How To Whiten White Clothes That Have Yellowed [6 Methods]

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If you’ve had some white clothing stored for a while, you might’ve noticed it now has a yellow tinge to it. Before you throw them away, you’re probably wondering if there’s anything you can do to return them to their former white color. Well, we’ve researched the topic in-depth and have some methods for you to try.

There are a few methods you can try to whiten clothes that have yellowed. You can whiten clothes that have yellowed by:

  • Using oxygen-based bleach
  • Using the sun
  • Giving them a citrus soak
  • Adding white vinegar to your wash cycle
  • Adding baking soda
  • Using a laundry whitener

We’ve listed six methods you can try to whiten clothes that have yellowed. Keep reading as we go into details about how to do each one. We’ll also answer some other questions you might have about yellowing clothes.

Picture of a white t-shirt drying on the rope, How To Whiten White Clothes That Have Yellowed [6 Methods]

How To Whiten White Clothes That Have Yellowed

Yellow Stain of the dirty white shirt

Oxygen-Based Bleach

It’s well known that bleach can be used to whiten fabric. Oxygen-based bleach is a less harsh alternative to chlorine bleach. Following the directions on the container for how much you should mix with water, create a solution for your clothes to soak in.

If you’re looking for a quick fix, this method may not be for you. Unfortunately, this method does require some time. Allow your clothes to soak in the bleach water solution overnight. Once it has soaked, wash the clothes as normal. Use the highest allowed temperature of water for the fabric.

This method should not be used on wool, silk, or leather garments. You may need to repeat the process if your clothes are not restored to your desired whiteness.

Click here to see Oxygen-Based Bleach on Amazon.

Sun

This method might be the easiest in terms of steps you have to take. The sun’s UV rays can help whiten clothes. Hang your clothes outside after washing while they are still wet and let the sun work its magic. Your clothes will dry and whiten at the same time.

For additional whitening, spray your clothes with lemon juice and then hang in the sun.

Citrus Soak

Lemons can really help whiten fabric. For this method, you’ll need a large pot, lemons, and your stove.

Fill a large pot with water and a few lemon slices. Bring it to a boil on your stove. Remove the pot from the heat and add your clothes. Let them soak for at least an hour. Dry your clothes in the sun if you can. You’ll essentially be ending this method with the previous method we gave.

White Vinegar

Another simple method you can try is adding white vinegar to your wash cycle. White vinegar has lots of properties that make it a great addition to your laundry routine. It not only whitens clothes, but it can also be used as a deodorizer for particularly stinky laundry.

You can add 1/2 cup of white vinegar into your wash cycle. For extra brightening, mix it with 1/4 cup of lemon juice as well. Use this mixture in place of bleach.

Can You Soak White Clothes In Vinegar?

We just listed white vinegar as a method to help turn your yellow clothes white, but we also mentioned that white vinegar has other properties that can come in handy when it comes to your clothes. In the method above, we recommended putting the vinegar in the washer. However, you can also soak your white clothes in white vinegar.

It’ll help brighten and deodorize your clothes. Soaking your clothes overnight in hot water and two cups of vinegar will not damage your clothing. If you’re concerned about your clothes smelling like vinegar after soaking, a normal wash cycle should take care of any residual smell.

Click here to see White Vinegar on Amazon.

White vinegar can also be used to clean gold jewelry. For steps on using white vinegar to clean gold jewelry, check out: How To Clean Gold Jewelry With Vinegar.

Baking Soda

Like white vinegar, baking soda also has multiple cleaning benefits. It is often used in regular household cleaning and also acts as a deodorizer. It’s inexpensive, and most people have it on hand in their pantry.

There are actually two methods you can try with baking soda. You can add half a cup of your baking soda to your washer, or you can create a baking soda soak for your clothes to soak in before they are washed.

If you choose to add baking soda directly to your washer, do not put it in the soap dispenser tray, as this can cause a clog. Instead, sprinkle half a cup of baking soda into the drum before adding your clothes. Then run your laundry cycle as normal.

If you choose to soak your clothes, mix a cup of baking soda with a gallon of water. Allow the clothes to soak for at least an hour and then wash as normal. If you have lots of clothes to whiten, consider soaking them in your bathtub.

Click here to see Baking Soda on Amazon.

Laundry Whitener or Liquid Bluing

If you want to try something specifically designed for this problem, you can purchase a laundry whitener or liquid bluing. Follow the directions on the containers for the best results.

Laundry Whitener

Laundry whitener can be used as pre-soak for your clothes or added to your washer. If you have a front loader, add it to your detergent drawer. If you have a top loader, it should be added while your washer is filling with water.

Click here to see Laundry Whitener on Amazon.

Liquid Bluing

Liquid bluing will dye your clothes blue if you’re not careful, so make sure you use the correct amount. Blue is a complementary color of yellow. It works by offsetting the yellow tinge, so while it’s not really whitening the clothes exactly, it’ll give the appearance that the clothes are whiter.

Click here to see Liquid Bluing on Amazon.

Why Do White Clothes Become Yellowed?

We’ve given you some ways to try and fix your yellowed clothes, but why does this happen in the first place?

Clothes can become yellowed over time for a variety of reasons. Usually, clothes yellow because they are exposed to a chemical or react with a substance in their environment.

You’ve probably seen this happen with the armpits of your shirts. The sweat stains the white fabric.

If you smoke or around someone who smokes, the nicotine from the cigarette smoke can cause whites to yellow. This is why white ceilings and walls will often yellow in the home of a smoker. Cooking with greasy oils frequently can also cause clothes to yellow. Baby’s clothes will often have yellow stains from their formula.

Clothes will yellow in storage because they react with substances in the storage container. Especially wooden shelves and cardboard boxes.

How Do You Get Yellow Stains Out Of White Clothes?

 

Picture of a white t-shirt drying on the rope, How To Whiten White Clothes That Have Yellowed [6 Methods]

If your whites haven’t completely yellowed, and you have some yellow stains you want to treat, you can use some of the same products we listed above for stain treatment. To treat the stain directly, you can use a commercial product or a baking soda mixture.

Oxi Clean

You can try a commercial product like Oxi Clean. Oxi Clean is used to pretreat stains before they go into your washer. Just follow the directions on the product to treat the stain.

Click here to see OxiClean Laundry Stain Remover on Amazon.

Sun

You can also remove stains by spraying the stain with a solution of lemon juice and water. Hang it out in the sun to dry. The sun’s UV rays will help breakdown the stain.

Baking Soda and Peroxide

Combine equal parts of baking soda, peroxide, and water in a small container. Apply your mixture directly to the yellow stain. Use a bristle brush or old toothbrush to scrub the mixture into the stain. Then wash your clothes like usual on the hottest setting the fabric will allow.

If the stain remains, repeat the process. Do not dry the item until you’re satisfied, as the heat will set the stain even more.

Baking soda can also help remove olive oil. If you’ve spilled olive oil on your clothes, read our other blog post for tips on how to remove it! Check it out here: How To Get Olive Oil Out Of Clothes.

Final Thoughts

We’ve given you six methods to whiten clothes that have yellowed. Hopefully, one of the above methods works for you. Good Luck!

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