How to whiten & brighten white laundry

From crisp white bedding and fluffy white towels to classic white t-shirts and sports socks, multiple cycles in the washing machine can quickly dull white garments, turning them grey and lacklustre. 

In fact, one of the most difficult cleaning tasks is keeping white laundry bright. 

Wondering how to get your whites, white again? We know a thing or two about clean, so we’ve put together this handy guide to help you revive faded fabrics, remove stains from white clothes and sheets, and generally brighten your load.  

How to wash white clothes:

First things first, let’s learn how to prevent white fabrics from going grey or discoloured in the wash.  

  • Keep white laundry separate: It might sound obvious, but it’s an easy step to skip when you’re short on time. Separate your washing into dark, bright and white laundry loads to avoid colour transfer, and always wash similar colours together.  
  • Choose the right temperature: It’s tempting to wash brilliant whites on a hot wash, but many detergents are now designed to work at much lower temperatures – better for the environment, your energy bills, and your clothes, which could shrink if they are washed at high temperatures.   
  • Dry white laundry outside: If your space and the weather allow, hang white sheets and clothes outside on a washing line to dry. Sunlight can naturally brighten and whiten fabrics. Be careful to only leave clothes outside for 2-3 hours, and don’t leave delicate fabrics in direct sunlight.  

How to get stains out of white clothing:

Need to remove a spill or stain from your white laundry? Here are the best pre-wash options: 

  • Tea or coffee stains: Mix a tablespoon of white vinegar with a few drops of washing up liquid to make an easy, all-purpose stain remover. Gently dab tea and coffee stains with the solution and let it sit for 15 minutes before rinsing with cold water.  
  • Red wine stains: Blot larger stains with a dry paper towel to remove excess liquid, before applying the white vinegar and dishwashing liquid mixture onto the stain, and rinsing with cool water.   
  • Blood stains: Soak the item in cold water as soon as possible, while the stain is fresh. Spray the stain with your all-purpose stain remover, or hydrogen peroxide if you have it. Leave the stain remover to work for 15 minutes before rinsing, and repeat if necessary.  
  • Mud and grass stains: Allow any mud to dry fully, then brush away the dried dirt. Dab your all-purpose stain remover onto the grass stain and let it sit for 15 minutes before rinsing away.  
  • Follow up these steps by washing the item on a cool wash cycle, with your preferred detergent. Avoid hot water, which can result in ‘setting’ stains, making them harder to shift in the long run! Similarly, don’t use heat to dry the garment, like a tumble dryer or radiator, until you’re sure the stain has gone.  

How to whiten clothes that have gone grey:

Regular wear and washing can easily result in a dull grey hue, while the odd stray sock might also be to blame for pesky dye transfer.  

  • Remove any spots or stains, following the steps above. 
  • Fill a sink or bowl with hot water and washing powder, following the manufacturer’s instructions for quantities, or substitute washing powder for white vinegar.  
  • Soak your items for at least 30 minutes, then rinse with clean warm water.  
  • Wash on your usual cycle in the washing machine. Repeat as necessary.  

How to remove yellow sweat stains from clothes:

Over time, white shirts, tops, dresses and sports clothing can easily turn yellow where sweat tends to build up, such as underarms. Sweat is made from water, salt and proteins, which can react to aluminium in the deodorant we use to keep sweat at bay. Here’s how to tackle those pesky yellow stains.  

  • Start by checking your garment’s care label – always follow the instructions to avoid damage. 
  • Choose an oxygen-powered stain remover, or make a paste from bicarbonate of soda and water. Brush your stain remover onto the yellow areas to target them. 
  • Leave the treatment to work for at least 20 minutes, or even overnight.  
  • Wash on your usual cycle in the washing machine. Repeat as necessary.