Melissa was kind enough to send in this question about how to have whiter whites:
My biggest problem with laundry is yellowed and dingy “whites”. I use Clorox bleach in every white load plus detergent and softener and wash in hot water. I am at a loss for what else to do, HELP PLEASE!
I’m so glad Melissa asked, because dingy whites seem to be a common problem.
Let me start by saying that if you have ‘hard’ water or well water, this is going to be a tougher problem for you. Well water (which is typically ‘hard’ water) has much more sediment in it than water purified by a city or town. And because of that, it is tremendously more difficult to get whites to not be dingy. You can certainly try and benefit from the following tips, but you might have to put more effort into the whitening! I wanted to give you a warning so you’re not immediately frustrated if your initial efforts don’t bring you great results.
For the typical load of whites (typical meaning white tshirts, underwear, socks, etc) I use the following steps to maintain super bright white clothes:
- Wash the white load on hot.
Occasionally I will wash the load on warm, depending upon exactly what clothes are in the load. I know that there are tons of people that believe in using only cold water for washing clothes, and I certainly understand their reasoning! However, I am certain that the cleanest possible clothes are obtained through: agitation, a moderate wash cycle and warm or hot water. I have found that white clothes are brighter when washed on hot because the maximum possible amount of dirt, grime and sweat are removed. A build-up of those can lead to dingy whites and they can become hard to remove in time. A load of whites will not appear bright if the actual fibers of the clothes are not exceptionally clean.
And typically, white clothes are made of white cotton which can withstand hot water and agitation. There are always exceptions to this, so make sure to read your fabric label carefully!
- Always add a scoop of Oxi Clean.
A scoop of Oxi Clean (sodium percarbonate) goes into every white load at our house without fail. My machine has a special ‘oxi’ dispenser, but you can still have superior results if you have a traditional top-loader or a basic front-loader.
If you have a top-loader, start the water in the basin of the machine and then add the desired amount of Oxi Clean. Allow it to dissolve before filling the machine with laundry. If you have a front-loader, pour a scoop of Oxi Clean in the machine and then place your clothes on top. Close the door and start the washer as you normally would. Consistently using Oxi Clean maintains the bright, white appearance of our clothes.
- If possible, dry your white clothes in the sunshine.
I’ve talked a lot about the bleaching properties of sunshine around here lately. But it’s worth repeating: use the free bleaching properties of the sun since it’s so readily available! A combination of Oxi Clean and sunshine lends a beautiful, bright result.
- Utilize the features of your washing machine.
Some machines are equipped to deal with stains without using any commercial whitening products. Some washers are equipped with a ‘stain removal’ setting. It uses a longer wash cycle and extremely hot water to obtain whitening results. The only substance you add is detergent. If your machine offers specific stain removal settings, then by all means use them! While those setting are effective at removing specific stains (such as salsa or tea), the settings are also very effective at maintaining bright clothes.
Some people prefer to use the whitening power of baking soda. I’ve tried this multiple times, but I can’t seem to obtain the bright results I’m looking for. If you have any baking soda whitening tricks, make sure to leave those in the comments!
What are your tricks for whitening clothes and keeping them white?
Baking soda will soften the water, so adding that may help people with hard water.
Borax combines with water to form hydrogen peroxide, which will have a bleaching effect. I believe it works similarly to OxyClean.
I always use hot water. My whites don’t get clean without it. Some of them are so old (10+ years), though, that they certainly don’t look white anymore! Probably time for a shopping trip.
I have a quick question! Do you use your regular detergent on top of the oxi clean or in place of it? Thanks so much. I am having a terrible time with dingy whites right now!
Definitely use Oxi Clean on top of the detergent. Oxi Clean alone isn’t enough to get your clothes clean.
If you have a top-loader, you can dissolve a whole scoop in warm water before adding clothes. If you have a front-loader, you can use a half scoop in the dispenser.
Do you have well water (hard water)? It definitely makes things more difficult!!
Okay I was wondering if you could still use Oxi Clean if I have a HE washer?? I haven’t had them very long and I am still trying to figure them out.
Yes, you can definitely use OxiClean in an HE washer. I wouldn’t use more than 1/2 a scoop per load. Pour it into the Oxi Dispenser if your machine has one. If not, I believe that you pour it into the drum and then put your dirty clothes into the machine.
There are directions on the back of the container with specific instructions. Definitely take a peek at those before washing your first load with Oxi Clean. My memory may not be 100% correct. 😉
Hi, I wish to store clothes which my youngest baby has outgrown into a box. How do I prevent the clothes, especially white ones from getting the yellow spotty stains after some years? thks
Hi, I also have stored my favorite baby clothes, for 13 years now and no stains yet. My method. Use SPACE BAGS and WHITE TISSUE PAPER. I make certain to place 1-2 sheets of tissue paper between each item so that no color is able to transfer from one cute little garment to another. Then place inside space bags, follow instructions for air removal, then store in Cedar Chest. Mine are in the attic where it gets crazy hot but my baby clothes are still fine. Be sure to enjoy a cup of tea whenever you check on them every few years and no nostalgic tears on the tissue paper please.
Aloha and Mahalo for your great website!
I wish I could take you home with me – Uncle would be so happy to have clean and ironed clothes all the time!
I have a hint from my college professor, Mrs. Orpha Herrick, during my fashion design years there (last century).
For rust spots and most stains on fine linens or any natural fiber material, pick a sunny day, lay out the item on the grass in the yard and wet it down. As the item dries, wet again. I use my garden hose for this. If it is a windy day, I weigh down the corners with stones or pots. After a few times of this, the rust spots and stains start to disappear. This techniques helps to remove stains without the harsh effects of bleach or other chemicals.
Beware of dogs, though! I sometimes get the item almost completely stain free on the ground, and our dog runs over the linen, leaving me with a very nice paw print in brown. Auwe! (that is what we say in Hawaii instead of “shucks”.)
Can you restore a synthetic white garment that has been bleached and therefore turned yellowish?
So I have a pair of white jeans shorts that have become a bit dingy and blue-tinged from being washed with jeans. But I’m not sure when else to wash them as I don’t want to damage my other clothes or whites loads by having jeans material in there. Any tips?
Wash them with your other whites, hang to dry instead of drying with the rest of the load. It is the color you want to be concerned with in the washer and the type of fabric when you put in the dryer.