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Treating Worn, Grayed Whites

By Dr. Laundry September 9, 2013

Is it possible to get old, grayed whites white again?


How easy it will be for you to whiten your items, depends somewhat on how they got that way. Here are some factors that affect cleaning that you may be able to change now to prevent the dingy gray build up on your whites in the first place:

1. Detergent choice. Make sure you are using a good detergent that contains brighteners and enzymes in addition to surfactants and builders. Review the ingredient list—better detergents often list the purpose of the ingredients, too. Plus, the better the detergent, the further increase in whitening when you add bleach.

2. Use the correct amount of detergent. Underusing detergent will result in poor performance, especially for people with hard water. If you don’t use enough detergent, you won’t have enough builders present to tie up the water hardness so the cleaning agents can do their job. Additionally, if you are washing heavily soiled items or extra-large loads, you will also need to use more detergent.

3. Use the correct amount of bleach. That’s ½ cup Concentrated Clorox® Regular-Bleach for a regular load. For heavily soiled or extra-large loads, add up to 1 cup.

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

5. Don’t overload the washer. Clothes need to circulate/tumble freely through the wash water for optimum cleaning.

As far as improving the appearance of the items you have, if the discoloration has built up over time, then you need to strip off the dingy grey build up. This can usually be done with a bleach soak using 3 tablespoons Clorox® Regular-Bleach per gallon of water. Fully submerge any bleachable items (avoid bleaching wool, silk, mohair, leather, spandex, and non-fast colors) for 5 minutes, then wash them in hot water using detergent + ½ cup Clorox® Regular-Bleach