Whites, even whiter
December 28, 2017 11:26 AM   Subscribe

How do I keep my white clothes bright white, instead of dingy, off-white? Give me all the laundry tips.
posted by Aranquis to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Bleach? That's what it's for.
posted by brainmouse at 11:30 AM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Bleach, and also a detergent that contains optical brighteners.
posted by pipeski at 11:37 AM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Don’t wash white clothes with dark ones.
posted by corey flood at 11:38 AM on December 28, 2017 [7 favorites]

Bleach, oxyclean, hot water for those things that need hot water (and cold for things like blood).
posted by ldthomps at 11:41 AM on December 28, 2017

Oh I forgot, I live in an apartment so it's a very non-fancy, standard HE top load washer/dryer.
posted by Aranquis at 11:42 AM on December 28, 2017

Don't use too much detergent (you're probably using too much -- most people do! -- try using half as much as you normally do). Add Borax.
posted by erst at 11:44 AM on December 28, 2017

If you launder your whites with colors, throw one of these into the wash.
posted by the return of the thin white sock at 12:03 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Use bluing to counter yellowing in whites.
posted by irisclara at 12:11 PM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you have a shirt that's yellowed you might have success throwing it in a bucket of Oxiclean. I got pit stains out of a shirt that had been there for years by soaking it for two days then putting it in the normal laundry. Make sure that you use a bit of hot water in with the powder to melt it and then add whatever temperature the garment tag calls for. Usually whites are hot (unless it's silk, wool or something delicate).

Soaking something in a bucket is apartment-friendly so you don't put a bunch of stuff in common washers. I'd be mad if people put bleach in my (shared) washers.
posted by Bunglegirl at 12:25 PM on December 28, 2017

Separate whites(lights) from the rest of your laundry and add a small amount of bleach to the white load along with deterg. Use hot water. Bonus - it will help keep the washer from getting nasty.

Any bleach used will be rinsed, and any tiny residue will evaporate.
posted by theora55 at 12:37 PM on December 28, 2017

Dry outside in the sun, if possible. The sun has a similar bleaching effect to oxiclean.
posted by The Toad at 12:54 PM on December 28, 2017

Bleach or soak them in Oxyclean, wash with bluing agents. Wash separately.
posted by wwax at 12:55 PM on December 28, 2017

Just a note: bluing agents work by actually dyeing your laundry. For the most part, optical brighteners have replaced them since the mid-20th-century. Rather than changing the colour of your clothes, these absorb UV light and emit bluish visible light, achieving much the same effect without, you know, actually turning your shirts blue.
posted by pipeski at 1:52 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe you need to decalcify your water? In my experience hard water can lead to grey clothes.
posted by mumimor at 2:08 PM on December 28, 2017

Don't put your whites in the dryer on high heat. Use drying racks or put on hangers.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:15 PM on December 28, 2017

Buy new ones. Not saying ignore the above advice, but I wear a white shirt five days a week, and there comes a time when you just have to buy new ones.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:55 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

+1 to soaking in oxiclean leading to noticeably brightening all my whites. If they're really far gone, you might needs a few laundry cycles to really revive them. I also find that throwing in a spoonful with the laundry as a preventative measure works well too.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 7:02 PM on December 28, 2017

Only wash with whites, with (not too much) bleach. My socks and towels were white white white for over 10 years. Then, I had to get rid of the cleaning lady, and doing it myself I'm lazy and mix up my loads, and now I have gray socks. Off to go buy enough socks to mostly fill a load.
posted by bluesky78987 at 8:24 PM on December 28, 2017

If you are considering environmental and developmental impact, I would hold off on the optical brighteners (and scents in your detergent as well). There's some realistic concern that they bio-accumulate and are endocrine disruptors.
posted by eglenner at 12:26 AM on December 29, 2017

Oxiclean all the way.
posted by Jubey at 5:11 AM on December 29, 2017

I don’t remember who the resident ammonia expert was here, but in case they are no longer active, I’ll just suggest ammonia and put a decent-seeming link here - How to Use Ammonia in the Laundry, which says “Chlorine bleach is often touted as the best way to whiten whites, but not all white fabrics can handle bleach. It turns some materials yellow after the first use and with continued use may turn even classically bleachable fabrics like cotton a buttery shade. Adding 1 cup of ammonia to your wash cycle in place of chlorine or oxygen bleach brightens whites without harming the fibers of most materials, and it won't turn your favorite white shirt a dingy color.”
posted by you must supply a verb at 7:18 AM on December 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

I came here to say ammonia! Ammonia has fallen out of fashion but it literally is the cheapest, best way to whiten whites. Just don't mix it with bleach! lol

I think oxyclean is a rip off, if you're buying oxyclean, you might as well just use peroxide. That's what's in it.
posted by complaina at 7:43 AM on December 29, 2017

I’ve seen the most difference by adding a scoop of Oxiclean in with my whites. I find bleach degrades the fabric quality.
posted by like_neon at 9:25 AM on December 29, 2017

Buy 40% peroxide in a gallon jug at Sally's Beauty. My laundry room never has truly HOT water, so about once a month my white linens get a soak in the tub with the hottest water, a cup or so of peroxide, splash of blue Dawn, and some Borax. I leave them in there for a few hours, wring them out, and wash as usual. Works a treat.
posted by 2soxy4mypuppet at 9:41 AM on December 29, 2017 [1 favorite]

Hot water and Oxyclean and soaking.

(I think I just suggested this for getting labels off of bottles a few days ago. Hell, it works for a lot of things!)
posted by elsietheeel at 9:22 AM on December 30, 2017

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