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How to get your dingy white clothes white again

Updated February 21, 2017

Many everyday clothes were once bright white, but through everyday use now look dingy and worn out. Men's undershirts, women's socks, plain white underwear, and even towels and washcloths can benefit from some revitalisation. The grime on white clothes is often caused by deodorant stains, body oils and, in the case of socks, dirt. While there are a few different ways to whiten your whites, don't try them all at once.

Vinegar

Add 240 ml (1 cup) white distilled vinegar to a large pot of water. The acid in vinegar will not harm your clothes, but is powerful enough to remove soap and detergent residue. It also softens your clothes.

Bring the water to a boil, then drop the clothes in. This method works best for small items, such as socks, children's clothes and undergarments.

Soak the clothes overnight, then wash as normal. Another option to try with vinegar is adding 120 ml (1/2 cup) to your regular load of clothes. You may notice a slight vinegar scent while the clothes are still wet, but that will fade once they are dry.

Chlorine bleach

Pre-treat any stains. For a new stain, blot it out with a dry cloth, then treat with an aerosol petroleum-based solvent. If the stain has set in, spot treat it by using a damp rag and pat the stain from the wrong side of the material. Do not use soap or hot water, as they will set the stain.

Set the water level on your washing machine. Hot water -- above 49 degrees -- is best for getting your whites as white as possible.

Add the bleach to your water. Read the directions on your container for the water to bleach ratio, but generally do not use more than 240 ml (1 cup) bleach. Front-loading washers have a dispensing unit specifically designed for bleach and other additives.

Place the white clothing in the washing machine and wash as you normally would. Clothes need plenty of space to move around so avoid overcrowding your machine.

Dry your clothes in the sunshine. The sun bleaches your whites naturally. Another benefit is that there will be no static cling to your clothes.

Tip

A few additional things to add to your laundry are 60 ml (1/4 cup) of lemon juice, 120 ml (1/2 cup) hydrogen peroxide or 60 ml (1/4 cup) dishwasher detergent.

Warning

Never soak whites in pure bleach for more than 15 minutes. Do not use bleach on synthetic fabrics, silk, wool or spandex. Check the label to make sure it is safe to use bleach.

Things You'll Need

  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Large pot
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Lemon juice
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About the Author

Based in Atlanta, Crystal Huskey began writing in 2008 for various nonprofit organizations and news agencies. She now serves as the assistant editor for a hyper-local news site. Huskey is completing her Master of Arts in international relations at American Public University.