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Ask Dr. Laundry

Ask Dr. Laundry

Your Questions: Getting Rid of Yellowing Whites

By Dr. Laundry January 14, 2008

Q: I have a lot of white clothes that look a bit yellow. I always add bleach to water and pour in after washer is full. I even add a bit of bluing the same way. But they continue to look dingy or yellowed. Can you help me?

A: There are several potential causes of yellowing whites. Some are easier than others to correct. A couple of clarifying points on your laundry practices: When you add the liquid bleach is this after the clothes have started to agitate or is this just before agitation starts? Direct application without the agitation can sometimes cause yellow spotting.


  • Metals in water supply: Several metals, especially iron and manganese react with liquid bleach, change to a yellowish brown and deposit on fabrics. Clorox® Regular-Bleach has a patented polymer to wrap-up these metals and prevents them from reacting with bleach. Unfortunately, if you used another liquid bleach and this reaction occurred and the reaction products deposited on the fabrics, it is nearly impossible to remove. The only potential solution to already “stained” clothes is a dye remover product like Rit, but these are pretty harsh and should be used as a last resort.

  • Over packing the washer/under using detergent or Clorox® Regular-Bleach: Over packing means the washer agitator energy has to be spread across more clothes and leads to less cleaning. The under usage means these products have to work harder and if you have hard water or dirty clothes, there just aren’t enough goodies to get the clothes clean. Slowly overtime the residual soil will discolor and leave a dingy appearance.

  • Bluing is a dye that is meant to enhance the white hue on clothes. If the clothes are not clean and white, the blue hue can actually make them appear dingier/less clean.

So standard washing procedure should be: sort; don’t overload; use hot water; use appropriate amount of detergent and bleach; if you have hard or well water make sure you are using Clorox® Regular-Bleach with Whitest Whites Patented Technology on the label to bind up the metals and keep them from discoloring your whites.