How to get dingy whites white again – 4 simple laundry fixes
Restore whites to their original brightness with these four expert-approved methods
When a T-shirt or towel has turned an unappealing shade of gray, there are various steps you can take to make your whites white again.
Doing laundry is simple, but we have all made mistakes when washing whites at some point or another – whether it's because we're rushing, throwing in risky color combinations, or simply ignoring age-old rules like washing whites separately from other colors.
Here's how to get whites white again, as recommended by experts.
How to get white clothes white again
These are the four best ways to restore whites to their former brilliance. Before we start, remember to check the laundry symbols and follow any care instructions on your garments, and make sure you're clear on whether you wash whites in hot or cold water.
Taking the time to give whites some attention is a job well worth doing, as it will save us from repurchasing items unnecessarily. Often old graying shirts and bedding can be revived, they just need a little TLC.
1. Use white vinegar
Add 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar, at Walmart, to the washing machine during the rinse cycle. 'The acidity of the vinegar can help break down the buildup that causes white clothes to look dingy,' explains Sara Lundberg, a money-saving and cleaning expert at Budget Savvy Diva.
Cleaning with vinegar is great for removing bacteria and germs, and therefore banishing odors lingering on old T-shirts and towels, as the acetic acid white vinegar contains makes it a natural disinfectant. As well as adding it into the wash load, you can try pre-soaking items in a solution warm water and white vinegar before washing normally.
Sara Lundberg is the founder of a website dedicated to helping people clean their homes and ave money. For the past thirteen years Sara has been cleaning tricks, recipes, parenting advice and budgeting tips on blog Budget Savvy Diva.
2. Try baking soda
Next up is another kitchen staple. Freshen up whites by adding 1/2 cup of baking soda to the washing machine along with your detergent. Sara Lundberg explains that the alkalinity of baking soda will help neutralize acids in the water and remove dirt and stains.
3. Try Vanish
Natural options are always preferable, more affordable, and a way of being more sustainable at home. However, if natural whitening agents just aren't cutting it, it's time to try a commercial whitening booster. Homes & Gardens' junior writer Chiana Dickson recommends using some Vanish whitening booster, available at Walmart.
'I've used Vanish on my white T-shirts and think they make a difference. There's nothing worse than noticing your new T-shirt taking on a gray tinge, so adding this into your washing machine drawer along with your detergent is a good way to keep whites looking bright,' she says. 'If you need to remove chocolate stains or red wine stains, I'd suggest trying a laundry stain remover like Shout, also at Walmart.'
Vanish Gold White Powder | $22.95 at Walmart
Vanish is designed to remove stains and whiten fabrics and can be used while pre-treating laundry or as part of the wash cycle.
Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for six months, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers.
4. Use hydrogen peroxide
Add 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide, at Walmart, to the washing machine during the wash cycle. The oxygen-based bleach properties of hydrogen peroxide can help remove stains and brighten whites. As a natural whitening agent, it's a good alternative to bleach. If you're dealing with stains, you can also apply some hydrogen peroxide directly to a stain before putting it in the washing machine, just make sure it's had time to soak into the fabric.
Will baking soda whiten clothes?
There are lots of thing you can clean with baking soda, from windows to the oven, and while it can whiten clothes, it's not the most effective method. It will help to remove odors and stains but if an item of clothing has been discolored you're better off using hydrogen peroxide or a commercial whitening booster.
How do hotels keep towels white?
'Hotels keep towels white by using commercial-grade laundry detergents that contain bleach or hydrogen peroxide,' says Sara Lundberg. 'They also typically wash towels at higher temperatures and use professional-grade equipment that can agitate and rinse clothes more effectively.
'Additionally, hotels may replace towels more frequently to ensure that they stay bright and fresh-looking,' she adds.
A final, budget tip is to squeeze half a cup of lemon juice and add it to your laundry during the wash cycle. Test on a small area first just in case, and when the washing machine has finished, line dry your items in the sun as the sun's rays can also help restore whites to their original brightness.
Millie Hurst is Section Editor at Homes & Gardens, overseeing the Solved section, which provides readers with practical advice for their homes. She has been in the world of digital journalism for six years, having previously worked as Senior SEO Editor at News UK both in London and New York. She joined the Future team two years ago, working across a range of homes brands. Millie formerly worked as Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home, taking care of evergreen articles that help and inspire people to make the most of their homes and outdoor spaces. Millie has a degree in French and Italian and lives in North London.
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