Getting your black-and-whites back to white?
March 18, 2014 7:16 AM   Subscribe

I have a lot of very yellowed white clothing. Bleach does nothing, but even if it did, some of them (specifics inside) are white + colour. How do I make them white again.

My specific concern is this dress, which is white with black stripes.

The problem, according to the internet, is the way my sunscreen reacts with my sweat, causing really nasty yellowish stains around the neck and armholes (not wearing sunscreen is, alas, not an option). And, apparently, bleach just makes it worse?

Is there any way, using easy-to-source products (available in Canada) to bring these clothes back to their former glory?

Added difficulty: I only have access to front-loading washers, so leaving something to soak in the machine isn't possible (although I have a tub I can soak things in in my own apartment).

The poster with a similar issue from last year says that the options suggested didn't work (and those suggestions were for white-only clothes AND included Whink which I've never been able to find). Any new developments?
posted by AmandaA to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (9 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
You might try a bluing agent to get the white back to white. The concept is that a pure white is more of a cool/blue white, so adding a small amount of blue back into the fabric will get rid of the yellowing effect of age. I use it with my whites (that have some color in it as well) although only if the secondary color is dark enough to survive a little blue tint.

Mrs. Stewart's (linked) states that it is safe with all colors, so I may just be overly cautious
posted by Suffocating Kitty at 7:26 AM on March 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Try soaking it in oxy-clean.
That stuff can work wonders.
You can soak it with oxy-clean, and scrub it with oxy-clean, and then put it in the washing machine with oxy-clean as the detergent.
I don't mean to sound like a product shill, maybe there are similar products that don't have a bearded man on commercials yelling at you.
But the stuff works quite well.
posted by entropone at 7:33 AM on March 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

I've found that the oxygenating powders have done great things for yellowed fabrics, though it might depend on what fiber the fabric is. I would suggest getting an oxy-clean laundry powder and saok it in your tub for a while.
Also, for sheets, hanging them on the line in the sun repeatedly keeps them white/makes them whiter, but I don't know how the black stripes on your dress would fare doing that.

If it's site specific yellowing, try Goop. It comes in a tub, and is fantastic for things like inks and dried on paints etc, so don't know if it would work on something like what you're describing, but it's only $3 (at the grocery or hardware stores, comes in t a tub and is used for getting stuff off of hands) so worth having on hand anyway.

If nothing else, maybe google some dry cleaners in your area who are stain specialists and see what they say.
posted by newpotato at 7:33 AM on March 18, 2014

Soaking things in a tub and then washing in the machine is just as effective as the machine's soak cycle.
posted by aimedwander at 7:37 AM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

One part Dawn, two parts hydrogen peroxide, a little banking soda for extra oomf. It'll change your laundry world.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 7:51 AM on March 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bleach can turn some fabrics yellow permanently, especially polyester and cotton/poly blends.

This post suggests it might also be high iron content in your wash water; you might also try Borax. But I have a formerly white bathroom rug that's permanently yellowed from bleach, alas.
posted by Andrhia at 7:56 AM on March 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oxyclean, well the Australian equivalent, is what my Mother used to use on my Dads Chef Whites to keep them sparkling and then hang them on the line in the sun, she rarely if ever bleached them. Hang item inside out if worried about the black fading.

Also nthing bluing, which can make dull whites seem to pop again.
posted by wwax at 8:31 AM on March 18, 2014

If you've already bleached it, it is gone.
If you haven't treated it yet, try oxy.
If all else fails, buy a box of RIT dye and turn the white into blue or purple.
posted by rmless at 8:41 AM on March 18, 2014

Lemon juice and salt on the stains (lots of both), then lay in the sun. I was super skeptical, but it bleached out my most stubborn stains.
posted by mrfuga0 at 2:51 PM on March 18, 2014

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