Simple and effective laundry hacks to achieve brilliantly white clothes without bleach

With the correct ingredients and techniques, it most definitely is possible to whiten clothes without bleach. Source: Getty Images.

If there’s one colour in any laundry load that households struggle to keep looking fresh and bright, it’s whites. Would you agree? It’s disappointing when that crisp white item discolours so that it no longer looks fresh and is simply a shade of white, like beige or mother of pearl. What’s even more difficult is when you stain your whites, be it from wine or pasta sauce, potentially ruining your favourite item of clothing forever!

Over the years, the world has become more conscious of the dangers associated with harsh chemical bleaches, and are turning to more natural, inexpensive methods using everyday household items. With this shift to a more natural alternative in mind, Starts at 60 put the following tried and tested tactics to the test, to prove that some alternatives to bleach can get your whites looking as white as the day they were purchased.

With the correct ingredients and techniques, it most definitely is possible to whiten clothes without bleach.

Easy peasy, lemon squeezy

Have you heard of a citrus soak? This recommended method of whitening is by the legendary Martha Stewart. Stewart recommends boiling your whites with lemons and lemon juice, getting the water to bubbling, and allowing them to soak for about an hour.

  • Fill the pot with water and a few slices of fresh lemon
  • Bring to the boil on the stove
  • Turn off the heat and add your items
  • Let soak for up to an hour
  • Finally, put them into the washing as normal

Stewart also recommends drying in direct sunlight for an improved result.

Pass the white vinegar, please

This method is a bit of a double whammy because not only do the whites get whiter, but the vinegar acted as a natural fabric softener. All you need to do for this one is add 1/4 cup of white vinegar to your whitewash during the last rinse cycle.

Forget stains with baking soda

There are so many uses for baking soda! If your whites are starting to look a little dirty, mix a solution of about 4 litres of water and 1 cup of baking soda to whiten your whites naturally. Allow the clothes to soak and marvel at how clean they are when done!

Alternatively, if there is a stain you are looking at removing, you can create a bit of a paste with equal parts hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and water. Cover the stained areas in a layer of the paste and let it sit for 30-60 minutes. Remove the excess residue with a soft brush and throw the item in the washing machine and wash as usual.

Hydrogen peroxide to the rescue

Another household staple that can help with whitening your whites is hydrogen peroxide. As you begin a new load of laundry, pour 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide (3 per cent) straight into your detergent or bleach dispenser, and proceed with your regular laundry routine. Hang your clothes out to dry in the sun for best results.

Use the dishwasher

More specifically, if you have any dishwasher tablets or powder on-hand give this one a go. Not many people would have thought of dishwasher soap as a secret ninja for their whites, but it works reasonably well. You’ll need to blend about 1/4 cup of dishwasher powder with your regular laundry powder and then run your wash as normal.

The next time you’re dealing with tough stains or dull whites, keep in mind that there’s a better, eco-friendly way to make your laundry look great. With these different methods, you can say goodbye to faded colours and welcome back those bright white clothes.

Happy washing!

This article was originally published on December 13, 2019, and has been updated on May  22, 2024.

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