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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Grayed Washcloths from Soap

By Dr. Laundry October 24, 2011

Q:  How would I go about whitening washcloths that were grayed by liquid body wash soap?  I have washed these cloths several times in my (HE) washer using normal laundry detergent and have had no success in getting the washcloths back to white.

A:  There are some factors that affect cleaning, and changing your laundering habits may yield better results.  Here are some suggestions;

Detergent choice:  Make sure you are using an HE detergent — better ones contain brighteners and enzymes in addition to surfactants and builders — that is specially formulated for your washer.  Review the ingredient list, since better detergents often list the purpose of the ingredients.  A good detergent will also help bleach perform better!

Use the correct amount of detergent:  Underusing detergent will result in poor performance, especially if you wash heavily soiled items or extra-large loads.

Choose a “hot” wash temperature:  The higher the wash temperature, the better the cleaning.

Don’t overload the washer:  Clothes need to circulate/tumble freely through the wash water for optimum cleaning.  It’s better to divide up a large, heavily soiled load into two smaller loads.

Use the correct amount of bleach:  That’s ¾ cup for a regular load, and 1 ¼ cup for an extra-large or heavily soiled load.  If your clothes washer has a bleach dispenser that limits the amount of bleach you can add, experiment with smaller loads, and fill the dispenser to the “max fill” line.

All this will help your results over time so you don’t have a buildup of incomplete soil removal.  For the washcloths you have now, pre-soaking them in a solution of ¼ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach per gallon of water will help whiten them.  Fully submerge the washcloths for 5 minutes, and then drain the soaking solution.  Follow up with a hot water wash using detergent and ¾ cup bleach (or fill the dispenser to the max fill line).

How many readers have HE washers versus a standard washer?