How To Wash White Clothes (The Right Way)

Tired of dirty, sweat-stained, dingy-looking whites? Learn how to wash white clothes and restore your whites to their former glory with these tips and tricks!

If there’s one thing that drives me crazy about doing laundry, it’s washing all of our clothes, sheets, and towels only to pull them out of the dryer and find them looking grungy and dull.

White clothes and other items, just like white shoes, can lose their crisp look and start looking dull and dingy gray over time. 

Laundry may seem like a simple household job that consists of putting your clothes into the washing machine, adding some detergent, and letting the machine do its job. But, in reality, there are several things that people tend to do wrong when washing their clothes that usually leads to their whites looking… well, less than white!

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The Causes Of Dirty-Looking Whites

The main reason people end up with gray or yellowed whites is that they don’t truly sort their clothes out before washing them. Instead, they tend to mix their whites and colored items together in one load. 

And that’s where the problem lies.

Several types of fabric (especially cotton) bleed color and it happens in small enough quantities so that you don’t really notice it after just one wash. 

You may not pull out a load of white socks that are now blue, but chances are small dye molecules washed out of your colored clothing and into your white items. It’s not enough to notice at the time, but, over the course of several washings, it’s enough to make your white look… grayer.

Other Potential Causes

  • Washing very dirty or soiled items.
  • Water quality can lead to dingy-looking whites because hard water can make detergents work less effectively.

How To Wash White Clothes (The Right Way)

Wondering how to wash white clothes so they stay clean and fresh-looking? Use this process to wash your whites and you’ll be amazed at the difference!

Step 1

Separate your whites and colored items. By taking this step, you’ll prevent color bleeding and making your white clothes look dull.

Step 2

Pretreat stains and let them soak if needed.

Step 3

Load your clothes into the washing machine, making sure to leave a little room for them to shift and move.

Step 4

Use warm water to help remove grime and oils from the body that can make fabrics look dull. Just be careful about using hot water as it can damage and shrink fabrics. Be sure to check your clothing tags for fabric care to see how warm the water should be for washing.

Step 5

Add vinegar to your machine’s rinse cycle to help remove all detergent from your fabric and soften your clothes to eliminate the need for fabric softeners which can leave a residue on your white clothes and make them look dirty.

Step 6

Dry your whites on a low heat setting and pull them out while still slightly damp to air dry on a rack. If you can dry your clothes outside, the sun’s ultraviolet rays help to make your whites look bright white.

Additional Tips For Washing Whites

If you find that your whites are looking gray, dull, or yellowed, here are some ways to restore them to their original crisp bright white color.

I’ll also share some more tips you can try to help get your whites fresh and bright – and keep them that way.

Use the Right Amount Of Detergent

Using too much detergent can actually make your clothes look dirty and dingy. It sounds weird because detergent is meant to clean your clothes, right? 

It turns out that less is definitely more when it comes to detergent (or fabric softener). Using too much doesn’t clean but rather coats your fabrics with a residue that actually sticks to dirt.

I recommend using the indicators on your detergent cup or scoop to use the correct amount of detergent of the size of your load.

Keep Some Space In Your Washing Machine

If you’re like me, you probably want to fill your washing machine to the brim so that you’re washing fewer loads. However, doing that means there isn’t enough space for the water to wash away the dirt. The dirt then redeposits back on the clothes, leaving them looking dull and dirty.

I recommend washing smaller loads to allow the water to freely flow and drain through the laundry.

Use Low Heat Dryer Temperatures

Drying your whites in high heat can scorch and damage the fabric, making them look yellow and grungy. 

I recommend keeping your dryer temperature low and either dry for a longer period of time or, better yet, pull your items out before they’re fully dry and air dry them.

Use Borax

Borax is a very helpful laundry booster that removes residue, softens hard water, and improves your detergent’s effectiveness. It’s safe and effective to use!

I recommend adding a little Borax to your loads of whites according to the instructions on the box.

Try Using A Bluing Agent

White products are often manufactured with an optical brightening bluing agent to make them appear very crisp white. Over time, that agent wears down and washes out but, you can freshen up your whites by doing the same thing.

A product like Mrs. Stewart’s Liquid Bluing adds just a little bit of blue to your dingy or yellow whites which gives the optical illusion that your whites and whiter. 

I recommend using a bluing agent occasionally to brighten your whites. Take care not to apply it directly to your items or it will stain them. Instead, mix it into a little water and then add that water to your washing machine.

How To Wash White Clothes: Final Thoughts

Learning how to wash white clothes so they stay crisp and clean isn’t really hard, but it does take just a little more effort than simply throwing them into the washing machine with all your other clothes. Use these tips to wash whites the right way and keep them looking amazing longer!

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