white laundry

Who wants to wear dulled out, once-white clothes? Nothing looks less appealing than drab – not quite gray but definitely not white – clothes. Whites should appear crisp and fresh, and pure as a summer’s day. Unfortunately hard water and age can turn whites cloudy-colored or not-so-pretty yellow.

Plus whites actually seem to attract stains. It seems like you only spill coffee or red wine down your front on the days when you’re wearing a pure white shirt. Am I right?

Luckily several products in your green cleaning stash can help brighten whites and remove stains naturally. Find out how.

To keep whites white

Baking soda, vinegar, borax, lemon juice and hydrogen peroxide all naturally whiten. Add ½ cup of any of these cleaners to each wash cycle to keep your clothes bone white. For double duty, mix in ½ cup vinegar and ½ cup borax to your white loads. Both ingredients will help brighten whites, and the vinegar will soften clothes.

To restore whites

Presoak dingy whites in a mixture of one gallon hot water and ½ cup washing soda, a powdered mineral soap that helps brighten clothes. Then launder your clothes as usual.

For clothes that haven’t been white for quite a while, try this method. Fill a pot with water and add several lemon slices. Bring the water to a boil. Fill a tub with the mixture and soak white linens, socks and non-delicate items until the water cools. Then wash clothes as usual.

Finally hang clothes to dry in the sun, the least expensive all-natural whitener out there. The sun will naturally bleach the garments, without setting stains like a dryer.

Natural stain removal

Depending on the severity of the stain, try a combination of these natural tricks to get your whites sparkling clean.

Rust stains: Remove as much of the pesky stain as possible before treatment. Saturate the stain in lemon juice and then sprinkle salt directly on it. Let the mixture react overnight then rinse it with cool water. Do not use hot water, as it will set the stain. Repeat these steps if the stain persists.

Grass and ink stains: Drench the stain in cheap vodka (yep, vodka!) and launder as usual.

Armpit stains: Ah. Lovely yellow armpit stains. Remove these bad boys by scrubbing the spots with baking soda and water. Mix together four tablespoons of baking soda and just enough water to form a paste. Scrub the mixture into the stains. Let it sit for a few minutes, then launder as usual. The key to keeping the underarms of shirts snowy white is to treat shirts before each washing—even if you can’t see staining yet.  

Red wine stains: Immediately pour salt on the stain to absorb the moisture. Let the salt work its magic then scrape it away. Next blot the stain with liberal amounts of club soda.

For all other stains, try dabbing the area with lemon juice, vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.