Are your white shirts turning grey? Here's how to brighten your clothes

White clothes are hard to keep clean, and yet they are so satisfying to wear. Here is how to give your greyed whites another chance and keep them pristine.

Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman
© Photo by Terry McGinnis/WireImage
Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman

We often end up giving up on our whites, simply because they turn grey and yellow and those stains are too hard to remove. Thankfully, whites can stay white for as long as you can take care of them. Here is how.

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Read clothing labels and sort your laundry

Whether you’re washing white clothes, linens, or delicates, it's important you read the care labels before doing anything. They’ll tell you exactly what you need to know to keep the item from getting damaged.

Knowing how to separate laundry will go a long way toward ensuring your white stay white.

You don’t need to separate laundry by fabric—except for bathing suits and high-performance athletic wear. Because they’re made of materials like spandex and nylon, those items need to be treated differently than cotton and linen and should be washed in their own load for the best results.

Pretreat stains and pick the best detergent

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If you’re washing a white item that’s really dirty or has a stain on it, pretreat it before putting it in the machine. Use reliable stain removers such as OxiClean Max Force Foam or Grandma’s Secret Spray.

Use a detergent for white clothes if you can. Experts swear by Arm & Hammer Liquid Laundry Concentrate Plus Oxic Clean because it’s safe for both standard and high-efficiency washing machines.

They also recommend adding a cup of distilled white vinegar to the fabric softener compartment. It is a great whitening and brightening booster and is the best for combating odour. Make sure to use distilled white vinegar, as it doesn’t have any natural plant dyes that can stain your whites.

Choose the right water temperature

Hot water typically works best to eliminate dirt or stains, but it can also cause shrinkage, so it’s important to check the wash instructions on each item of clothing first.

What temperature do you wash whites when the load includes patterns or stripes? It’s helpful to wash them in cold water the first few times to make sure the colours stay put. After that, a warm water wash should do the job.

Use a delicate cycle and dry outside

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Gentle, short cycles cause less abrasion to the fibres. So throw your whites in a load of like-coloured delicates to keep them looking new.

Fashion stylist Leena Alsulaiman says:

If you are serious about keeping your whites white, then the sun is your best friend. Whenever possible, line-dry your whites and delicates. It helps preserve their colours and fibre integrity longer.

Avoid fabric softener

Because residue buildup from fabric softener can create a grey tinge on white clothes, the experts recommend using baking soda and vinegar in the laundry instead.

Clean your washer

Camila Alves, Matthew McConaughey and Timothee Chalamet attend the 90th Annual Academy Awards at Hollywood & Highland Center on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, California Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Although it seems counterintuitive, clean your washing machine every once in a while to ensure it doesn’t make your clothes dirtier.

An easy way to do it is by simply tossing a special cleaner tablet into your machine once a month.

Will bleach make your clothes whiter?

According to experts, bleach isn’t what gives brand-new clothes their white appearance.

Alsulaiman explains:

When you buy new clothes, the reason they’re super white is because of an added extra blue dye. So when you wash incorrectly with chlorine bleach, it leaches the blue colour slowly, which causes the yellow tones to come through.

Chlorine bleach mixed with proteins actually causes a chemical reaction, turning clothes yellow. So any lingering sweat on your shirts, T-shirts, or bed sheets will, without a doubt, turn yellow too.

Sources used:

- Good Housekeeping: 'How to turn greyed whites bright again'

- Reader’s Digest: 'How to Wash White Clothes to Keep Them Looking Bright'

- Leena Alsulaiman, fashion stylist, style consultant, and coach

- Samantha Brown, celebrity stylist

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