Libby asked: I have a front loading washing machine and cannot get my whites white. When replaced with new whites, within 2-3 washings, they are just as grey and dingy. I only use HE detergents and have tried different brands, hot water and adding bleach, all to no avail. Help!
With the trend toward front loading washers comes an unfortunate truth: clothes need water to come clean, and lots of it. Front load washers use a relatively small amount of water and as such, it has become apparent that dingy whites are a side effect of these types of machines. However, there are some ways you can restore the items to their former bright white appearance, and many tricks you can use to keep them from becoming dingy again in the future.
Brightening Dingy Whites
If your whites have already become dingy, here’s how to brighten them up.
You Will Need:
- A bucket
- White vinegar or OxiClean
- Borax or baking soda
- Out White Brite or Rit Fabric Whitener
Steps to Remove the Dinginess:
- Fill a bucket or sink with as much water as needed to soak the item.
- Add 1-2 cups of white vinegar for every gallon of water, or add in OxiClean, following the instructions on the label.
- Allow the items to soak in the solution overnight.
- Wash them in the morning using the hottest water that is safe for the fabric and your usual detergent.
- Adding either 1/4 cup Borax or 1 cup of baking soda to the wash can help to boost the power of your usual detergent.
- For especially dingy whites, there are a variety of commercial products that you can try as well, such as Out White Brite or Rit Fabric Whitener. Look for these products on the laundry aisle of your local supermarket.
- If you soaked the items in OxiClean rather than vinegar, you can add a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle.
- Hang the items up to dry outside in direct sunlight to whiten them even more.
Keeping Whites Bright
Here are some tips to keep your whites looking their best.
- Don’t overload the machine. The fewer items in the load, the more likely they are to get clean.
- For HE washers, extra water can be poured in through the soap dispenser when needed.
- Don’t use fabric softener on whites. The residue that it leaves can cause the item to appear discolored. This includes dryer sheets. If you have been using fabric softener on your whites, wash them with a cup of vinegar added to the wash cycle to remove the build-up.
- Use white vinegar instead of fabric softener. This can be done regularly or only when whites need whitening. Add it during the rinse cycle by putting it in the fabric softener dispenser or pouring it into the soap dispenser if needed.
- Check the tag. If your whites are nylon, they should never be used with chlorine bleach and they should never be washed with non-nylon whites. Both of these scenarios can cause nylon whites to discolor. Always wash them separately without chlorine bleach.
- Always wash items that are a pair together so they remain the same exact color.
- Use the hottest possible water suitable for your load. If you don’t want to use hot water every time, using it every few loads can suffice.
- If your washer has an extra rinse cycle option, use it.
- There are whitening laundry detergents that you can use regularly, or you can use OxiClean or another oxygen bleach to keep the dinginess at bay.
- If you have hard water, you can either invest in a home water softener or you can add a laundry water softener to your wash. Follow the directions on the label of your selected product.
- Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook by Martha Stewart
- The Cleaning Bible by Kim Woodburn and Aggie Mackenzie
- Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson
- Vinegar by Vicki Lansky