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9 Ways to Whiten White Clothes That Have Yellowed

9 Ways to Whiten White Clothes That Have Yellowed

Nothing could be worse than finding your beautiful white shirt completely yellowed and dulled in the closet. White clothes have a distinctively pleasant appeal. Be it day or night – you can wear them anytime to glam up your looks.

But, sadly, these clothes don’t stay crisp and shiny white forever. The delicate color falls victim to either yellowing or nasty stains. Does that mean you’ll have to let go of your precious white top or dress? Certainly not!

Today’s article will teach you 9-fabulous ways to whiten white clothes that have yellowed. We’ll also discuss the process of yellowing and ways to prevent it. Let’s get started!

Why Do White Clothes Turn Yellow?

There are several reasons that cause white clothes to turn yellow, including:

  • Environment

Your environment has countless unseen chemicals in the form of vapor, which can react with the cloth fabrics and discolor them. For example, nicotine released through cigarette smoke can cause their white clothes to develop a brownish-yellow tinge.

And that’s not the only thing turning yellow. The chemical is so harmful that it can turn the white walls and ceilings of the smoker’s home yellow too. So, be careful about what you consume!

  • Sweat

We all have experienced those dark yellow stains on the underarm region of clothes. These stains are ugly and stubborn. But why do they form?

They are basically the result of a reaction between antiperspirants and body salts. The aluminum in the deodorant mixes with the sweat and absorbs it into the clothes. Over time, this residue builds up and creates dark yellow stains.

  • Food Stains

The most common reason why white colors lose their whiteness is food stains. Let’s admit this – no matter how hard one tries, food spills somehow. And, once a drop of pasta sauce or even milk has spilled on the white clothes, the game’s over.

Alternatively, if you’ve made the mistake of cooking something in white clothes, chances are that grease will splash all over you. These food stains are permanent and leave behind nasty spots.

  • Storage

One would think that white clothes in storage would maintain their crisp color over time. But that’s not true.

The internal environment of the closet has reactive chemicals too. Some examples include the acid in wooden shelves and cardboard boxes. These acids will react with the white fabric strands and leave dull gray/yellow patches.

  • Improper Washing Method

The way you wash your white clothes also determines their whiteness in the coming times. Adding too much detergent or other cleaning agents (like softeners) can leave residues in the clothes. When dried in the machine, the residue bakes and forms long-lasting stains.

Similarly, if you add too little detergent, the clothes won’t be washed properly. The dirt and residues will decompose in the storage. This will result in yellowed fabric and an unpleasant odor.

9 Ways to Whiten White Clothes That Have Yellowed

Finding dull and yellowed white clothes might appear like a huge crisis. But, before you panic and throw the clothes, know that there’s still a possibility of reviving the crisp whiteness. Here are some proven ways to whiten clothes that have yellowed:

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1. Sunlight

The easiest natural way to whiten your yellowed clothes is to hang the clothes outside under the sun. Ultraviolet rays will pass through the strands and cancel the yellow color. However, you’ll have to give the process at least a couple of hours.


2. Baking Soda

Baking soda or bicarbonate of soda is famous for its powerful cleansing properties. It doesn’t only get rid of germs and bacteria, but it also whitens the surface. This is why people consider it a staple in their cleaning gear.

Baking Soda

When using to whiten clothes, there are three different methods. These include:

  1. Add ½-cup of baking soda along with the detergent to the cycle. Don’t add it to the detergent dispenser, as this will clog the machine.
  2. Add ½-cup of baking soda to a tub of water and soak the yellowed white clothes for half an hour. Then, squeeze the excess water from the clothes and wash them in the machine.
  3. Create a concentrated baking soda paste by adding a few tbsps of water to ½-cup of soda. Then, apply the paste to the dark yellow stains and leave for some time. Rinse the paste and wash the clothes with the rest of the laundry.

The first method is ideal for all-white clothes wash cycle. However, if you’ve only a few slightly yellowed white clothes, choose the second method. For heavy yellow stains, select the third method for the best results.

3. Sodium Borate

If you’ve some sodium borate at hand, it’s a better option to whiten clothes than baking soda. It has certain components that instantly break down the stains and give the clothes a bright look. It also gets rid of the foul, musty odor of old clothes.

Sodium Borate

Further, the substance has disinfectant properties. It will kill all bacteria and germs to ensure safe wear. However, don’t add more than ½-cup of borax or sodium borate to the regular wash cycle.

4. Sodium Carbonate

Often confused with baking soda, sodium carbonate is a harsh and abrasive cleaning agent for clothes. It’s commonly referred to as washing soda.

Sodium Carbonate

The substance softens the water so that the detergent can lift the residues from the clothes and suspend them in the water. It also binds with the minerals to make the water hard and increase the detergent absorption in clothes.

But, similar to borax, don’t use large quantities of washing soda. The high-abrasive nature can damage the fabric strands and reduce the lifespan.

5. White Vinegar

White vinegar works wonders to whiten dull and stained white clothes. It has natural whitening and deodorizing effects. So, your clothes won’t only look new again, but they will also smell pretty nice.

White Vinegar

To use it, mix a cup of vinegar into a tub of water and soak the white clothes in it. This is a pretreatment and will slightly whiten the clothes before the actual wash cycle. After squeezing out the excess water and washing the clothes with detergent, the spotless white result will be achieved.

6. Laundry Cleaning Agents

Sometimes, the solution is right within our sight. There are several whitening options available in the market to try and use. For example, pre-made whiteners have a special formula designed to brighten the clothes.

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Laundry Cleaning Agents

Another example is the plant-based natural detergent. The presence of enzymes and minerals has a much better whitening result than synthetic counterparts. Plus, they’re biodegradable, so you are doing your part in green living.

7. Bluing Liquid

Bluing liquid is another amazing option. Its formula contains blue iron powder, water, a pH balancer, and a biocide (to prevent algae buildups). All these components work together to cancel the yellow and brown stains on the white clothes.

Bluing Liquid

Just add ¼ or ⅛ teaspoon of bluing liquid to the wash cycle. The blue liquid will offset any non-white colors on the clothes. However, be careful because the slightest mistake in measurement can make your white clothes blue!

8. Citrus Soak

Citrus fruits like lemon and orange have certain acids and vitamins. These substances are great at breaking down stains and lightening the color. So, if you’ve some extra citrus fruits in the pantry, try out a citrus soak.

Citrus Soak

Simply take a tub of water and add lemon juice to it. You can also add orange peels (no orange juice, please!). Let the clothes soak in it for half an hour. Next, wash them using regular detergent.

9. Bleach

When nothing works, the strong and powerful bleach does the work. Bleaches are commercially produced solely for the removal of color from fabric. They don’t brighten or lighten a color but completely rip it off from the clothes.

So, be very careful when using it. Check the yellowed clothes for non-bleach labels. If there’s no label, make sure the cloth is all-white. Putting any colored cloth in bleach means ruining it.

Also, pay attention to the type of bleach you’re using. There are 3-main types with different effects:

  • Chlorine Bleach

It’s the most powerful bleach that can produce dangerous fumes. So, never combine it with any other chemicals like ammonia or vinegar. Just add ¾-cup to the regular wash cycle (along with detergent) and wash the white clothes.

Chlorine Bleach

  • Oxygen-based Bleach

This is a more gentle and less toxic option that whitens the clothes. However, it needs more time as you’ll have to pretreat your white clothes in it. Add some bleach to a water bucket and soak your yellowed clothes for half an hour. Rinse the clothes with detergent afterward.

Oxygen-based Bleach

  • Hydrogen Peroxide Bleach

Hydrogen peroxide bleaches are the most gentle and won’t work well on heavily yellowed clothes. You should use them for slightly discolored white clothes and fragile fabrics. The usage method is the same as oxygen-based bleach (pretreat the clothes).

Hydrogen Peroxide Bleach

All that said, don’t bleach wool, spandex, leather, silk, suede, or mohair white clothes. They aren’t bleach-safe and will be completely destroyed in the process.

What’s the Ultimate Solution?

If you notice that none of the whitening tips work on your yellowed-white clothes, there’s one last option to save them. Select a suitable color and dye the clothes!

Your clothes may not be white anymore, but they will definitely look better than those ugly yellow stains and patches. Plus, you can also try creative methods like tie-dye and ombre-dye.

How to Keep White Clothes From Turning Yellow?

White clothes eventually turn yellow and dirty. But that doesn’t mean their whiteness cannot be preserved for long. Here are some methods to keep white clothes from turning yellow:

  • Wash the White Clothes Properly
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Always wash the white clothes separately from the colored ones. This removes any chance of color bleeding or stain transfer. Also, try to wash white clothes at higher temperatures (140 degrees Celsius).

The heated water breaks down the stains and whitens the fabric. It helps eliminate germs and bacteria too. Moreover, the amount of detergent should be measured to clean the clothes properly.

As discussed previously, too much or too less detergent can have adverse effects. The residues decompose and create an irremovable yellow patch.

  • Store in a Cool and Dry Place

Before storage, make sure the white clothes are completely clean and dry. Then, store them in a place that is cool and safe. Don’t put your white clothes directly on wooden shelves or in cardboard boxes.

The acids will react and cause yellowing. Instead, invest in proper storage boxes (plastic) and store your white clothes in them. If you don’t want to do that, find clean plastic bags and put the clothes in them.

  • Wear Your White Clothes At the Right Place

Environmental factors are hard to control but not impossible. Always take care of the environment in which you’ll wear white clothes.

If you’ll be going somewhere with smoke, avoid all-white clothes. Or, if you plan to cook or eat greasy foods, go with something dark-colored.


Can toothpaste remove yellow stains from white clothes?

Yes, toothpaste is an effective way to get rid of yellow stains on white clothes. Apply a small amount directly on the stain and scrub it with an old toothbrush. Wash the cloth with detergent.

Does OxiClean remove yellow stains?

Yes, the purpose of OxiClean is to get rid of all stains. You can use it to remove the yellow tinge from white clothes by soaking them in it for 5 to 6 hours. Here’s a useful video on how to do it!


White clothes are aesthetically-pleasing and beautiful, but they need extra care. They can get discolored because of the environment, sweat, food spills, improper washing, and storage methods. In any case, if your white clothes have yellowed, try these 9-ways to restore them:

  1. Hang them under the sun
  2. Baking Soda
  3. Sodium Borate
  4. Sodium Carbonate
  5. White Vinegar
  6. Laundry Cleaning Agents
  7. Bluing Liquid
  8. Citrus Soak
  9. Bleach

If none of the methods work and you still want to save your clothes, try dyeing the clothes. You can get creative and color them in different styles. Have you ever tried dyeing your clothes at home? Do let us know about the experience in the comments below!

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