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How to whiten white clothes that have yellowed


White t shirt hanging up on washing line outside

Got whites? Over time, it is very likely that your white clothes and linens will become somewhat yellowed. This means white cotton shirts, dresses, hankies, towels, and bed linens. You may also have an heirloom from your grandmother like a vintage cotton dress that has been kept in a closet or bin for years. So, there are many ways that white clothes and linens become yellowed. This also means that there are few different ways that your yellowed whites can become white-white again. Let’s look at how to whiten clothes that have yellowed either by hand or in the washing machine.

Ask Team Clean also provides a few other articles that you may wish to reference, with regards to some of the ways of whitening your whites:

Guidelines for how to whiten clothes that have yellowed

Here are a few tips that will help you get your whites clean, no matter what shape they are in. 

  • BE SAFE: All cleaning products that can whiten your whites (both natural and chemical) are different and respond differently when combined. Be sure to follow the instructions on the labels to make sure your cleaning process is safe.
  • TRY THEM OUT: All fabrics respond differently to the whitening process, and it may take you a few attempts with different products and processes to find the right ones for your fabric items. Too many choices? Why not start by trying Dylon Brilliant White Repair sachets to help remove those stubborn stains. 
  • PATIENCE: Patience is required as some of the whitening processes may take up to one week to complete – but the results will be fantastic! Some processes are DIY that have been recommended by online sources and some are based in a pre-made chemical commercial product. 
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Two methods for how to whiten clothes that have yellowed with age and use

  • Method #1: Washing soda or baking soda: 
    • Soak your vintage and/or yellowed whites in the washing machine, bathtub or large wash sink for 24 hours with one cup of washing soda or baking soda
    • Use the hottest water that your fabrics can withstand. Use patience. (Do not add vinegar to the soda.) 
    • Let soak with occasional stirring. Rinse by hand after 24 hours. 
    • Repeat daily as needed to whiten—up to 7 days of repeating the same process. 
    • When the white-white is satisfactory, do a final wash and rinse on medium in the washing machine with regular washing powder. Dry in the dryer, do not dry in the sun.
  • Method #2: Oxygen bleach with powdered laundry detergent:
    • Oxygen bleach is a gentle bleaching agent that removes stains and brightens laundry and is safe for use on almost all types of washable white or coloured fabrics. Oxygen bleach has chemical ingredients, and it works more slowly than regular harsh chlorine bleach. It is more environmentally friendly and will be gentler with your whites.
    • Add a measure of oxygen bleach and a measure of washing powder to a washing machine full of hot water. 
    • Make sure it is fully mixed prior to adding the washing. Let the fabric soak for a minimum of one hour – up to 8 hours. Run the rest of the wash and rinse cycles and dry in the dryer on a high heat setting.
    • Repeat as needed.

We hope you enjoyed our tips on how to whiten your white clothes that have yellowed. Please be sure to check out our other laundry and cleaning tips such as how to wash trainers in the washing machine, how to get soft towels and how often to wash bed sheets for more inspiration.