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Keep your white laundry gleaming with these easy, all-natural methods.

White is a classic summer color -- but ironically, white is also the hardest color to wear, especially in the summer. Think about it: drippy ice cream cones, grilling (burgers, ketchup, mustard), picnics in the grass. And then there's the real villain for any white shirt: armpit sweat. Beyond stains, there's the dinge factor. You wash your whites over and over and they take on a shade of gray or yellow that's not pretty.

Here's the good news: it is possible to keep your whites their whitest -- and you don't necessarily have to use bleach to accomplish this.

1. Separate whites completely from any color.
You have to separate your whites from any and all colored laundry -- no exceptions. That means light-colored clothing, whites with a little pattern -- and even cream- and beige-colored clothing. These light dyes won't stain your whites in the way an errant red sock may turn a white load pink, but these lights add to the yellow or gray tint that can develop over time as you wash load upon load.

separate laundryGetty Images

2. Don't overload your washer.
Stuffing your washer full is never a good idea when you're doing laundry -- but it's an extra bad idea for white loads. The clothes can't move around well during the wash load, the detergent doesn't filter efficiently, and you're likely to get detergent residue left behind, which creates a dingy look on fabrics over time. Fabrics also wear on each other when they're crammed inside a washer; this practice breaks down the fibers gradually.

3. Use a specialty detergent designed specifically for whites.
Any all-in-one detergent will clean your whites. But only a specialty whites detergents will keep your whites in better shape longer. This specialty detergent is worth the extra money. Whites detergents contain a small amount of oxygen bleach or bleach alternative (like optical brighteners) that give your white fabrics a bluish tint, so they appear whiter. My personal favorite is the Laundress Whites Detergent.

4. Use a laundry booster.
Think your white T-shirt doesn't have any stains? You might be wrong. Stains often disappear with water and reappear later. The sugar in stains (like squirts of grapefruit juice) later oxidizes in the air and turns yellow over time. Simply add a scoop of laundry booster to your wash load. Stains are very easy to spot on your crisp whites, so always use a booster with white loads. Laundry boosters are formulated to tackle and treat stains. (Laundry boosters also let you skip the pre-treating process.) OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover is a fantastic laundry booster that keeps your whites vibrantly white (and stain-free). If you're looking for a green alternative, try EcoStore's Pure Oxygen Whitener.

5. Skip fabric softener.
You really don't need fabric softener at all, according to experts. But if you prefer to use fabric softener, use it only every few washes -- or make your own all-natural fabric softener. Over time, chemical fabric softener builds up and causes a dingy appearance on whites.

6. Treat armpit stains.
I learned this trick from Steve Boorstein, the Clothing Doctor. You can prevent armpit sweat stains (that create yellow spots on your white T-shirts over time) with a simple formula. Make a solution of water with a little detergent in a spray bottle. As soon as you take off your shirt, spritz the armpit area of your shirt with the solution before putting it in the hamper. This simple step helps rinse out the perspiration right away and extends the life of your shirts.

Tip: If you're on the go (as most of us are in the summer) keep an OxiClean Spray-A-Way in your bag for any surprise food, grass, or bike grease stains on your whites. Hit up the stain with this instant stain solution, then dab the stain with a water-soaked white cloth, like a paper towel.

  • Ben

    Another option for whitening whites is to use a liquid bluing - Mrs. Stewart's, for example. Very old fashioned, but it works well, using the same principles as the optical brighteners. As a bonus, it's quite cheap.

  • ohyearh

    White is a classic summer color -- but ironically, white is also the hardest color to wear, especially in the summer. Think about it: drippy ice cream cones, grilling (burgers, ketchup, mustard), picnics in the grass. And then there's the real villain for any white shirt: armpit sweat. Beyond stains, there's the dinge factor. You wash your whites over and over and they take on a shade of gray or yellow that's not pretty.My boyfriend thinks the same with me. He is eight years older than me, lol. We met online at a nice and free place for younger women and older men, or older women and younger men, to interact with each other. Maybe you wanna check out or tell your friends.

  • Annette

    ALL I know is EVERY detergent that is coming from Procter & Gamble stinks to holy heaven! It smells like pure chemicals and in a real nasty way.. even their fabric softeners stink. I don't know what they did to change it..but almost every product on the shelves is a P&G product.. they seem to be taking over the cleaning industry and infusing in with Febreez.. and that really can stink... I read that they test on the Hispanic market first.. I find it hard to believe the Hispanics are 'buying' this scent... even Dreft has changed and that was beautiful.. forget the Pantenes.. ugh... I just buy everything not P&G now...

  • Alice

    Gosh I thought I was the only one that noticed how stinky Tide has become. It actually gives me a headache smells so bad. And I used to love the old scent.

  • kittylit

    Everything stinks of berries and fruit these days. I can't stnnd the smell of most shampoos, soap or detergents. Whatever happened to a clean (not food) smell?

  • Linda

    If you would like a detergent that has NO Fillers, Dyes or Perfume Check out my website and check out our laundry detergent. It is fabulous!

  • Annette

    Thanks Linda.. there are pleny of "free' out there.. I saw your site... just a bit pricey for me!!

  • carol z

    In the summer the best way to keep those whites white (especially tennis whites, golf shirts, etc.) wash them, put in dryer for just a couple of minutes and then put them on a hanger and handgthem outside in the sun (a natural whitener)..The whites will always be bright ..

  • Bree

    I agree - I find that the dryer is what yellows the whites - Overdrying burns the fabric over time and in turn will yellow. I wash my boys white t- shirts and hang them to dry and they maintain wonderfully.



  • KZK

    Caludia, Thank You for pointing that out.

  • susan

    Nothing was said about those of us with well water . If you have a high rust and lime build up , it will turn your whites yellow or dingy gray .

  • Kathie

    Iron out is great for those hard water stains. White vinager and baking soda go in my whites every time.

  • mimi

    I lived with well water for many years. I used pepper in the wash cycle and hung them outside.

  • Dan


    I used to have a well and you should get a water conditioner system for it. Cost around 2 K but if you will be there a long time it will be well worth it. ( No pun) Takes out the Iron and calcium..... tastes' way better to................

  • Robert

    I personally use the products from the "GET CLEAN" line from the Shaklee Corporation. No chemicals/poisons/toxins/fillers. For a small-medium size load, just 1/8 cup(powder) is needed. I add 1 to 2 tbsp "Nature Bright". You don't have to worry about their fabric softener; it will not stain whites or turn them color. Shaklee also makes fragrance-free dryer sheets that can be thrown in the recycle box when finished. All products have been third-party tested and in most cases exceed or equal those products purchased from regular stores. It's all about making your life more green and chemical free.

  • KZK

    Claudia - Thank You for pointing that out. Procter & Gamble are notorious for cruel animal testing. P & G manufacture brands that people may not be aware of; Tide, Clorox Bleach, Comet Cleanser, Pampers just to name a few. People ... Google Procter & Gamble Animal Testing and see the horror for yourselves. The worst is the Diazide (?) tests where they place rabbits in boxes so that only their heads are exposed and drop bleach and other products onto their eye balls. : (

  • Susan Wistrand

    Thank you for the info on P&G. I am a rabbit breeder and would be mortified to know that my rabbits were being subjected to this. My rabbits are raised for showing and 4H.

    Unfortunately, research centers pay top dollar for rabbits and breeders cater to them. It's a shame to say, but I would rather see them go for meat than tortured!

  • Geoff

    I use water softener (Calgon, 20 Mule Team) in all my washes, I use bluing (Mrs. Stewarts) on the whites during the rinse cycle. (I do use bleach with whites.) I've been doing this for over 22 years and have never had a problem with dinginess (sp) or yellowing.

  • Renee

    Wat bleach do you use on your whites besides 20 mule team and the blueing? This message goes to Geoff said . . .


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