How to wash white clothes is a question that comes up often when doing the laundry. While we think that washing clothes is super simple, it is actually more complex — especially when white clothes are involved.
We’ve summed up do’s, don’ts, and best practices to keep your whites white and bright.
Why do white clothes discolor?
It sounds quite funny, right? The thought of white clothes getting discolored might seem odd but without proper care, white clothes can actually turn grey, yellow, or get stained with other colors. The most common would be your whites turning a shade darker or losing its brightness as it becomes grayish.
White clothes get dull typically because of dust, dirt, and dye. This usually occurs when clothes are not sorted properly.
Dust and dirt particles cling to clothes and since white is bright, these become more noticeable. Aside from the dust and dirt brought by pollution, putting your white clothes in the washer together with other soiled items such as socks can also contribute to its dinginess.
Dust and dirt particles removed by the washing cycle may end up affecting your whites especially when your detergent is not enough to remove all these away.
Dye from other clothes may also discolor your whites. While doing the laundry, sometimes people mix whites with light-colored clothing or worse, dark-colored garments, to save up on energy and detergent.
There are types of fabric that are not colorfast so dye eventually washes out and affects other garments in the washer. This is one reason why whites get color stains.
Sorting is key!
That being said, the most crucial thing to remember on how to wash white clothes is to always sort and wash whites separately. It is an easy and quick solution that will make your whites last longer.
If you are careful in sorting your white clothing and still find it losing its brightness, then water quality probably has a hand on that. Hard water that has high calcium and magnesium content makes detergents less effective in taking dirt and stains away.
Worry not as there are different techniques and hacks that you can learn and apply when you wash your whites.
Do you wash white clothes in hot or cold water?
Before we begin with our step-by-step guide on how to wash white clothes, let’s first answer this commonly asked question. Many often wonder if white clothing should be washed in hot or cold water.
To keep the whiteness of your garments, it is best to wash them in hot water. Why do we wash whites in hot water? Hot water is recommended for washing whites as it removes dust and stains better.
Be careful, though, as it also comes with risks. Make sure you check your clothing’s tag to see the hottest water temperature its fabric can handle. Hot water has the tendency to wrinkle or shrink some types of fabric and no one wants to end up with a smaller shirt after a wash.
Some stains such as blood are seen to settle more when washed in hot water. Remember to always wash with precaution.
How do you wash white clothes in the washing machine?
Now that you know the basics of washing whites, let’s go through the step-by-step process of doing your white laundry in the washing machine.
Step 1. Sort your clothes first
As mentioned earlier, sorting is key. To avoid unwanted incidents, sort your whites carefully and separate them from colored clothing.
This is especially important when you wash in hot water as hot water tends to remove dye from non-colorfast colored clothes which may lead to the discoloring of your whites.
Step 2. Treat stains before putting clothes in the washer
If there are visible stains, be sure to treat them first before placing your whites inside the washer. Different removal techniques work best on different types of fabric. You should also consider the type of stain in treating it.
As a rule of thumb, you can use liquid detergent to treat sweat and grease stains. For food and drink stains such as sauces of coffee spills, use undiluted liquid oxygen bleach.
Just bear in mind when using chemicals that there are risks. Chlorine bleach, for example, may damage the quality of your clothing when you put too much. Delicate fabrics such as silk may need to be handled with care especially with the use of stain-treating products.
Step 3. Choose the right detergent for whites
There are detergents that are specially designed for white clothes. These are often packed with special ingredients that help retain your garments’ brightness. Check the label of your detergent when buying at the grocery store.
Remember to put the right amount of detergent enough to clean your clothes. Proportion it to the number of garments you are putting in the washer. When you put too much detergent, the excess of that may settle in your clothes’ fibers which dirt may cling unto.
Step 4. Fill your washer with water but not to the brim
Overloading your washer might get tempting. If you want to keep your whites white and bright, then by all means, avoid overloading.
When you overload your washer, there won’t be enough space for water to remove the dust and dirt particles that have settled in your whites, leading to less clean results.
Step 5. Wash using the normal setting
The normal setting is recommended in washing white clothes as it gets the job done. It cleans your white clothing and at the same time keeps its quality.
Only use the heavy-duty setting when you feel that stains or discoloration need a rougher wash. This is to avoid beating up your fabrics due to the heavy power washing.
Step 6. Don’t use fabric softeners
Fabric softeners make clothes more comfortable to wear because they are softer. However, the downside to using fabric softeners on white clothing is that residue may stay on the fabrics, thus, causing discoloration and dullness.
What you can do instead is to add a cup of distilled white vinegar as your washer enters the rinse cycle.
Step 7. Inspect before drying
When you’re done washing, check your whites one by one to see if stains have successfully been removed before putting them in the dryer.
Treat and wash your whites again if there are still stains.
Step 8. Air dry if you can
Many prefer using the dryer because you are able to finish your laundry in no time. When washing whites, however, air-drying or hanging your clothes outside to dry works better. The sun’s ultraviolet rays help in keeping whites fresh and bright.
If you don’t have a backyard or space where you can line dry, then you can still use your dryer. Just keep its heat setting low and take out your whites while they are still slightly damp. Hang them on a drying rack for best results.
Follow all these steps and viola, you get to keep your whites white!
How can I get my white clothes white again?
Have white clothing that has gotten dull? There is still hope! You can still make your white clothes white again.
One way to do so, and probably the best way too, is by pre-soaking them before placing them in your washing machine. There are various solutions that you can use and they also require different soaking times.
The most basic solution you can pre-soak your white clothes in is a mix of water and laundry detergent. Add ¼ cup of laundry powder to a basin of warm water. Soak your whites there for an hour or two before putting them in your washer.
Best if you can use detergents that are formulated to make clothes white and bright for optimum cleaning.
Truly everyone’s best friend, baking soda is that household ingredient that makes cleaning easier. You can use it in cleaning your house and in keeping your whites white, too! The good thing about baking soda is it not only brightens your whites but also eliminates odors.
Put baking soda in a basin of warm water for your pre-soak solution. One cup of baking soda works best when diluted in four liters of water. Let your white clothes sit in this solution for eight hours prior to putting them in the washer.
Lemon juice is not just a good source of vitamin C. It can also help your whites become white again.
Slice your lemons and boil them in water. Afterwhich, put the warm solution on a basin and add your white clothes. Soak it there for an hour and presto, you get whiter clothes!
3 Tips on How to Wash White Clothes
Now that you know how to wash white clothes, here are additional tips that can help you do this task effectively.
1. Remove stains with white vinegar
White vinegar does wonders in removing stains. The great thing about white vinegar is you can easily find it in grocery stores and it is affordable too. How do you treat stains with white vinegar?
Put half a cup of distilled white vinegar in your washer’s compartment for fabric softeners. After that, you can proceed to wash your white clothing.
You don’t have to change your washing routine. Just use the detergent you use for your whites and let your washer do its job.
The advantage of using white vinegar is that it does not remove color dyes, thus, it is also safe to use in treating stains in colored clothing. White vinegar won’t also have an after-smell so you don’t have to worry.
2. Effectively treat color stains using only detergent
Need to get rid of a color stain but don’t have other products to help you? You can still treat color stains using just your detergent.
However, this is on a case-to-case basis and depends on the severity of your stain. Some color stains are so stubborn that you need intervention from other products.
Using only detergent, put a laundry capsule in your washing machine and wash your whites there on a normal setting with a temperature of 40°C. After that, line dry your clothes so the sun can help further treat the stains.
3. Bleach white clothes with care
Commercial bleach is highly effective in removing color spots and stains in clothes. The downside is that bleach is so powerful that it can ruin the quality of your clothes. If you do plan on using bleach, here is what you can do.
Put your white clothing in a basin of cold water. Once your garments are soaked completely, drop a few tablespoons of bleach into the basin. With your whites still in the basin, stir it and let it stay there soaked in the solution for 10 minutes.
Be sure to remove the clothes after 10 minutes to avoid fabric breaking down or losing its quality. If you have delicate fabric, avoid bleach and try other alternatives to treat stains.
Alternatively, you can also follow this tutorial on using bleach:
Wash white clothes with care
White clothes are certainly more delicate than colored ones so you should know techniques on how to wash white clothes. In a nutshell, white clothes are better when washed in hot water and air-dried. You can use different solutions with just household products to treat stains and make your whites white and bright.
Jessica Oliver is a fashion enthusiast with more than ten years of experience in the industry. She previously managed her own clothing store in New York before becoming a mother of three. With a passion for sustainability and a desire to share clothing care and recycling tips.