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4 ways to whiten your white clothes that have yellowed

From soccer practices to camping trips, your white clothes may face elements that lead to yellowing. Without following proper fabric care, your white clothes may turn yellow or gray over time. You can whiten dingy whites and even prevent your whites from turning yellow over time when you follow the proper laundry care instructions.

Use this guide to learn how to whiten clothing in the wash so you can keep your favorite garments looking bright and clean.

Person in a white shirt folding laundry Person in a white shirt folding laundry

Why do white clothes go yellow?

White clothes can turn yellow due to a variety of factors, such as using too much detergent and fabric softener, oxygenation, deodorant stains, washing with well water or long-term storage. With the right cleaning products and washing methods, you can reduce or even prevent the yellowing of your favorite white garments.

How to get white clothes white again

If your white clothes have lost their bright appearance, you can help to bring them back to life by adding a whitening agent, oxygen bleach or bleach-free products like baking soda or vinegar.

Always consult each item’s laundry care label to avoid damaging the garment.

What you may need:
  • Laundry whitening solution 

  • Oxygen-based bleach

  • Baking soda

  • Vinegar

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1. Use a whitening solution

Laundry whiteners are formulated to brighten the appearance of your fabric. They can be used to brighten whites and also remove color that may have bled from vibrant fabrics. To use this solution, carefully follow the instructions on the packaging as specific dosage can vary depending on the brand. Most whitening solutions can be used as a pre-treatment or in tandem with standard detergent during the wash cycle.

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2. Use oxygen-based bleach

Whitening your clothes with oxygen-based bleach can be a more time consuming option. White clothes typically need to soak in a solution of oxygen bleach (rather than chlorine bleach) and water following the directions provided by the bleach manufacturer before they can be washed using regular detergent in a normal wash cycle.


Certain fabrics like wool, silk or suede should not come into contact with oxygen-based bleach as it can lead to damage to the garment. Always consult your clothing’s laundry care label to avoid damaging the item.

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3. Use baking soda

When using baking soda to whiten your clothes, there are a few approaches you can take. The first option is simply adding baking soda directly into your washer before selecting a wash cycle. Don’t add it to the detergent dispenser as this can create a clog. 


The second way to use baking soda to whiten clothes is to create a solution of baking soda and water to soak your white clothes in for about an hour before they are washed using a “whites” wash cycle.

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4. Use vinegar

Like baking soda, you can use distilled white vinegar as either a bleach-free pretreating solution or as an additive to a standard wash cycle. White vinegar is an acidic solution that can be used to brighten the appearance of white fabrics. In addition to its whitening properties, white vinegar can also help neutralize odors in your fabrics, making it a handy addition to a wash load of activewear.


To use vinegar as a pretreatment, mix a solution of hot water and white vinegar and allow your white clothes to soak anywhere from one hour to overnight. If you want to use vinegar as an addition to a normal wash cycle, simply add the vinegar and your detergent to your washing machine and select your desired setting. Learn more about using vinegar in laundry.

Does baking soda whiten clothes?

If you prefer to avoid working with bleach when doing your family’s laundry, baking soda can be a great alternative. Baking soda can whiten garments and brighten colorful fabrics while neutralizing odors to give your clothes a thorough clean.

How to keep white clothes white

You can prevent the yellowing of white clothing by washing whites separate from colorful or dark fabrics, washing using warm or hot water or adding baking soda with your detergent to a load of whites and air drying. 

Washing white clothes using the “whites” wash cycle helps to prevent yellowing by using high spin speeds and high water temperatures of around 140ºF. If you do notice stains on your white clothing, learn how to remove them. Be cautious with certain fabrics like wool, cotton, linen and silk as hot water can cause shrinkage.

Other ways to keep your white garments bright include using the correct amount of detergent and fabric softener and avoiding overloading your washing machine. As always, remember to consult each item’s laundry care label and product use and care guides to avoid any practices that can lead to damage.

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Whirlpool brand has a selection of washers designed to fit your family’s laundry needs. Whether you choose a top or front load washing machine, you can find innovative features on select models like the Pretreat Station or the Load & Go Dispenser to help keep laundry day moving smoothly.

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