There’s nothing that quite says ‘professional’ and ‘put together’ in the way that a crisp, clean white shirt does. However, a number of common washing mistakes (many of which you may not even realise you’re doing!) can leave your once bright shirts a washed out shade of grey or yellow over time.
By following these simple tips, it’s easy to ensure that your whites remain as bright as the day they were bought...
Separate colours and fabrics
While it may be common practice to not mix black and white garments in the wash, it’s easy to overlook the mixing of other, lighter shades (such as blue, green and pink) with white garments. While this won’t necessarily result in colour transfer, white fabric is prone to picking up fluff from darker items, which will make it appear dingy and unclean.
Additionally, you should also be aware of hard water in your area, as this can discolour whites.
As well as colours, you should also take into account fabric types when washing white garments. This is due to the fact that some delicate garments (such as blouses and underwear) will require laundering at a lower temperature, or even by hand.
To make separating your fabrics as simple as possible, refer to the following guidelines:
• Acetates and acrylics can be washed together
• Cotton, linen and similar materials can be washed together
• Wool should be washed separately
• Delicates should be washed separately (often by hand)
• Do not skip rinses as detergent carryover will discolour items when drying
Wash at a high temperature
As a general rule, white garments should be washed at a temperature of at least 65 degrees. This is typically the best option for white garments as higher temperatures are the most effective at removing ingrained dirt (as well as sanitising and killing germs).
However, as we already know, wool and similarly delicate fabrics will shrink or obtain further damage if laundered at too high a temperature. To ensure such items retain their original brightness without their quality being compromised, you can add a whitener or brightener to the wash. Top tip:
if in doubt, always check the instructions on the inner care label before washing.
Use the correct detergent
White, black and brightly coloured garments all have different requirements to keep them looking their very best. To boost the brightness of your white items, opt for a detergent with an added bleaching agent. Be warned though- bleach shouldn’t be used on bright colours as will fade them, meaning you’ll probably have to buy two types of detergent!
Once you’ve found the most suitable detergent, it’s important to use the right amount during each wash cycle. While items may not be badly stained (leading many to believe that they only need to use half of the recommended amount of detergent) this can have a detrimental effect on your washing equipment.
By not using the recommended amount of detergent, grease and limescale will build up in the washer, resulting in garments picking up more dirt during the wash.
Prevent and pre-treat stains
We’ve all had those moments- you’re wearing a new white outfit, when suddenly you’ve spilt something down the front of it. Luckily, it’s easy to salvage your items with these simple tips...
• Don’t let the stain dry- treat it as soon as possible! As soon as it becomes ingrained in the fabric, it will be all the harder to remove.
• Immediately pre-treat the garment with a stain removal product formulated specifically for the stain type (such as sauce or ink). Alternatively, you can use a small amount of detergent.
• Use bleach as a pre-treatment as a last resort- it has the potential to damage delicate garments, so always check the inner care label before applying to the fabric.
• After pre-treating, try a cold wash- in some instances, hot water can seal in stains, making them harder to remove in the long-run.
• If your stain isn’t removed after laundering, don’t let the garment dry- pre-treat and wash for a second time (or until the stain is considerably faded or removed).
• To prevent yellowing from everyday wear, simply add half a cup of baking soda to each wash.
Bonus tip: use a colour remover
It’s easy to make mistakes- such as leaving a coloured sock in an all white wash! To remove dye transfer from other garments, let the clothes soak in a colour remover or a mixture of oxygen bleach and water, then wash as normal.
As with all stains, don’t allow the garment(s) to dry after the colour has transferred. This will only set the dye, making removal more difficult.
Always, remember: if in doubt, check the label before washing or treating garments.