Cleaning

How to Keep White Towels White

How to make white towels white after white towels become dingy! Why white towels become dingy and gray or yellowed.

There is something so refreshing about a clean, white towel. But what should you do when white towels start to look a little less white? Whether they’re turning gray or yellow, here is how to keep white towels white. 

Tools for Whitening Towels:

Why do White Towels Become Dingy?

Wrong Amount of Detergent

If you regularly use too much detergent, your white towels will start to develop a dingy look due to excess detergent build-up. On the other hand, if you don’t use enough detergent, your towels won’t be cleaned properly and could turn gray over time because of dirt build-up. Make sure you read the instructions on your laundry detergent bottle and use the recommended amount when washing your white towels.

Washing in Hard Water

Hard water is higher in minerals like calcium and magnesium. Over time, these minerals can take a toll on your laundry leaving white fabrics looking gray, yellow and stiff. Not sure if you’re being affected by hard water stains? Here is a quick test:

  1. Fill a clear, lidded container ⅔ of the way full with water from your tap (a glass water bottle or mason jar is perfect for this).
  2. Add a few drops of liquid soap, close the cap, then shake vigorously.
  3. Set your container down and check the water. Cloudy water with minimal bubbles is an indication of harder water. Clear water with lots of bubbles on top is an indication of softer water.

If you have hard water and you’re wondering how to keep white towels white, you might just need to use slightly more detergent in your wash. Check with your laundry detergent manufacturer for recommended usage.

Mixing Whites with Colors

If you tend to mix your white towels with colored towels or other items, the dye from your colored fabrics can subtly stain your white towels. This is especially true if you like to wash your white towels with colors in a hot cycle! If you choose to mix whites and colors, make sure you have already washed the colored items more than once (to remove most of the excess dye) and always opt for a cold cycle. 

Chlorine Bleach Overuse

Chlorine bleach (not to be confused with oxygen bleach, another great stain removal product) can be a great way to whiten most white fabrics. With that said, everything is great in moderation! Over-use of chlorine bleach can damage fabrics and actually cause yellowing. Natural fibers like cotton have a yellow core, so excessive bleaching will expose that core fiber material. The same goes for synthetic fibers made from yellow synthetic polymers. If you choose to use chlorine bleach, make sure you follow package instructions carefully!

How to Keep White Towels White

Now that you know the cause of your graying and yellowing towels, let’s talk about how to make them white again. Because we just talked about how over-use of chlorine bleach can actually cause yellowing, I recommend starting with a bleach-free fabric whitening solution.

What You’ll Need:

Step 1: Dissolve Baking Soda for a Pre-Soak

Dissolve 1 cup of baking soda for every 1 gallon of warm water used in a bathtub or other large basin. Pre-soak your towels in the tub for 1-8 hours depending on their level of dinginess.

If you want extra whitening power, mix laundry detergent into the water before soaking your towels. Add only as much detergent as you would use in a normal wash cycle, then soak for 1-2 hours.

Step 2: Launder with Vinegar

Launder the towels in the washing machine, as you normally would, but add a 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar during the rinse cycle. Just put the vinegar in the fabric softener slot when you load your laundry detergent.  

The traditional method for cleaning towels is to use warm water, but with today’s advances in laundry detergent formulas, your towels can get just as clean on a cold water setting. Cool water temperatures will also prevent shrinkage at the seams and help keep colors true. 

Step 3: Dry in the Sun

If you really want those towels to be white, dry them outside in the sun. The sun is like a natural bleaching solution for towels and other white fabrics (this technique also works well on stained baby onesies and yellow armpit stains).

Alternatively, you can dry your towel in the dryer. If you go this route, avoid dryer sheets. Dryer sheets leave a coating on the outside of towels and minimize their ability to absorb moisture over time. Try using wool dryer balls instead.

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