Help me get our yellow pillowcase white again (without bleach).
July 5, 2009 9:13 AM   Subscribe

Laundry Filter: Help me get our yellow pillowcase white again (without bleach).

We have a white pillowcase that has taken on a rather strong shade of yellow as of late. I put it through the wash but that didn't help, so I didn't dry it. I'm hoping to avoid using bleach on it 'cause I don't own any, and I've accidentally stained a few things over the years.

So what alternative solutions are there to get this pillowcase back to its original color - or do I have to use bleach?
posted by gchucky to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Off-hand, I remember lemon juice and sunlight both act as natural bleaching agents.
Bleaching white clothes with lemon juice: Mix 1/2 cup lemon juice (or use sliced lemons) and one gallon of very hot water together. Soak the clothes that need bleaching. Do not use this trick on silk. But, this is perfect for white socks and underwear -- even white polyester shirts. This can sit out from an hour to overnight, depending on how badly the clothing needs bleaching. Once they soak, remove the clothing from the mix and pour the mix into the washing machine and wash as usual. It's impossible to over-bleach using lemon juice.
Then hang'em out to dry in the sun. I suspect others with personal experience will be along shortly.
posted by Decimask at 9:19 AM on July 5, 2009

Dye remover. Find it with the fabric dyes in discount department and craft stores. I boil it in a stock pot. Much, much gentler on fabric than bleach.
posted by kmennie at 9:20 AM on July 5, 2009

Sunshine works, but you'll need to hang the pillowcase out for more than a few hours- it might take a few days, and you'll have to make sure both sides get strong direct sunlight.
posted by acrasis at 9:22 AM on July 5, 2009

Best answer: I don't bother to look for it, but in an interview with Heloise she said that she had to do new re-editions of her books both because there are new problems and because old solutions don't always still work. The example she gave was lemon juice to whiten: While it was once good advice, fabrics are made differently somehow now and the lemon juice trick can damage them. So proceed with caution, your pillow-cases may or may not be lemon-juice safe.

The option possibly safe possibly not option is hydrogen peroxide from the drugstore. I've done this before successfully. Just drench the fabric in hydrogen peroxide and lay it out to dry. WHen it's dry it will be white. THis is colour safe and won't harm colours if you spill it (generally speaking, unlike bleach). I should warn you, one time I used this, as soon as I poured the hydrogen peroxide on the fabric, it turned blue. I freaked. But it dried white. That said I don't know that there are no circumstances under which this would damage your pillow-cases either, so proceed with caution here too.

Of course the same is true of bleach. Overtime bleach use yellows your fabric and makes it kind of brittle and easily torn.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:24 AM on July 5, 2009

You can also Google for ways to remove body soil from fabric/clothes.
posted by Decimask at 9:26 AM on July 5, 2009

Here...wasn't too hard to google after all. From Heloise's web site:

" Q. What's a white-washing myth you can bust?

A. There's the old fashion hint about taking a lemon and salt to get a stain off of something white by sprinkling salt on the stain and squeezing lemon juice on it and then setting it out in the sun because lemon juice acts as a bleaching agent. That was fine for pure cotton with no blends, no whiteners. Today if you do that, it's going to make it yellow. Don't do this. The other is that chlorine bleach can be used on all whites. Wrong. Read the labels. "

posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:28 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Borax is also an oxidizer. Soak the pillowcase in a strong solution, rinse well and hang to dry in the sun.

Another alternative would be hydrogen peroxide, although the 3% solution found in drugstores is rather weak.
posted by francesca too at 9:28 AM on July 5, 2009

Best answer: Have you noticed other whites taking on a yellow-ish color as well? If so, you may have iron in your water. If that's the case, soaking in Iron Out should do the trick.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 10:01 AM on July 5, 2009

I started using Seventh Generation Natural 2X Concentrated Laundry Detergent a while back and noticed it got my dingy whites a lot whiter than my name-brand detergents had in the past. Stained areas on whites that had been stained for years became less stained. I was pretty surprised because I figured the "natural"-based detergent would be less effective than the stuff with stronger chemicals, but it was true across the board on my whites. Of course based on your machine, your water, etc., YMMV.
posted by ishotjr at 10:13 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've had good results getting things white using Oxiclean - I add a scoop of it to a hot wash when I'm washing towels and they come out sparkling white.
posted by essexjan at 10:15 AM on July 5, 2009

There's some stuff called "bluing" to restore whites. The brand name we've used is called Mrs. somebody or other, and has an old drawing of an older woman on the front of the bottle. I can't get to it to provide more details right now, sorry ...
posted by pmurray63 at 10:20 AM on July 5, 2009

Mrs. Stewart's Bluing!
posted by elsietheeel at 11:10 AM on July 5, 2009

oxiclean works for me, every time!
posted by necessitas at 11:12 AM on July 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

Sailors used to wash their clothes in salt water and dry them on the ship decks. It worked for my favorite old tennis shoes.
posted by answergrape at 12:01 PM on July 5, 2009

I have a lot of white stuff and I use Oxyclean, works way better than bleach or anything else I've tried.
posted by bradbane at 1:19 PM on July 5, 2009

If you ever want to try bleach again, clorox makes a gel bleach that doesn't splash as easily.
posted by belau at 1:20 PM on July 5, 2009

Seconding bluing.
posted by Flipping_Hades_Terwilliger at 6:08 PM on July 5, 2009

Best answer: I ended up soaking the pillowcase in a bowl with a scoopful of the Clorox version of Oxiclean (it's what we had on hand) and a lot of hot water. Two hours later, it appears the stains are gone, or at least largely faded. If they're still there after it hang dries, I'll probably repeat the process. And when I do that load of laundry, I'll toss in a scoop of the Oxiclean.

Thanks to all for the replies.
posted by gchucky at 7:36 PM on July 5, 2009

For the record, yes, elsietheeel knew exactly what I was referring to: Mrs. Stewart's Bluing. (Not sure how old the glass bottle is on that Wikipedia page; it's in plastic bottles now.)
posted by pmurray63 at 7:53 PM on July 5, 2009

Yeah, but Mrs. "Stewart" looks EXACTLY the same!
posted by elsietheeel at 1:27 PM on July 6, 2009

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