How to wash white clothes : 15 tricks to whiten them when dirty

A guide on how to wash white clothes so that they retain the white colour, and prevent yellowing and greying of whites

White clothes can make you look fresh, but it is a struggle to keep the white cloth itself looking fresh.T his post details different ways to wash white clothes the right way so that they remain pristine white longer. If you follow at least some of the tips given below, you can get a lead in maintaining your white wardrobe looking bright as new.

how to wash white clothes

How to wash White clothes

10 Preventive measures to keep your white clothes white

 1. Do not wear it

Ok, that is a little too much; let me be practical and say not to wear it “where you know it will get dirty“. This is the best way of preventing your pristine white clothes from looking shabby sooner than later.

For example, Do not choose to wear white clothes when you are going to a sports event where you know you will sweat a lot and your clothes will be marked with mud (unless there is a white dress code). Or in the kitchen or when you are going to a curry restaurant or even painting with kids.

 2. Wash often

The next best way is to wash your white clothes more often than other clothes – if possible after every wear. This way the stains would not settle.

The worst scenario is when you iron the white cloth after it is worn once. Previously invisible stains started popping out – it was already there, just not visible. But with heat, they look very noticeable and dirty.

Check out this related post on removing 4 types of stains from white clothes. 

 3. Sort clothes before washing

white clothing cleaning

Separate clothes before the wash – this is common sense, but as you can see from the photo above, many times this is bypassed. I have an unattractive turquoise patch on my pure white camisole.

Do not wash white clothes with any other color. If there is any dye floating around it will find your white fabric. So wash whites with only whites. This is a golden rule for washing white clothes.

If the white garment has a bright trim or colorful embroidery keep it separate. It is NOT white. That  trim may bleed into other clothing.

If you want to wash everything together, atleast ensure that there are no new clothes in the bin together. New clothes usually have unsettled dye and that is sure to latch on to your white clothing. 

 4. Spray stain repellant

You can use a product like the Scotch guard on clothes you really want to keep as white as it was when bought them. The product is a stain and durable water repellent applied to fabric, furniture, and carpets to protect them from stains

 5. Wash your white clothes properly

The steps to wash your white clothes should be as follows

  1. Sort your white clothes from the rest of the laundry pile. Only white clothes.
  2. Soak it in your washing machine with the detergent diluted and added. (for about 1 or 2 hours if really dirty).
  3. If you feel that it needs some more brightness you can add a natural laundry booster to the wash like lime juice or borax or washing soda.
  4. Wash as usual. 
  5. Dry in good sunlight; But do not leave out for more than necessary after it is dry

If your white clothing has protein stains (blood, egg etc) do not wash with hot water.

 6. Rinse thoroughly 

Remove all traces of detergent from white clothes by rinsing thoroughly in clean softened water. If traces of detergent and or fabric softener remains in the garment there is a chance of your cloth appearing yellow overtime. Rinse till your rinse water is really transparent and clear, which is the sign. 

 7. Clean washing machine

Clean your washing machine insides often, especially the lint screen. The residues of dirt and lint from previous washings can settle on your pure white and make it look dingy.

Lint usually settles on dark colored clothes, but lint can dull the shine of white.

 8. Wear makeup early

Do not put on cosmetics after you have put your white clothes on. Even fragrances can mark white clothes

 9. Use clean water for washing

If you live in an area with not-so-clear water, get it clear first before laundering whites. Some places have yellow or red water ( with iron and minerals) which will stain clothes. 

 10. Use guards

If you know you sweat a lot, wear a protective clothing like a slip inside your white garment so that the sweat would not directly fall on the fabric.

There are collar guards to prevent sweat marks and consequent yellow stains on collars of shirts.

how to wash white clothes

 11. Spot clean stains before wash

If you notice stains on white clothes deal with them immediately. You can use a spot of dishwashing detergent or mild shampoo on delicate clothes to spot clean. Use a soft toothbrush for a rub, especially on collar stains like the one above. Do not use harsh brushes as they will damage cloth fibers.

 12. Iron carefully

washing white clothes

As is evident from the picture above, the tshirt is useless now because of careless ironing. The embossed print has spread because I didn’t use a press cloth nor ironed from the back. Need I say more.

Be careful of trims/ paints / prints in white clothes. 

4 tricks to whiten white clothes

 Method 1.  Use detergent powders with optical brighteners

Optical brighteners (Flourescers) are small laundry brightening particles that help in keeping your white clothes white as white or even better.Read more about it here

They absorb ultraviolet light and re-emit blue light making your clothes look brighter. Infact it is said that manufacturers add this to the white fabric which is why they look so bright when you buy them but when you wash they are washed away. You will simply have to restore them with this method.

This detergent with optical brighteners is the best washing powder for keeping white clothes appear whiter.

 Method 2. Using laundry blue

If you like the blue-white look for your white clothes you can choose this method. The blue is a liquid ( can be powder too) added to the final rinse water. A drop is enough to give your clothes that bright look. You will have to ensure that the liquid is completely diluted.

 Method 3. Home made remedies

Use 1/4 cup of vinegar or sieved lemon juice in the last rinse; this can make white clothes slightly bleached naturally and will remove the small stains. 

 Method 4. Using Bleach on white clothes

White clothes can regain their white shine with some bleaching.Infact you can use bleach once a month or so to regularly washed clothes for an extra shine.

But Bleaching is not for all clothes. Infact bleaching can cause yellowing if done incorrectly and inappropriately.

In fact It is better not to use Chlorine Bleach on any other fabric than 100% cotton; especially not on silk wool or spandex. If you do, the item can turn yellow, which is a true blue horror story for white fabric.

( Most clothes that you thought were cotton may well be a blend of synthetic fibers, which is why reading the fabric care label is a good idea).

Another white clothing you should not use bleach on is, if it has any stitching in any other color than white like embroidery or top stitching.

A somewhat safe bleach on white fabrics for stubborn stains is a mixture of equal parts of Oxygen bleach and ammonia. Oxygen bleach alone can do the job very well. Check out the post on using bleach on clothes for more details on this.

Tackle greying and yellowing of white clothes

How to Prevent General yellowing of white clothes

Usually, this is caused by not rinsing the detergent properly from clothes and then storing them for a long time in humid wardrobes. Over bleaching, under rinsing of alkaline soaps, the deposit of lime and then due to over washing stripping the white fabric of brighteners are other reasons. 

Rinse the clothing after washing, thoroughly. Rinse enough to remove all traces of detergent and fabric softeners from the garment.

If you have been storing a white clothing for a long time, get it out in the sun every often. The sun is a natural bleach and will prevent yellowing to a degree. But that does not mean that you should keep it long in the sun. Overexposure to sunlight can also cause yellowing

white clothes bleaching

A cup of vinegar or a commercial laundry brightener (without bleach) added to the first rinse can brighten your white clothes and remove yellowing to a degree.

Household blue (Blueing liquid or powder) used in the final rinse water can prevent yellowness in white clothes. Dissolve the blue thoroughly in rinse water, otherwise, it may form  streaks on the fabric.

How to prevent and remove greying of white clothes

Going grey or a sickly beige – This is one of the most dreadful things that can happen to a white fabric. 

With dry-wash-only clothes, this happens because of incorrect drycleaning. This is why you must give your precious clothes only to a reputable dry cleaner.

If this discoloration has happened to a washable cloth, it maybe because you have not rinsed all the detergent properly.

To remove the greying shade try to soak the garment in a solution of baking soda and peroxide in water for about one hour and then rinse thoroughly. This can remove that sickly dingy look from your white garments.

Do not think I am trying to spook you out with this horror picture but this is how my kid’s socks look after a day of school. Me thinks, she tried to clean the floor with it and succeeded.

white cloth cleaning

I do not know why schools insist on white uniforms and white socks. Maybe I know, because nothing can look more elegant than white garments but it is killing my laundry schedule to keep it looking pristine.

Maybe I should follow my own advice or buy more of those socks. So the final tip is to try only so much; if it is beyond whiteness, discard!

Do not clutter up wardrobe space with drab looking clothes which were once white. You can only do so much.

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

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