that has graphics and decals along with the white color. There is a large white section on the front that is yellowed. The tag on the jacket says “hand wash, drip dry, no dry cleaner.” So how can I remove this by hand, without damaging it (I would be devastated) with all these limitations? Thank you in advance.
Please help! Tried to get rid of stain on white denim shorts. Sprayed chlorine on stained spots and accedentially forgot about it over night. The areas that got sprayed replaced stains with yellow marks so then thinking I could fix things left them to soak in warm water with laundry powder over night but this didn’t do anything to the yellow marks but instead made the small leather bit sown on at the back bleed a bright pinky orange colour into the fabric, so I unstitched the leather piece and tried washing the new stain away with water, only some came out but a clear outline is still left there. And now I have just read the tag and the pants are cotton/elastane and it also says “do not bleach or dry clean”…. also I do not have well water. What do I do??? I have still got the yellow marks and now a bright pink rectangular outline on the back as well…
I husband’s mother gave me a sack of my husband’s old boy scout uniforms including some t-shirts. These are about 40 years old. The t-shirts are yellow with age. They are also stiff. I would like to wash these to give to our grandsons. What would be the best method to get the yellow out of the shirts without them disintegrating?
Hi. I got some beautiful white silk bedding in China and I put bleach in the load. I can’t believ I ruined my sheets. They turned yellow. Would you recommend bluing or should I stick with the vinegar or lemon juice suggestion. Also, I put them in the dryer.
Oh dear. Do the sheets even still fit the bed? If they do actually fit and didn’t shrink from the dryer, yes I would trying bluing and see if that will do anything.
Honestly, silk is tricky and a picky fabric. You might just be stuck with yellow-white sheets.
So sorry! 🙁
I have a sports jumper with patched yellow staining not sure if this has happened by drying on the radiator for too long are maybe the whitening sheets I use and not removed the clothing from the washing machine right away and the sheets been sitting inside the sweather
Which solution would you recommend for 70% cotton 30% polyester
I am glad to find your post! I recently bleached New White cotton briefs by following CLOROX instruction. The white briefs turned beige (the elastic turned creamy color). I am not planning to try anything chemicals on them. But, is it SAFE to wear them after the color is changed? Thank you!
Hi Fran! Yes, it’s totally safe to wear the clothing after bleach has changed the color. As long as the briefs went through the entire washing cycle (meaning they went through the RINSE cycle at the end of the wash), I would feel totally fine with wearing them.
Thanks for your question! 🙂
My cream dress just started changing to yellow from the bottom up. How can I restore it back to its original color?
I have a white dress shirt 95% nylon and 5% spandex that is several years old. It has yellowed, and before I knew better, I did wash it using bleach. What would you suggest for whitening it?
Thank you so much!!
I’m so sorry about your shirt. That’s so frustrating!
I would consider a whitening product like Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing or you could try Rit Whitener and Brightener. They both work in different ways, and I’d personally try the Mrs. Stewart’s first in your situation.
Just a word of caution: follow the directions on the bottle to a T for best results and no mishaps! 🙂
Hello! I bought 2 IKEA White duvet covers. I washed them with tide “free” detergent and they came out with yellow splotches all over! I then tried to soak in OXI and Rewash, but yellow is still there. I thought it was a problem with the sheets, but my very expensive white linen duvet came out of the was with the same problem! I don’t know what is happening or how to solve the problem. I am not using bleach or water softener. I don’t have well water. Would be grateful for any advice! Thank you!
I have a white dress which I was as a bride’s maid for my friend’s wedding some years back. I got it dry cleaned and kept in a plastic bag in the closet. I recently (a few weeks back) transferred it to my aircon storage and it was still ok. Today, I found that the dress had turned yellow on the edge and a brown spot appeared on the dress. How can I turn it white again?