There was a time when keeping your whites bright was as simple as dropping some bleach into the washing machine. This is no longer the case, as white or pastel fabrics can turn yellow or take on a dingy appearance when their fluorescent brightening agents, or optical whiteners, break down. When this happens, fabrics begin to take on their original hue of off-white or yellow. Plus, whites can begin to turn grey when soil is not fully removed from them during the washing process.

This beckons the question: how can we keep our whites fresh and bright? Plus, is it ever possible to restore a dull white garment back to its former glory? Let’s take a look …

How to Keep Your Whites Bright
For starters, in order to keep whites from turning yellow or dingy, keep them out of the light. We’re not saying you shouldn’t wear your whites out during the day, but hanging them out on a clothesline to dry, or leaving them in a room all day where there’s a lot of sunlight can lead to the breakdown of a garment’s brightening agents. Often, a white fabric will only become discolored in areas where it has been in contact with direct sunlight. Once a fabric becomes discolored in this way, there isn’t much you can do to remedy the color.

Another tip is to avoid using chlorine bleach on whites, which is something that may feel counter intuitive. This is especially true with wools, silks, nylon, rayon and acetate. The reason you need to avoid chlorine bleach is because, like light, it can break down a fabric’s fluorescent brighteners.

How to Restore Your Whites 
Have some of your whites turned grey? It’s probably because all of the soil isn’t being removed during the wash. Pre-soaking greyed garments can help with soil removal. Carefully measuring detergent and reading the care label to ensure a proper water temperature can also help. Finally, make sure you give clothes room to “breathe” in the washing machine. Overloading your washer is a surefire way to keep clothes from getting adequately cleaned.

What if a White Garment Gets Stained?
Any fabric other than cotton may contain brightening agents (it’s possible that even some cottons contain them). Therefore some stain-removal sprays may get the stain out, only to cause yellowing by breaking down the optical whiteners. When in doubt, bring your garment to your local Klinke Cleaners. We’d be happy to take a look at it and let you know if we can safely remove the stain.

Thank you for visiting Klinke Cleaners!