At first, I wondered if this posting would seem sexist. I questioned whether I’d be subtly implying that the majority of my readers (which are, in fact, women) should also be doing the laundry in their homes. But I reasoned the worry away since in the case of most of my friends, it’s their husbands that do the majority of cooking, and really, everyone should know how to do laundry right.
Back to the business of keeping whites bright, do you feel a bit bummed when you suddenly notice that your favorite white shirt is actually a very pale shade of gray? I know this annoys others as much as it annoys me. It may even annoy my husband as much as it annoys me. We all love buying a bright white shirt, be it a T-shirt or classic button-down. But soon enough, we notice that the bright white is gone and our garment is a little dingy-looking.
So what to do about it?
Do NOT reach for chlorine bleach! Not only is bleach terrible for our health and the environment, but it weakens and ultimately yellows fabric. A side note here about bleach: I’m still shocked by how many people continue to regularly use chlorine bleach. It aggravates asthma and asthmatic conditions, produces mustard gas (think World War I) when combined with ammonia–the key component of urine, and is deadly to all aquatic life. In fact, 25% of the calls received by the Poison Control Center are for incidents involving chlorine bleach or other products that contain chlorine. It truly has no place in our lives.
Instead, follow these basic steps to keep your whites looking brighter longer:
- Only wash whites with other whites. Never wash whites with colors! The best defense against dinginess is to be very careful about sorting your colors. Even brights labeled “color-fast” or colored clothing you’ve had for a while will lose a little dye in the wash, which will quickly find its way to your white items.
- Turn white jeans inside out before washing them.
- Wash whites on warm… OK, in reality, washing your whites in the hottest water safe for the fabric will get them even whiter, but that’s just too un-environmentally friendly for me. I think washing whites on warm is justified. It’s not as energy-efficient as cold, but since it’s the only color that needs to be washed on warm, I say go ahead. You’ll be saving energy on the other side since you won’t need to buy new white pieces of clothing as often.
- Pre-treat stains (particularly those around shirt collars and cuffs) with an enzyme-based stain remover before putting the article of clothing in the wash.
- Use a gentle laundry detergent (my favorite is Method Free and Clear, because it’s safe for my family and for the environment!) and a booster, such as an oxygen whitening powder (also known as oxygen bleaching), never chlorine bleach (in case you missed the note above). You can also add 1/2 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar to your wash load.
To a brighter, healthier world (and wardrobe!)!