How to Whiten Yellowed Wool


Judy asked: How do I whiten vintage baby woolens that have yellowed with age? I have a hand-knit woolen hat and booties that were mine as a baby 56 years ago. I now have my first grandchild to whom I want to pass the set. However, it has yellowed with age. I would like to whiten it before I give it to my grandbaby.

Wool is a natural fiber that is affected by many factors of the environment. Sunlight, moisture and storing methods can all lead to discoloration over time. This discoloration is difficult to reverse. Here are two methods that can be used to return the woolen piece back to its original whiteness.

Peroxide Method

You Will Need:

  • Peroxide
  • Water
  • Soft cloths or sponges
  • Bucket
  • Soft towels
  • Plastic

Steps to Whiten Wool:

  1. Peroxide can be used in small amounts to bleach the yellow discoloration out.
  2. Fill a bucket or small container with water.
  3. Add a small amount of hydrogen peroxide.
  4. Use a soft cloth to blot the mixture onto the yellowed piece.
  5. Launder as usual.
  6. If the piece cannot be machine or hand washed, such as a rug, rinse by blotting with clean water and a clean cloth.
  7. Allow the piece to air dry completely.
  8. Repeat if necessary.

Vinegar Method

You Will Need:

  • White vinegar
  • Water
  • Sponges
  • Bucket
  • Soft towels
  • Plastic

Steps to Whiten Wool:

  1. Begin by combining one tablespoon of white vinegar with two cups of water.
  2. Lay the piece on top of a piece of plastic, or work over a sink.
  3. Moisten a sponge with the mixture and blot the wool cloth or piece with the damp sponge.
  4. Continue until the piece has been covered with mixture.
  5. Wash as normal to remove the vinegar.
  6. Allow the piece to air dry completely, then check the coloring.
  7. Repeat if necessary.

Additional Tips and Ideas

  • In severe cases, a small amount of bleach may be used to remove the discoloration. Although this is a common option, it has had mixed levels of successful results.
  • To keep your wool pieces from yellowing, store them in a cool dry place with NO moisture. Any moisture present will speed up the yellowing process.
  • There are special wool shampoos available that will clean wool more thoroughly.
  • Though some wool can be machine washed with cold water, NEVER dry wool in the dryer.


  1. Debbie says:

    I took out the “white” color of my wool carpet by bleaching with laundry bleach. Now it is a “goldish color” (natural sheep color). I need to dye it back to whitish. Could you tell me if I can use hair tint on sheep, as you do human hair? It seems the more I bleach (laundry bleach) the wool, the yellower it gets; I haven’t used hair bleach and toner though yet, and I am a colorist.
    Please write me.


  2. Kelly says:

    I was thinking the same thing, or perhaps the peroxide method would be the way to go. Did you try the hair bleach? Have any success?

    I have got some ammonia which I am about to try too.

  3. Mary says:

    Bleach degrades wool…disintegrates it in fact. Peroxide also damages wool fibers.
    Just sayin’.

  4. Gen says:

    Hi. I need advice please. I have a sheepskin white rug and a dog peed on it. I tried to wash it out with Bi carb soda; it sort of helped but was light yellow, then I stupidly put bleach on it and it went nasty bright yellow. :'( Please HELP ME…Thank you in advance. x

  5. Melanie says:

    When bleach leaves a yellow stain on something white, it is usually from the yellow dye that is used to color the bleach. Treat the stain as you would for a dye stain. The article How to Remove Dye Stains from Clothing might work, but keep in mind that wool is a special kind of material, so any instructions for clothing in general need to be adjusted according to the need of your wool item. There are a few more ideas on the How to Fix Dye Transfer article as well.

  6. Anan says:

    Hair is not the same as wool. Bleach yellows and destroys wool permanently. Wool is acidic and adding highly alkaline. Anything (bleach, etc.) will ruin it. The yellowing resulting from using bleach is permanent.

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