This is a blog about wearing colorful clothes, so this isn’t a question that comes up often for me. But, do you get tired of throwing away what was once a crisp, white shirt because it’s turned too dull? This happens all too often. White accent clothes are a must-have to wear with colorful outfits. So keeping white clothes bright white requires knowing how to wash whites to stay bright. Your white clothes and linens definitely can look crisp and new for a long time. Here are 6 steps to ensure your white laundry comes out glistening and looking it’s brightest every time.
1.) Completely Separate White from Colored Loads
A big mistake when washing white clothes is to not fully separate white from colored clothes. Maybe the most vital step in brightening white clothes is completely separating colors from whites when running a load. This doesn’t mean separate off-whites and whites can stay together. Whites have to be totally separate from other shades of light colors or colored clothes. All too often, color seeps out of an off-white piece of clothing and rubs off onto your whites in the wash. If you have a white shirt with another color on it, leave that out of your whites wash. Stick with strictly washing whites in a separate load.
2.) Pick a Pre-Soak and Detergent
White clothes benefit greatly from a good pre-soak. This soak is easy to make with simple home ingredients like baking soda and white vinegar. Combining these natural ingredients creates a mixture that breaks up stains in clothing fibers and naturally fights smells (don’t worry, your clothes won’t come out of a wash reeking of vinegar either). This mixture preps the clothes for wash, but also helps avoid using too much bleach, which can damage clothes if used too frequently.
When choosing a laundry detergent, keep in mind that most laundry detergents are appropriate for washing white clothes. Don’t overdose expecting to get cleaner clothes. Instead, using the recommended amount of detergent ensures best results. Some detergent brands advertise as particularly effective with whites (like OxyClean), but I haven’t noticed a significant impact when using these brands. Instead, I opt for tried and true brands like Tide, All, Arm & Hammer or Gain. They all are successful to help brighten even the dullest white clothes.
3.) Wash with Hot Water
Normally with a load of colored clothes, you want to avoid hot water and wash with cold water. Hot water can make pigment leak out of clothes and cause a dullness over time. However, the with a white load, the opposite is true. Washing white clothes with hot water helps to brighten the whites. Don’t be afraid to choose a “warm” or “hot water” setting when washing a load of white clothes.
4.) Spot Treat With Bleach
Bleach is both good and bad for your whites clothes, so the best rule is to use it in moderation. The best way to use bleach is for spot treatment or as a brightener additive when washing cotton clothes. Bleach does a great job of lightening cotton clothes (think socks and undershirts), but when this is used on all or certain other fabrics (ie: synthetic fabrics), it can leave a yellowish or grey hue on clothes. The same is true if you use more bleach than the recommended dosage for a normal load. Avoid using bleach as a first resort to whiten your whites and only add it when washing cotton whites or spot treating tough stains.
5.) Pick the Ideal Brightener
In lieu of bleach, are a range of highly effective whiteners to use on white clothes. A few of these additives are natural home remedies like baking soda, hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar and lemon juice mixtures. Also, detergent booster pods, regular old dishwasher detergent, Borax, a little blue mix or even ammonia have been recommended to remove residue from white clothes and lighten their appearance. Adding these brighteners in with detergent, or instead of detergent, in your normal wash load should produce noticeable brighter white results.
6.) Consider Air Dry or Low Heat Tumble Dry
Next time you are washing white clothes, try air drying or tumble drying on low heat. As soon as the white clothes are out of the wash, check for stains. Heat can encourage stain particles to bind strongly to clothing fibers and heat from a dryer can damage clothing fibers. To maintain the strength of white clothes already treated heavily with brightening mixtures or chemicals, it’s a good idea to air dry if possible or machine dry on low heat. Air dry will leave your clothes smelling fresh. However if you don’t have the space or time to air dry, choosing a low-heat tumble dry setting should work to keep your whites staying bright and ready to wear.