By Helen Chiang

Nothing looks smarter than a crisp white shirt or perfectly cut white tee, but keeping your white clothes looking new and spotless is not as easy as tossing them into the wash after each wear. If your whites are looking worse for wear, it may be time to brighten them, naturally.

Pristine whites will eventually turn a dingy grey or yellow over time, but the inevitable can be delayed. This is why it’s important to separate your whites from your coloured clothes to prevent colour transfer from other fabrics. Other factors that destroy your whites would be detergent and fabric softener residue, sweat and oils from your body, and lets not forget those stains and spills that happen whenever you happen to be wearing your favourite white outfit.

When it’s time to whiten our whites, we often turn to chlorine bleach, but long term bleaching erodes the fabric and gives it a yellowish hue. Here are some environmentally friendly proven methods for keeping your whites white using supplies you may already have on hand.

Distilled White Vinegar

Try adding one cup of distilled white vinegar to a gallon of hot water. Submerge your whites and allow it to soak overnight, then launder as usual. Adding one cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle when washing white or coloured clothing will help cut through the detergent residue that leaves clothes looking dull.


The citric acid in lemons can bleach fabrics and works well to whiten cotton, linen, and polyester fibres. Simply mix half cup of lemon juice (or the juice of four lemons) into one gallon of hot water. Add in your whites and allow it to soak for at least one hour or overnight to whiten. Then wash as usual.

Baking Soda

Stir one cup of baking soda into one gallon of boiling water, then remove from the heat, add in your whites and let them soak for at least an hour or overnight. The sodium bicarbonate cuts through stains on cotton clothing that leaves them dull. Wash as usual.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Safe to use on all washable fabrics, hydrogen peroxide is a mild form of oxygen bleach. Use the same 3% solution sold for first aid and add one cup to the washing machine’s bleach dispenser. Because hydrogen peroxide breaks down quickly, make sure it is fresh (it should fizz when poured into a cup) or else you’re just adding plain water to the washer.


The salicylic acid in aspirin does more than ease a headache, it can also help brighten fabrics. To whiten clothes, you’ll need at least 10 aspirin tablets per gallon of hot water. This method is most effective on 100% cotton clothing.

Bring a gallon of water to a boil and add the aspirin tablets, stirring to dissolve. Remove the pot from the heat and add your cotton whites. Allow the fabric to soak until the water cools completely, and then wash as usual.


A naturally occurring mineral, borax is a chlorine bleach alternative that helps remove stains and cuts through dulling residue. Add a half cup of powdered borax per one gallon of warm water. Add the white clothes and allow them to soak for at least half an hour or longer and then wash as usual.

Good Old Sunshine

While the sun’s UV rays can cause coloured clothes to fade, it is great at brightening white laundry. The UV rays not only bleach fabrics, they also help to disinfect your clothes, so hang white bed sheets or towels in direct sunlight and allow them to dry, especially during this heatwave we seem to be having.