How to Turn Stained Whites Back to White

Updated February 21, 2017

There's nothing quite as comfortable as a well-worn white T-shirt. But over time, countless stains, hard water and various laundry detergents can turn your white garments a dingy grey or light yellow. These articles can be taken to any dry cleaner for professional treatment, but this is often expensive and inconvenient. With a few household products and a bit of exposure to ultraviolet rays, you'll be able to restore the luminance in your white clothing.

Inspect the white garment(s) for obvious stains. Apply a generous amount of prewash stain remover to each stain and rub it into the fabric with your fingers. Allow the solution to penetrate the stain for an hour or two.

Collect your white garment(s) and start a hot water wash cycle on your washing machine. For best results, the water should be at its hottest setting.

Fill the appropriate reservoir on your washing machine with household bleach. Though bleach is not a whitener, it will help lift out any remaining stains.

Allow the cycle to start. During the final rinse of the cycle, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of white vinegar to the wash basin. Vinegar's acidity helps remove yellowing and will instantly brighten most dingy white garments.

Remove your garments and place them in strong, direct sunlight to dry. The UV rays will help bleach the white fabric back to normal.

Repeat this process weekly until your whites are noticeably brighter.


Hard water is one of the main causes of dingy white clothing. Consider washing your whites at a laundromat if your home has hard water, or invest in a water softener.


Never apply bleach directly to clothing, as it will eat through the fabric.

Things You'll Need

  • Prewash stain remover
  • Chlorine bleach
  • White vinegar
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About the Author

Brandon Getty began writing professionally in 2008, with columns appearing in "Thrasher" magazine. He received a Bachelor of Arts in literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and lives in Stockton, Calif.