How can I get my white sheets white again?
October 17, 2006 11:10 PM   Subscribe

How can I get my white sheets, er, white again?

I've never owned white sheets until now; I have two different sets, both fairly pricey. One are Egyptian cotton, from Bed Bath and Beyond, and the other are regular cotton, made by Area. Both sets have yellowed very slightly since I bought them ten months ago, mainly on the pillow cases. Normally I wash the sheets by themselves, and just use regular Tide liquid detergent on them. Tonight I tried washing the Bed and Bath ones with Tide and a little bit of Clorox bleach, but it didn't seem to make any difference at all.

I'm a guy. I work better with things that plug in than with things that are woven. Can anyone suggest what I should do to re-whiten these sheets?
posted by autojack to Home & Garden (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Here's one set of instructions for using chlorine bleach on fabrics
Here's another

Did you use the right amount of bleach? Did you use hot water?
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:18 PM on October 17, 2006

And here's a set of instructions for removing a yellow tinge from white cotton
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:20 PM on October 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

Actually, in the old days the solution to yellowing wasn't bleach, it was blue dye. You can buy it in liquid form in a bottle to be used on your whites. Use too much and it looked strange, of course, but use just a little and it works like a champ.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 11:35 PM on October 17, 2006

Funny, I thought blueing was the florescent dye.

I just wash whites in hot water with oxygen bleach. Works like a charm. I'm sure something in there has some florescent dye. I also always use fabric softener, because it makes fabric easier on my skin (without it, fabric draws moisture from my skin).
posted by Goofyy at 12:34 AM on October 18, 2006

I second HOT water and bleach. Check the washing instructions on the tags before anything though.
posted by bangitliketmac at 1:53 AM on October 18, 2006

The problem with bleach is that people are far too careful about their "stuff" to use it effectively. Hint: throwing a cup into the wash during the "bleach" cycle isn't, in general.

Soak the sheets in the bathtub overnight. Use three times as much bleach as you think you'll need, and make sure the water is hot (as mentioned). 8 hours in a high concentration of bleach:water should do the trick. Wear gloves.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:48 AM on October 18, 2006

you could try boiling in a pot with water and several sliced lemons. if you want to try this, look up exactly how to do it elsewhere on the internet.
posted by lgyre at 5:41 AM on October 18, 2006

Hang them out to dry in sunshine if you can. That's an old-fashioned way to whiten up whites.
posted by Carol Anne at 6:03 AM on October 18, 2006

I second Carol Anne's suggestion. The sun is a great whitening agent!
posted by Sassyfras at 8:05 AM on October 18, 2006

This happens to our white sheets sometimes, and I've soaked them in a solution of hot water and Oxyclean powder, then run them through a regular wash cycle, and then hung them on the line to dry.

There's also a new Clorox bleach product that has some kind of fabric conditioner in it, called Gentle Care or something to that effect, that does great things for my white towels.
posted by padraigin at 8:48 AM on October 18, 2006

OxiClean is really great. Not only does it whiten dingy whites (including my great-grandmother's (1914) very yellowed cotton wedding gown!), but it also works really well for other hard-to-remove stains (such as blood and, for the parents among us, poop).

You'll need to soak the sheets in an OxiClean solution for a while (say, 4 - 8 hours); the bathtub or the washer is probably the way to go.

Bleach probably would work too, but you have to be careful not to burn the fabrics with it. I've actually ended up with brown spots on white fabric from too much bleach.
posted by leahwrenn at 7:08 PM on October 18, 2006 [1 favorite]

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