Brightening Your Whites: Our Top 10 Tips on How to Make White Clothes Whiter Using Natural Methods

There’s nothing quite like slipping into a crisp white shirt, especially on a sunny day. A classic summer colour that never seems to go out of style, not only will your favourite white clothes keep you cool thanks to their reflective qualities, but they will also compliment your complexion and provide a clean and fresh look. However, all too often, our whites lose their brightness over time, turning into a less-attractive, dull shade that veers on appearing grey or yellow. And, instead of giving these well-loved items the care they deserve, we are often quick to throw them aside. So, why not give your faded whites the light of day this summer by restoring their shine? Read on to discover our top tips on bringing your dull whites back to life, using easy, affordable and all-natural methods! 

1. Keeping your clothes white is super-easy using bicarbonate of soda!

A common household product, bicarbonate of soda can be used for a variety of purposes, be it as a baking agent or for brushing your teeth! And, thanks to its abrasive properties and alkaline nature, it can also be put to use for whitening your clothes. Effective and relatively inexpensive, it's a centuries-old trick!

For best results, simply add 500g of bicarbonate of soda to your machine once it reaches its rinse cycle. If your whites haven’t reached the stage of needing saving yet, and you’re simply looking to prevent them from losing their brightness, you could alternatively add around 2 tablespoons of bicarb powder to your washing detergent on an ad-hoc basis instead.

2. Add baking powder to your white laundry

Often found sitting at the back of your kitchen cupboard, baking powder is not only handy for helping your cakes rise to the perfect height, but can also be used to maintain your white clothes.

Place around 1 tablespoon of baking powder into the tray of your washing machine, where you would normally put your detergent, and let it work its magic.

If you’re looking to whiten a specific stain rather than the whole garment, simply wet the stain with cold water and use a soft toothbrush to work a little baking powder into the impacted area, scrubbing gently.

3. Use lemon juice to clean your white clothes

Acidic in nature, lemon acts as a natural bleach – getting rid of yellow stains on your white clothing and removing sweat marks – particularly those found on the underarms or collar of your garment.

Add your squeezed lemon juice (use around 1 lemon per litre of water) into your machine during its final rinse cycle. This will also help remove any residue from your detergent that can discolour your white clothing.

If you’d prefer to lighten your clothes by hand, leave your whites (that have since become more like greys and yellows!) to soak overnight in a basin of water mixed with lemon juice. If you have a particularly tough stain, like a sweat mark on your favourite white tee or shirt, you can cut a lemon in half and rub it gently against the stain instead.


4. Hydrogen peroxide is a great alternative to bleaching your clothes

Perhaps stored away in your first-aid cabinet, hydrogen peroxide is not only reserved for use as a disinfectant but is also a great alternative to bleach for brightening dulled clothes. It should, however, only be used on items made from robust fabrics such as cotton, and should not be used on garments with printed motifs.

Pour around a cup into your washing machine tray when doing your whites, choosing a long program and a very hot temperature.

Alternatively, you could soak your clothes by hand. Add your hydrogen peroxide (preferably 30%) into a basin filled with water. You should follow a ratio of about 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide per 7 cups of water.

5. What about white vinegar?

A safe and straightforward method, using white vinegar on your clothes can bring them a new lease of life and remove any old, musty smells. If you’re worried about a lingering smell of vinegar on your clothes however, fear not! They will surprisingly come out smelling just as nice as your usual wash, if not better! 

Add half a cup of white vinegar directly into the drum of your washing machine, using your detergent as normal.

6. Add aspirin tablets to your washing machine for bright whites!

Another top tip that requires rummaging around your first-aid cabinet, aspirin can help restore the freshness of your favourite white clothing items.

Place 2 tablets of aspirin in the drum of your washing machine along with your whites. Then, run your machine as usual.

7. Give soda crystals a go!

Slightly more powerful than bicarbonate of soda, soda crystals are perfect for restoring the whiteness of clothes that have become discoloured over time.

Add around half a cup of soda crystals into 2 litres of hot water and mix well. Soak your laundry in the mixture for around an hour, then rinse thoroughly afterwards.

8. Try out sodium percarbonate

Non-toxic to the environment, sodium percarbonate is a white powder made up of soda crystals and hydrogen peroxide. An excellent cleaning agent, it is activated by hot water, creating a bubbling effect that helps lift dirt and grime from your dingy whites.

Add one scoop to around 5 litres of hot water and leave your clothes to soak for approximately 2 hours minimum.


9. Wondering how to remove yellow stains from white clothes? Cold milk is great for whitening yellowing fabric

Another age-old laundry hack, cold milk has been used to whiten clothes for years, especially those that have gained a slight yellow tinge.

In a large basin, pour 1 litre of milk into 2 litres of water, alongside a few ice cubes. Immerse your clothes in the mixture, making sure they’re well covered. Soak for an hour, then rinse thoroughly. To improve results, leave your clothes to dry in direct sunlight where possible (sunshine isn’t always a given in the UK, we know!).

If the yellowing is mainly found in the folds of your clothing, brush the folds with the milk mixture and leave the items to dry in the sun. Once the fabric is dry, wash as normal. This trick also works with powdered milk diluted in water. 

10. Sunlight can restore your white clothes

Sometimes, like us, all your clothes need is a bathe in the sun! The ultraviolet rays help break down the chemicals in fabric stains, helping your whites get back to how they were in the first place!

Lay your clothes outside in an area that attracts the sun. You can always add a bit of lemon juice for an extra boost!

This trick should only be used with natural fibres, such as cotton. Note that strong sunlight can turn synthetic fabrics yellow, which is contrary to what we’re after!

Get whitening your clothes today!

So, there you have it! Our top 10 tips for naturally brightening your favourite white garments! If you’re looking for other ways to look after your clothes, why not check out our Guide to How to Read Clothing Care Labels?

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