Why Did My White Clothes Turn Grey in the Wash? Expert advice

Ah, the dreaded greyed whites! Whether it’s white t-shirts that have lost their vibrancy, a favorite skirt gone dull, or sheets and towels with an eerie grey tint – this can be one of the most frustrating laundry mishaps for anyone. But don’t worry if you look at clothes in dismay after they come out of the wash. You can take steps to prevent them from losing their brilliance. This blog post will discuss why white clothes turn grey in the wash and how to avoid it.

a lady frustrated with a load of laundry

What Causes White Clothes to Turn Gray in the Wash and How To Avoid It

Have you ever pulled a white shirt out of the laundry only to find it gray and dingy? This is a common problem that can be caused by a few different things. Sometimes, it’s because we don’t separate our clothes properly before washing them. Other times clothes turning grey can be due to using too much detergent or washing our clothes at too high a temperature. But fear not! There are several easy steps we can take to avoid this gray-fabric dilemma.

How to prevent your whites from turning grey in the wash

  1. Keep Your Laundry Separated By Color

    Keeping your laundry separated by color might seem like a lot of extra work, but trust us, it’s worth the effort! Not only will your clothes stay looking their best for longer, but you’ll also avoid those pesky dye transfer disasters that can ruin a load of laundry in seconds flat. So, how exactly do you go about separating your laundry by color? It’s simple: sort your clothes into piles based on their color: Whites and light colors in one pile, darks in another, and brights somewhere in between.
    If you feel extra diligent, you can also sort by fabric type to avoid snags or damage. And don’t forget to always check care labels before washing anything to ensure you’re using the right settings and detergent for each item.
    lady and child separating laundry into colours

  2. Don’t Overload the Washing Machine

    As tempting as it may be to fit all your laundry into the washing machine at once, it’s essential to resist the urge to overload it. Not only can this cause your laundry to not be cleaned properly, but it can also put unnecessary strain on your machine.
    Overloading the machine may result in detergent stains being left on your clothing.
    By dividing your laundry into smaller loads, you can be sure that each item is getting the attention it needs to come out clean and fresh.
    Plus, by taking a little extra time to care for your machine properly, you can help extend its lifespan and save money in the long run.
    you should be able to fit your hand above the washing when it fits in the drum, this will ensure that there is plenty of room for the laundry to agitate, clean, and rinse properly.

  3. Soak Your Whites Before Washing

    To soak your whites before washing, fill a sink or basin with cool or lukewarm water and add a scoop of laundry detergent. Place the white items into the soapy water, making sure they are completely submerged. Let them soak for at least 30 minutes (up to several hours). After soaking, the whites should be ready for their normal cycle in the washing machine.white sheets soaking in water

  4. Invest in Quality Detergents, Fabric Softeners, and Stain Removers

    When it comes to doing laundry, investing in quality detergents, fabric softeners, and stain removers can make a huge difference in the outcome of your clothes.
    Not only will your clothes smell fresh and clean, but they will also maintain their vibrant colors and softness with each wash.
    I highly recommend researching and investing in high-quality products to keep your laundry fresh and bright. Read this post to see how much detergent you should use in each load.

  5. Wash Clothes on the Right Setting

    Selecting the right wash cycle can make all the difference when doing laundry! Choosing the incorrect setting can shrink, fade, or damage your clothes and encourage the dyes in the fabric to run.
    First, check the care label on your clothing for any specific instructions.
    Next, consider the fabric type and how dirty the item is. Delicate fabrics like silk and wool require a gentle cycle, while heavily soiled items may need a heavy-duty option.

  6. Use Cold Water to Preserve Colors

    Did you know that using cold water to wash your clothes can help preserve the color of your garments? It’s true! Hot water can cause colors to fade or bleed, but cold water is gentle enough to keep your clothes looking vibrant and new for longer periods. So, the next time you’re doing laundry, opt for cold water and help your clothes retain their true colors.


Taking suitable measures to prevent your clothes from turning gray can be as simple as investing in quality detergents and washing on the appropriate settings. Separating clothing by color and using cold water are also great steps to take. Although some discoloration can result even with the best efforts, products such as specialized detergents and enzymatic stain removers can make all the difference. By being mindful of these tips, you can keep your colors vibrant and shining despite regular washings.

So now that you know what causes clothes to turn gray and how to avoid it, what will you do when your whites turn gray in the wash?

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How will borax help white clothes that have turned grey in the wash?

Borax can help remove grey stains from white clothes by helping balance out the water’s pH levels. It works to reduce the alkalinity of the water, which helps release the dirt and grime that may have caused the whites to turn grey in the wash. Adding Borax to a regular detergent wash can help restore whites to their original hue. If you cannot access Borax, you can read how to strip laundry without using it in this post.

Can vinegar or baking soda help sort white clothes that have turned grey in the wash?

Vinegar or baking soda can help refresh white clothes that have turned grey in the wash.
Add 1/2 cup of white vinegar or a few tablespoons of baking soda to the washing machine during the last rinse cycle to restore the whites. The acidic properties of vinegar and alkaline properties of baking soda will help balance out any pH issues that may be causing discoloration and restore the whites.a tub of baking soda and a load of white laundry

Can I use bleach on my dingy, grey clothes?

No, it would be best not to use bleach on your dingy, grey clothes. Bleach can damage fabrics and cause discoloration, making your clothes look worse. It’s best to use gentle laundry detergents and cold water when laundering fabrics that tend to fade or become dull in color.

Why have my white clothes turned brown in the wash?

It is likely that your white clothing has turned brown in the wash due to a chemical reaction between the detergent and certain elements present in your water supply. Iron and Manganese are two of the most common culprits, as they are naturally occurring minerals that can cause discoloration when exposed to certain chemicals. If this is the case, reducing or eliminating the discoloration by using a water softener like this one to remove these minerals from your water supply may be possible. Additionally, some types of detergents may react differently with certain elements in the water, so switching to a different type of detergent may help resolve this issue.

Can you wash white clothes with gray?

No, it is not recommended to wash white clothes with gray. You should separate white and colored items during washing to prevent colors from bleeding onto the whites.

Do you have any advice on laundry stripping?

Yes! Head over to this post for an Ultimate guide to laundry stripping without using Borax

Do you have any advice on how to keep my whites white?

Yes! Read all the tips in this post to get your whites extra white again!

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