How to Get White Clothes White Again

Four Parts:Special Pre-Treatment SoaksSpecial Pre-Treatment for StainsSpecial Laundry BoostersBasic Laundering Process

Even with the most intensive laundering routines, keeping white clothes white forever can be nearly impossible. Thankfully, though, there are a few tricks you can try to help brighten your white clothes back to their original shade again after they have gotten soiled and tainted.

Part 1
Special Pre-Treatment Soaks

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    Soak in baking soda.[1] Combine 4 quarts (4 L) warm water with 1 cup (250 ml) baking soda in a sink or basin, mixing well until the baking soda dissolves. Soak your dingy white clothes in this solution, making sure that each garment is submerged. Let it soak for about 8 hours.
    • Baking soda deodorizes while it whitens, so this option has multiple benefits. Moreover, it has also been known to help soften hard water, so your clothes will not be exposed quite as much to hard water with staining mineral deposits if they soak in this solution.
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    Take an aspirin. Dissolve five 325-mg aspirin tablets in 2 gallons (8 L) of hot water. Soak the white clothing in this solution for 8 hours or so. Make sure that the material stays submerged throughout the process.
    • To speed the process up, you may want to crush the aspirin before you stir it into the water. Doing so can help make the aspiring dissolve faster by exposing more of its granules directly to the water.
    • You could also toss a couple of aspirin directly into the washing machine as you wash your clothes, but pre-soaking with aspirin is the recommended option of the two.
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    Treat with toothpaste.[2] Combine a full 6.4 oz (189.3 ml) tube of baking soda and peroxide whitening toothpaste with 1/2 cup (125 ml) baking powder, 1/4 cup (60 ml) salt, and 2 cups (500 ml) white vinegar. Whisk well until the mixture begins to rise. Soak an old, dingy white garment in this mixture for 3 to 4 hours and rinse with cool water.
    • For best results, use toothpaste that comes in a paste form rather than a gel form. The toothpaste should also contain baking soda.
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    Pre-soak in detergent.[3] Combine 1/4 cup (60 ml) laundry detergent or dishwasher detergent with a sink full of water. Submerge your white clothes in this solution and let them soak for 2 hours.
    • Shampoo can be used instead of laundry detergent or dishwasher detergent, but if you use it, try to pick a clear and fragrance-free shampoo. The dye from tinted shampoo could stain a white garment and the fragrance oils could do likewise.
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    Soak the garment in lemon juice.[4] Fill a large stockpot with water and add the slices of one or two lemons. Bring the contents to a boil over high heat. Turn off the heat, then add your whites, and allow them to soak for an hour in the lemon water.
    • Make sure that the lemons are cut into slices rather than halves. You want as much of the lemon flesh to be exposed as possible since more of the juice from the inner membranes can seep into the water that way.

Part 2
Special Pre-Treatment for Stains

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    Try fabric rust remover.[5] Dampen the stain with lukewarm water. Apply fabric rust remover to the stain, using enough to actually soak into the fabric. Scrub the area with a toothbrush to work the product into the fibers more thoroughly, then let it sit for 5 minutes or less. Rinse out the stain remover with lukewarm water.
    • This option works especially well on armpit stains. The stains in this area are usually caused by a reaction between sweat and antiperspirant deodorant, and the nasty yellow tint that results is caused by aluminum rather than sweat alone. Rust stain remover takes care of these aluminum-based stains.
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    Apply lemon juice.[6] Dab a little lemon juice onto the stain and scrub at it with an old toothbrush for a couple of minutes. Allow the liquid to sit for another 5 to 10 minutes before rinsing.
    • Note that you can also do this with distilled white vinegar.
    • The acids in both vinegar and lemon juice are mild enough to work without damaging fabrics but harsh enough to dissolve soil and residue left by alkaline substances.
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    Rub stains out with salt. As soon as you spill something dark onto a white garment, rub a little salt into the stain. The salt can absorb the moisture from the stain and lift away some of the dye while it is still in its liquid state.
    • This treatment only works when the stain is still wet and fresh. It will not help much on dry, set stains.
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    Use commercial stain treatment. There are many different commercial stain treatments nowadays. You can buy one in the store to treat stains, but make sure you choose one that is safe for the type of material you plan to use it with, and always follow the usage instructions on the label.

Part 3
Special Laundry Boosters

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    Add vinegar to the rinse cycle. Add 1 cup (250 ml) of white vinegar to the washing machine just before it enters its rinse cycle. Do this when you are washing a load of all-white laundry for best results.
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    Wash with baking soda. Pour 1 cup (250 ml) of baking soda directly into the washing machine basin with a load of white clothes. Run the cycle as usual.
    • Do not pour the baking soda into a separate detergent dispenser.
    • Alternatively, use washing soda instead of baking soda. The two products are similar, but washing soda has a lower pH, making it safer to use on clothes.
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    Throw Borax into the washing machine.[7] Sprinkle 1/2 cup (125 ml) of Borax over a load of white clothes in the washing machine. Pour it directly into the basin portion with the clothes and run the cycle as normal.
    • You should not add the Borax to a separate detergent dispenser.
    • Borax is similar to baking soda in the way that it whitens and deodorizes.
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    Use bleach. If you are only washing white clothes, add a capful of bleach to the load when you plan to wash it. If you are concerned about the powerful effects of standard bleach, try a non-chlorine bleach or a slow-acting bleach, like a 3-percent peroxide solution.[8]
    • If you have hard water with a high iron content, do not use chlorine bleach. Chlorine and iron can actually cause your whites to take on a yellow tint. Use oxygen bleach, instead.
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    Try a commercial color remover.[9] For particularly dingy whites, you can try mixing in a capful of a commercial color run remover product. These products are available in the laundry aisle of many grocery stores. Add them to the wash cycle as instructed on the label.

Part 4
Basic Laundering Process

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    Choose your add-ons. Ask yourself which pre-treatments and laundry boosters you want to use. Apply any pre-treatments ahead of time and add any laundry boosters to the washing machine as your prepare to wash your white clothes.
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    Wash whites separately. Launder your white clothes in the hottest water you can use without damaging the material, and only wash white garments with other white items. You should also wash excessively soiled white garments separately from those that are less dirtied.
    • Water is most effective at removing soil at a minimum temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius).
    • While it is true that warm water can set certain stains, for white clothes that have already been laundered several times and have lost their brightness little by little, any color change has already been set into the fibers. As such, you need to treat the dinginess as soil and use hot water instead of cold.
    • Use detergent in the washing machine cycle no matter which pre-treatments or laundry boosters you decide to add. A detergent with special enzymes may work best, and you should use the maximum amount recommended on the bottle's label for maximum efficiency.
    • Note that if you have hard water, you might need to use larger amounts of detergent. You may also need to install a water softener in your house so that the water entering your washing machine is less harsh on your clothes.
    • If your water is high in iron, you should use an iron-removing product during your washing cycle.
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    Dry in the sun. Sunlight has a natural bleaching effect, so allowing your clothes to hang dry in the sun can dry and whiten them simultaneously.
    • If you are unable to dry your clothes in the sun due to the weather, where you live, or for any other reason, you can still dry your white clothing in a dryer. You will not receive the bleaching benefits of natural sunlight, but the dryer should not do any real damage to the clothing, either, as long as the fabric is dryer-safe.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Clean toothbrush
  • Sink, stockpot, or small tub
  • Baking soda
  • Aspirin
  • Whitening toothpaste
  • Detergent
  • Lemon juice
  • Fabric rust remover
  • Salt
  • Commercial stain treatment
  • Vinegar
  • Borax
  • Bleach
  • Commercial color remover

Article Info

Categories: Clothing Stains