How to get dingy whites white again – 4 simple laundry fixes

Restore whites to their original brightness with these four expert-approved methods

washing machine with white laundry
(Image credit: Getty images / Cris Cantón)

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.

laundry room with wooden drying rack and shirt

(Image credit: Future PLC)

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.

expert image
Sara Lundberg

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

Baking soda

(Image credit: Alamy)

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

woman taking whites out of a washing machine

(Image credit: Alamy)

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 |

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 Dickson
Chiana Dickson

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
Section Editor

Millie Hurst is a freelance lifestyle writer with over six years of experience in digital journalism. Having previously worked as Solved Section Editor at Homes & Gardens and Senior SEO Editor at News UK in London and New York, Millie has written for an array of homes brands including Livingetc and Real Homes and was formerly Senior Content Editor at Ideal Home. She has written and edited countless features on home organization, decluttering and interior design and always hopes to inspire readers with new ways to enjoy their homes. She lives in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, and loves to weave nature-inspired decor and nods to time spent in Italy into her own home.