Mar 28, 2016

How to Brighten Dingy or Yellowed Whites

Last week, as I was preparing to put the linens back in our freshly painted main bathroom, I noticed the white valance for that room was looking...well, not so white. It was a bit yellowed and dingy. (Imagine that, after a decade of use!) Otherwise, the valance was in great condition and I really didn't want to replace it just to leave it with the house after we sell it, so I researched a few ways to easily brighten the white valance. These methods work equally as well for clothes or linens.


First, Why Do Whites Get Dingy or Yellow?

Turns out, there are lots of reason white fabrics turn dingy or yellow:

* Washing them with colors, which bleed in the wash.
* Storing them improperly, so they touch cardboard or wood.
* Stuff in the air, including smoke and grease.
* Overuse of chlorine bleach.
* Using too much laundry detergent or fabric softener.
* Drying the item too hot or too long in a clothes dryer.


How to Brighten Whites

Washing soda can help whiten whites.
When cleaning anything, it makes good sense to start with the most gentle cleaner, only trying more harsh cleaners if the more gentle ones don't work. Therefore, I've listed these cleaners approximately from most gentle to most harsh/least natural. On the other hand, if you don't have, say, lemons laying around, but you do have ammonia, you may as well try ammonia first!

Baking Soda - In a sink or bucket, stir together 1 cup of baking soda with 4 quarts of warm water. Once the soda is dissolved, add the fabric and soak for about 8 hours. Rinse and launder as usual.

Lemon Juice - This is really old school, but it works well. Fill a large pot (like a stock pot) with water and add two lemons, sliced (not just halved). Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat. Add the fabric and let soak for about an hour. Rinse and launder as usual.

Vinegar & Borax - Use 1/2 cup each of white distilled vinegar and borax (found in the laundry aisle or on Amazon) in the washing machine.

Washing Soda - Fill a sink or bucket with 1 gallon hot water and add 1/2 cup washing soda (found in the laundry aisle or on Amazon; it is not the same thing as baking soda). Add the whites and soak for 15 minutes before laundering as usual.

Bluing works as well today as it did way back when!
Bluing - Another old school method. Follow the manufacturer's directions. (You'll find bluing in the laundry aisle, or at Amazon.)

Ammonia - Fill a sink with hot water and add 2 tablespoons ammonia. Soak for 15 minutes. Rinse in cool water and launder as usual. (This is the method I used on my valance; it worked like a charm!)

Chlorine Bleach - Pour up to 1/4 cup of bleach into a gallon of cool water. Soak for 5 minutes, then rinse and launder as usual. Use bleach only occasionally, as it can lead to yellowed whites.

Oxygen-based Bleach - (like OxiClean or Clorox 2) Fill a sink or bucket with warm water and add oxygen-based bleach, according to the manufacturer's directions. Allow to soak overnight, then launder as usual.


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