Have Your White Clothes Turned Yellow?

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?

Have your white clothes turned yellow? Here's how to fix them!

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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?



  1. I bleached my adidas hat and it turned yellow does lemon juice work to get the yellow stain out

    • Lauren Hill says:

      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.


  2. Bettie Contee says:

    Hi Marti,
    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

    • Lauren Hill says:

      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.

      -Lauren 🙂

  3. 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?

  4. 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?

  5. Hi can I ask how to removed yellow clorox stain from white clothes….pls,reply

    • Lauren Hill says:

      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. 🙂


  6. 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..

  7. George Fullerton says:

    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.

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