Cleaning Tips, Guides & Resources

10 Laundry Tips to Make White Fabrics White Again!

10 laundry tips to make white fabrics white again custom graphic

The colour white, in many cultures all over the world, has been long considered a symbol of purity. Its use in fabrics can often be attributed to that fact. Of course, beyond symbolism, white fabrics tend to have a very striking and stylish appeal, which is why it is disappointing when you begin to notice that your older white clothes are no longer white anymore.

Being very susceptible to things like dust and dirt in the air, sweat, staining from spills, etc, it can be challenging to maintain the bright white shade of the fabric. This is especially true if you use the fabric often; in this case, staining and/or discolouration will happen sooner than you'd like. 

On that note, bleach is the first thing that comes to mind when attempting to get rid of stains on white clothes, or simply to brighten up the fabric, however, it is not your only option. In fact, there are many natural, home-based alternatives, as well as commercial products that you could try before resorting to bleach. Let’s take a look at some of these simple ways to whiten white fabrics.

1. Lemon Soak

glass of lemon juice next to a pink bowl of white clothes soaking

Add the juice of two lemons to water, and heat the water until it is about to boil. Once done, place your white fabrics to soak in the heated lemon water, and allow it to rest for up to an hour. Lemon juice is very capable of getting rid of yellowing on your white fabrics. You could even try adding some lemon juice to your regular wash for a similar effect. Bear in mind that not all fabrics can withstand hot water, therefore, it is important to always check the washing instructions/symbols provided on the item’s care tag before you wash it.

2. Baking Soda Soak

white clothes being washed in a basin with water and baking soda

Take a cup of baking soda, mix it into approximately 4 litres of water, and add your whites to this solution. Leave them to soak overnight, and machine-wash them in the morning. This should get rid of any staining, and even help deodorise the fabrics.

3. Borax

generic borax powder on a white background

Borax, being as alkaline as it is, can help soften hard water, and even assist with detergent and bleaching solutions. A good approach is to add a quarter cup of borax per gallon of water, and allow the clothing to soak in the solution for up to 30 minutes. Thereafter, proceed with a regular wash cycle, and you should see satisfactory results. If needed, repeat the process one more time.

4. White Vinegar Wash

vinegar and assorted cleaning chemicals on a table next to a blue bucket

Another cheap, but very effective trick to whitening fabrics is adding distilled white vinegar in your wash cycle. Besides being able to get rid of staining efficiently, it also acts as a fabric softener, thus making your clothing a little more comfortable to wear, and keeping after-wash creases to a minimum.

5. Dishwashing Soap

dishwashing liquid next to a stack of white plates and bowls

As unlikely as it may seem, dishwashing soap can assist with whitening just as well as the other tricks in this list. Using an eco-friendly dishwashing soap is a great alternative to most commercial whitening solutions. All you need to do is add a squirt or two into your laundry detergent tray, and run your whites through a regular wash cycle.

6. Aspirin

white laundry being soaked in a blue container

This one is more unusual than the last, admittedly, but it is actually highly recommended. While being a painkiller millions would swear by, it also has the ability to break down the dirt that stains your whites. You can dissolve about 5 of the white pills in a small bucket of water, and add your clothing to the solution. Allowing it to soak overnight, and washing thereafter, will yield promising results. Keep in mind, however, aspirin that has a coloured outer coating, will be counterproductive in this regard, and could, in fact, cause staining. It's a great non-commercial alternative to removing deodorant stains from the underarms of white t-shirts. 

7. Undo with Blue

large bottle of blue laundry detergent on a white background

Another confusing, but actually effective trick is using a bluing agent in your washes. While it might sound counterintuitive to add a colour to the wash, using blue against yellow staining actually works because they cancel each other out. Whatever bluing agent you find, however, follow the instructions on the product label, and avoid applying the agent directly onto the clothing as this may actually stain the fabric.

8. Household Ammonia Instead of Detergent

laundry basket filled with white towels

Yes, this is actually a valid option too. Every time you wash your laundry, you add detergent, laundry sheets, and the likes to the mix; these products tend to leave behind a bit of residue which clings to your clothing. Getting this residue on your whites can slowly turn them yellow over time. With this in mind, consider skipping the detergent and try running a wash cycle with only a little household ammonia solution added to the water. This should get rid of any built-up residue on white fabrics, as well as other items washed in this solution.

9. Hydrogen Peroxide

before and after contrast of white shirts washed with hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen Peroxide, while usually found in medicine cabinets, is an oxidiser. This means, it too can dissolve residue left in fabrics which, in turn, gets rid of staining, and brightens white clothes and fabrics in the process. Adding 1 cup to a wash cycle should yield similar results to most commercial bleach cleaners.

10. Sun Dry

white t-shirt being dried on a clothes line

Immediately after a wash, skip using the dryer if you have one, and place your white laundry in the sun to dry. The direct heat of the sun kills all microbes and fades all paints, stains, and dyes. So, whenever possible, sun-dry your whites to naturally bleach them back to a dazzling white. Bear in mind that coloured fabric should never be dried in direct sunlight due to the fact that it causes fading. 

With all of these simple and affordable ways to make whites white again, you can skip the idea of using bleach entirely. That said, if you feel like you must use bleach, ensure that you are following the instructions on the label, and use the product in a well ventilated space. In addition to this, under no circumstance should you combine vinegar with bleach, as the reaction between the two can release Chlorine gas – an extremely toxic and dangerous gas to be around.

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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