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
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.
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.