Picture this: It’s happy hour. You’ve got patio seating on a gorgeous summer day, and you’re wearing your favorite white button-down. You’re sipping on a margarita and having a great time until all of a sudden, a glob of salsa slides off your chip and lands on your crisp white shirt. Dread sets in as you wipe the salsa away, leaving behind an obvious reddish stain. What’s a gal to do? If you’re not sure how to wash white clothes beyond tossing them in with the rest of your laundry, stop right there. White garments need a little extra TLC to stay bright and stain-free, so you’ve got to learn a few basics before you jump in with damage control.
As someone who used to feel major anxiety while eating, walking around, and simply existing in white clothing, I know that it can feel easier to simply avoid wearing white altogether. The good news is that you don’t have to be afraid of wearing white this summer if you know a few laundry tricks. After all, our clothing is meant to be worn and loved, and what’s more chic than an all-white ‘fit? Laundry just so happens to be the one chore I actually like doing, so here’s how to wash white clothes so they stay light and bright all season long.
How to Wash White Clothes so They Stay Bright and Crisp
1. Read your garment’s care label.
Maybe this is a no-brainer, but every piece in your closet has a care label, which will tell you everything you need to know about how to take care of your garment. If you’ve ever had questions like what temperature the water should be, what heat setting to choose on the dryer, or if you should dry clean a piece instead of washing it at home, the care label’s got you. I recently read the label of one of my favorite summer crewneck sweatshirts and learned that I should be washing it inside out. Who knew!
2. Wash your whites separately.
I’ve definitely been guilty of tossing all my clothes into the washer together, but that’s a great way to make your whites look dingy. Most clothing isn’t colorfast, which means the color will fade over time in the wash. The dye will end up bleeding onto your whites, turning them a slightly different color. To avoid this mishap, save your colors for another load and wash your whites separately.
3. Wash on the warmest water setting you can.
Check the care label for the ideal water temperature for each garment, and always go as warm as your piece allows. Warmer water is great for disinfecting and breaking down stains—perfect for whites. Just be sure to not go too hot or else your pieces may shrink. No one likes the feeling of putting on pants that are suddenly an inch shorter than they used to be, so be sure to read the care label carefully!
4. Use a bleach alternative detergent.
To be honest, I don’t use bleach in my laundry. I’ve heard horror stories of bleach staining clothes and it just seems kind of intense, so I’ve avoided it. A bleach alternative, however, is way less scary. It’s totally safe and won’t irritate your skin like bleach can. I use a bleach alternative detergent for all my all-white loads, and I think it makes a huge difference. My favorite is this one from Tide to keep my whites nice and bright! Bonus: It’s also safe on colors, so there’s no need to worry about tossing a two- or three-toned white garment in with the rest of your whites, as long as the other colors aren’t super bright.
5. Add a laundry boost.
I’m all for going the extra mile when it’s as easy as adding one more step to an already simple routine, and that’s what a laundry boost does for my all-white load. While they’re not always necessary, a laundry boost will help your detergent be more effective. In this case, it will help brighten your whites even more. Laundry boosts come in a few different forms like liquid, beads, or powder, and you add them into your washer like you would a detergent, simple as that. OxiClean White Revive is my go-to laundry booster, and I’ve tried both the powder as well as the liquid form. I prefer the liquid simply because my detergent is liquid as well, but they both work great and do the same thing.
6. Pre-treat stains.
Let’s face it, stains are inevitable. Even if you’re able to avoid food or grass stains, summer heat means sweat, which can cause your whites to yellow. Don’t worry, though! In my opinion, there’s nothing more satisfying than getting out a stain, and the quicker you act, the better.
For on-the-go emergencies, I always keep a Tide stain remover pen in my purse and car. Once I get home, I tackle the stain ASAP. Instead of tossing the stained item in the washer and hoping for the best, you can pour a little OxiClean directly on the stain and wait 10 minutes before you start your load. Or for tougher stains (think spilled red wine), you can soak your garment in water and OxiClean for a few hours and then wash as you normally would.
More of a DIY girl? Household items like baking soda and dish soap work wonders on stains. If you find the armpit areas of your white shirts are turning yellow, try pouring a little bit of hydrogen peroxide, dish soap, and baking soda directly on the stain. Scrub it in with a clean toothbrush or scrub brush, then let your garment sit for an hour or two or even overnight. Then launder as usual!
Everything You Need to Wash White Clothes