How to Keep Whites White – Expert Tips and Tricks

I want to start by saying that the best way to keep your whites white is to look after them well. This way, you don’t give them a chance to go dingy. We will cover how to do this later, but first, let’s look at the main reasons your whites go yellow over time.

a dirty white shirt collar

Reasons your whites go dingy.

There’s nothing more annoying than dingy whites, but can we do anything to prevent our whites from looking grungy? Let’s start by looking at why your whites lose their brightness.

  • Washing with colored clothes. This is probably the number one reason that clothes get dingy. Any color, no matter how light, will transfer from garment to garment in the washing machine, so if you mix white clothes with colored ones, you will end up with dingy, grey whites.
  • Type of fabric. Some fabrics, especially elastic on bras and knickers, seem to discolor easily in the wash and soon turn grey.
  • Failure to presoak regularly. Items like socks can get very grubby on the soles, and if you don’t pretreat them before laundering, they can get so discolored that you cannot get them white again.

How to Wash White Clothes to Keep Them Looking Bright

  • Treat white laundry differently. You’ve got to imagine that your whites are different from all your other laundry and treat them so. Keep whites separate from any other item of clothing, even light greys and beige.
  • Keep colors separate when washing whites. Always wash whites on their own. Washing whites together prevents dye from leaking from other garments. If you struggle to find a full load, wash a white towel in with the load.
  • Soak your whites before washing. Items like socks and shirt collars should be pretreated and soaked using a whitening laundry booster like this one every time you wash them to prevent a build-up of ingrained dirt. Once clothes are ingrained with dirt, they are beyond help. Extra whiteners will help treat the dirt and prevent it from building up every wash. You can use a chlorine bleach stain remover for laundry whitening. With this Vanish Oxy action, you can soak your whites for up to six hours.
  • Pick the best detergent for white clothes. Most powdered laundry detergents contain bleaching agents, so washing white clothes in powder detergent is recommended. This post covers which detergents to use when washing whites.
  • Use White Vinegar to Refresh Your Whites. Most fabric softeners contain animal fats (tallow fats derived from beef or mutton) that can build up on the fibers of your clothes and help to attract more dirt. In the rinse cycle, try replacing your usual fabric conditioner with white distilled vinegar. This will help to refresh your whites and keep them free from build-up.
  • Dry whites outside. Get your whites out on the line if it’s a sunny day. Sun is a natural bleach and will help to keep your whites white. Read this post to learn how to dry clothes outside in the winter.
  • Hand-wash lingerie. Because knickers and bra elastic tend to go grey, especially at high temperatures, it is best to wash these items separately by hand and then line dry.
  • Wear your whites carefully. It’s difficult not to get socks and shirt collars stained, but you can be mindful about when and where to wear your white outfits. For example, a rainy day is not the best time to wear your wide-legged linen pants, and you might like to think twice before you wear your best white shirt before going out for a curry.
  • Treat stains immediately. If you get a greasy stain on your clothes, do not wash or dry them but treat them immediately. Read this post to see how dry cleaners remove stains on clothing so you can try the same dry cleaning methods at home.
  • Wash at the correct temperature. Some garments wash well at high temperatures, and I tend to wash most of my white clothes using the hottest temperature possible. However, checking the garment’s care label before proceeding is always best. Some fabrics like silk and wool get better results from washing in cold water.
  • Check the hardness of your water. Sometimes, your laundry detergent may leave a residue on your clothes, depending on if you have soft or hard water. You can check how to get rid of detergent residue in this post.

As always, if you have any thoughts on how to keep your whites white, let us know in the comments. 

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