Learning the proper way of washing whites will keep them bright, clean, and stain-free. Some people think that whites are the easiest to wash because they can easily see the stains and dirt. However, to ensure your whites don’t turn yellow or have yellow stains and prevent damaging the fabric, there are a few things to consider.
Washing Whites - The Do’s and Don’ts
Bleaching your clothes and other fabric-made items might be the first option that comes to mind when washing whites because it can effectively brighten and clean them. It’s not always the option, though, and other fabrics shouldn’t be bleached. You can wash them safely and effectively by keeping in mind some yays and nays provided by most experts.
Washing Whites - The Do’s
To wash your whites properly and efficiently, the following are the things to keep in mind when doing so:
- Sort the Fabrics
- Pick the Right Detergent
- Consider Optical Brighteners
- Use Safe Whiteners
- Pre-Treat Stains before Washing Whites
- Use the Maximum Safest Temperature
- Add Vinegar to the Rinse Water
- Check the Fabric Before Drying
- Hang Dry or Dry With Low Heat
- Clean Your Machine Regularly
- Invest in a Water Softening System or Agent
Sort the Fabrics
It’s a fact that the general rule of laundering and washing whites is to separate whites from colored ones. Not everyone, though, knows that you shouldn't mix white-like colors, such as beige, with whites.
Once you have all the whites, separate them per fabric weight. You should mix items made of heavy fabric or a high weight in one pile and those made of delicate fabrics or thin, lightweight ones in another pile. Additionally, separate them according to the washing water temperature level: cold, warm, and hot.
The next thing to do is separate your white fabrics based on filth or dirt level: heavily soiled, moderately dirty, and relatively clean. You must also place those with stains in a separate pile. Doing so will ensure no dirt, stain, and odor will transfer to the cleaner ones.
Then, wash each pile separately, from the lightest to the heaviest and from the cleanest to the dirtiest.
Pick the Right Detergent for Washing Whites
Nowadays, there are many types of detergents and brands available in the market. The initial reaction to this is to pick the product you’re most familiar with, or you’ve been using for a long time. The best thing to do is take advantage of this wide range of selections; choose one explicitly made for whites. You can also opt for detergents with bleach or bleach alternative ingredients.
Mild automatic dishwasher detergents are also great options for washing whites, especially for white undies and socks, because they have great cleaning and brightening agents. Add two to three tablespoons of the product to three to four gallons (15L) of water.
Washing Whites with Optical Brighteners
Optical brighteners are also called bluing agents, which is one of the bleach alternatives added to some detergents. If you have plain detergent meant for whites missing this ingredient, you can add optical brighteners in the washing procedure, specifically if the fabric is dingy or has yellow stains.
Although it has a bluing effect, it will make your whites appear brighter because yellow and blue are on the opposite sides of the color wheel. The formula of the bluing agent will release a minute amount of the dye into the rinse water.
Keep in mind, though, that you must strictly follow the manufacturer’s directions and only use a small amount of the bluing agent when washing whites. Also, refrain from pouring or spraying it directly on your fabric and putting it in your washer’s detergent dispenser to prevent blue spots.
Washing Whites with Whiteners
Whiteners are optional but will help improve your whites' color quality by enhancing the performance of your detergent. Some of the most recommended options are:
- Lemon Juice: Considered a natural and safe bleaching agent, you can add a half cup of lemon juice to water. Then, soak your fabrics for an hour or overnight before washing whites.
- Borax: This natural and safe whitening agent can also remove residues and enhance the detergent’s quality. All you have to do is follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
- White Vinegar: With a similar effect as lemon juice, add ¼ or ½ cup of white vinegar to the amount of water usually used for one standard load of whites.
Whether washing whites or colored items, pre-treating stains is always part of the process to ensure they get removed efficiently. It’s also best to treat stains immediately or when you drop something on your whites that can cause stains, such as wine, coffee, and ketchup.
With Cold Water
Use cold water since hot water allows the stain to set. The steps to follow when washing whites with stains are:
- Dip a clean washcloth or sponge in the water.
- Gently scrub the stain.
- Let it stand for almost 15 minutes, and then proceed to launder.
With Stain Removers
You can use other stain removers, whether commercially available or home alternatives, for sweat and tough stains, especially on the armpits, collars, and cuffs.
- White Vinegar: Soak a piece of cotton in white vinegar and gently scrub it on the stain. Leave it for at least an hour.
- Oxygen-Based Bleach: Commercially available oxygen-based bleach is also the perfect solution to pre-treat yellow stains or yellowed whites. Just follow the dilution instructions and soak your fabrics in it for four to 24 hours. Drain the solution and then do your washing whites as usual.
Use the Maximum Safest Temperature
Since you sorted out your whites based on fabric type, wash each batch using the highest temperature level safest for the fabric. High temp kills germs, prevents fading, and removes more soil, oil, grime, and dirt but can cause damage and shrinkage. As such, ensure you check the care tag and do not exceed the maximum temp required for the fabric.
Add Vinegar to the Rinse Water
Instead of using fabric softeners or conditioners when washing whites, use distilled white vinegar to help remove all the detergent residues. All you need is one cup of vinegar for one rinse cycle.
Check the Fabric Before Drying
Before hanging the fabrics to dry or placing them in the dryer, ensure that you check them for any remaining stains. If there is, treat them again and then repeat the washing process because exposing the stain to heat will make it stay on the fabric permanently.
Hang Dry or Dry With Low Heat
Similar to any other laundering procedures, washing whites also ends with the drying cycle. Ideally, the sun's UV rays can make white fabrics look brighter, whiter, and fresher. If not possible, you can dry your whites using the low setting and don’t run the cycle too long. You only want the fabrics to be slightly damp.
The dryer’s auto-cycle is the perfect setting since the machine will stop once it detects that the fabrics are dry. Once you pull the fabrics out of the dryer, allow them to air dry by hanging them on a rack.
Clean Your Machine Regularly
Your washer can also affect how well your fabrics come out after washing whites. Cleaning it at least every three months will ensure your whites don’t get discolored, or no residue remaining in the washer will make your fabric dingy.
Invest in a Water Softening System or Agent
Hard water has many minerals that can make your white fabrics look dull when used to rinse them. Having a quality water softening system will improve your wash water’s quality. Adding a small amount of water-softening agents like soda ash, borax, and calcium hydroxide can help.
Washing Whites - The Don’ts
You might have been washing whites for a long time without realizing that you’re making a lot of mistakes. Some of the things you need to avoid when washing white fabrics include:
- Using Too Little or Too Much Detergent
- Bleaching Regularly
Some people believe that they can save more time, energy, water, and electricity if they load their washer to the brim or up to its maximum capacity. The problem is that you won’t get your fabrics cleaned efficiently when doing so because there’s not enough room for the fabrics to move around.
Dirt, soil, and grime would also re-deposit to the white fabrics since the water won’t flush them out completely. As such, your whites will look dull.
When washing whites by hand, you must also not overload your basin, sink, or tub with the fabric. It’s best to wash one item at a time.
Using Too Little or Too Much Detergent
Contrary to popular belief, using too much detergent when washing whites won’t make your fabrics cleaner, whiter, and brighter. It will actually make them dirtier because the suds will coat the dirt and stain instead of cleaning them. Unrinsed or improperly rinsed detergent residue will also act as a magnet for dirt.
On the contrary, when using a small amount of detergent as required, fabrics won’t be cleaned efficiently. Thus, when washing whites, always use the required amount of detergent.
Cotton is usually the type of fabric that you can safely bleach, but always check the care label instruction. The correct bleaching process will ensure it appears brighter than usual and be free from stains. That said, doing so regularly or more than the required frequency will do more harm than good.
Over-Drying when Washing Whites
Don’t over-dry your white fabrics both when drying manually and machine-drying. That’s because too much exposure to heat during the drying process can leave stains and turn residual dirt to yellow. Of course, it might also wear out the fabric quickly.
Washing Whites - In Conclusion
Have brighter, stain-free, and clean white fabrics without causing yellowing by making sure you wash them properly. When washing whites, always follow the basics such as sorting them according to color and filth level, following care label symbols or instructions, and choosing the right detergent.
You must also use safe and efficient brighteners and whiteners that can enhance the detergent’s performance. Also, keep in mind your washer’s cleanliness and wash-water quality. Lastly, anything in excess, like exposure to too much heat and using an excessive amount of detergent, isn’t good for your whites.
More Washing Articles
Now you know all about washing whites, it is time to learn more washing techniques. Here are some related articles: