Download Article
Your guide to soaking, washing, and drying whites to fight stains and discoloration
Download Article

You go to put on your favorite white tee, when you notice it’s not looking so white anymore. White clothing, sheets, and other garments are a staple in the household, but keeping them looking white can be tough, especially over a long period of time. Fortunately, we’ve got the stain-fighting tips you can use to brighten your whites and make them look brand-new again. Keep reading to learn how to pre-soak, wash, and dry your whites to get them back to their original shade.

Things You Should Know


Soak your whites in Oxi Clean.

  1. Oxygen bleach helps break down stains and discoloration fast. Before washing your whites, fill up a tub or sink with hot water, then add a scoop of Oxi Clean (or any generic brand of oxygen bleach). Submerge your whites in the water, then let them soak for 1 hour, or overnight. Once they’re done soaking, throw your whites in the wash and use laundry detergent and cold water to launder them like normal.[1]
    • Oxygen bleach can be slightly irritating for your skin, so use rubber gloves to protect your hands.
    • If you’re laundering fabrics that are prone to shrinkage (like linen), soak your clothes in cold water and oxygen bleach instead of hot water.
  2. Advertisement

Pre-soak your items in dishwashing powder.

  1. Use dishwashing powder to tackle dark stains. Dishwashing powder isn’t ideal for any delicate items, but it works wonders on dark stains and discoloration. Fill a tub or sink with hot water, then add a scoop of dishwashing powder (not liquid detergent) into the water. Soak your whites in the mixture anywhere from 1 hour to overnight, then put them in the washer like normal.[2]
    • Many people swear by Cascade dishwashing powder for this method, but you can use any brand of dishwashing powder that you’d like.
    • Save this method for hearty, durable items, like towels. Dishwashing powder is too harsh for delicate items.

Try chlorine bleach for tough stains.


Use fabric rust remover for yellow stains.

  1. Rust remover is a tough stain remover that won’t damage your clothing. Dampen the stain with lukewarm water, then apply the rust remover to the area. Scrub the area with a toothbrush, then let it sit for about 5 minutes. Rinse the garment with lukewarm water, then wash it like normal.[6]
    • This option works especially well on removing armpit stains. The stains in this area are usually caused by a reaction between sweat and antiperspirant deodorant, and the nasty yellow tint that results is caused by aluminum rather than sweat alone. Rust stain remover takes care of these aluminum-based stains.
  2. Advertisement

Add baking soda and vinegar to the laundry.

  1. Use a baking soda and vinegar combo to fight discoloration. Add 12  c (120 mL) of vinegar to the fabric softener compartment, then sprinkle 1/2 cup (100 g) of baking soda into the drum of the washer. Add detergent like you normally would, then wash all your whites with cold water. As the baking soda and vinegar combine in the wash, they will agitate and fight stains and discoloration, getting your whites white again.[7]
    • When baking soda and vinegar combine, they will foam up a little, and that’s okay. It means that their stain-fighting action is working!

Dry your whites outside.

  1. Use the bleaching power of the sun to turn your whites white again. Sunlight has a natural bleaching effect, so allowing your clothes to hang dry in the sun can dry and whiten them simultaneously. Use clothespins to keep your laundry secure, and let your whites bake in the sun until they’re fully dry.[10]
    • If you are unable to dry your clothes in the sun due to the weather, where you live, or for any other reason, you can still dry your white clothing using a dryer. You won’t get the bleaching benefits of natural sunlight, but the dryer won’t do any real damage to the clothing (as long as the fabric is dryer-safe).
  2. Advertisement

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • Question
    How do I get grey out of white clothing?
    Community Answer
    Community Answer
    It can be quite difficult to get the grey removed from white clothing. Try "Vanish".
  • Question
    Are carb soda and baking soda the same thing?
    Community Answer
    Community Answer
    Yes, they are the same.
  • Question
    How do I get armpit stains out of white clothes?
    Community Answer
    Community Answer
    Scrub with Fels-Naptha laundry bar and warm water. It works on my whites and colors.
See more answers
Ask a Question
200 characters left
Include your email address to get a message when this question is answered.

By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube.

Read Video Transcript

About This Article

Susan Stocker
Co-authored by:
Cleaning Guru
This article was co-authored by Susan Stocker and by wikiHow staff writer, Hannah Madden. Susan Stocker runs and owns Susan’s Green Cleaning, the #1 Green Cleaning Company in Seattle. She is well known in the region for outstanding customer service protocols — winning the 2017 Better Business Torch Award for Ethics & Integrity —and her energetic support of green cleaning practices. This article has been viewed 1,599,131 times.
6 votes - 100%
Co-authors: 18
Updated: May 3, 2023
Views: 1,599,131
Article SummaryX

To get white clothes white again, soak them overnight before washing them in a tub filled with hot water and a scoop of oxygen bleach, such as Oxi Clean. For extra tough stains, try using a scoop of dishwashing powder instead. The next day, launder your clothes the way you normally would. You can also soak your clothes in a tub of water with about 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of chlorine bleach mixed in for 15-30 minutes, then launder them. However, keep in mind that bleach can be hard on many fabrics. To tackle individual stains, pre-treat the stained area with 3% hydrogen peroxide or a rust remover before tossing the item in the laundry. You can also brighten dingy white items by adding baking soda, vinegar, lemon juice, or commercial color remover to your washing machine along with your regular detergent. If possible, hang your items out to dry in the sun, which has a natural bleaching effect. Keep reading for tips from our Cleaning co-author, like how to keep your whites bright with a pre-soak!

Did this summary help you?

Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 1,599,131 times.

Reader Success Stories

  • Sharat Sharma

    Sharat Sharma

    Feb 26, 2017

    "wikiHow has always helped me no matter the problem I'm facing. With wikiHow, I always have a solution for..." more
Share your story
If you buy through links on our site, we may earn a commission.

Did this article help you?